Appendix D - Eduard Lindeman and Adult Education

Eduard Lindeman was himself the product of adult education. There is some evidence that Lindeman was almost illiterate when, in 1902, at the age of 22, he entered a special program at Michigan Agricultural College. Eventually, Lindeman would teach at the New York School of Social Work (later the Columbia School of Social Work), the New School for Social Research in New York City (where Hannah Arendt also taught), Temple University in Philadelphia, Stanford University in California, and the University of Delhi. He was Chair of the American Civil Liberties Union Commission on Academic Freedom. He wrote four books, one being The Meaning of Adult Education (1926). Lindeman’s career is astounding considering that he learned to read as an adult.

Perhaps because he was himself an adult learner, Lindeman’s concepts and theories of adult learning are passionate and, I write now from 20 years as an adult educator myself, accurate. Lindeman was a friend and colleague of John Dewey’s and he shared Dewey’s belief that learning is now, that learning takes place in the lived moment experienced between individuals. Both Gilligan (Brown & Gilligan, 1992) and Arendt (1976) describe similar constructs. According to Lindeman, because adult learning occurs in lived moments, discussion is the primary means to use in adult education. The validation of discussion is reminiscent not only of Dewey’s constructs, but also of Freire’s (1993), Vygotsky’s (1962), and Shotter’s (1993a). All of these educational theorists have asserted that the teacher must engage fully as a collaborator in the educational moment, to participate in discussion with the learner.

Lindeman, like Freire, attacked forms of adult education that treated learners as passive absorbers of information. He did not use Freire’s term, assistencialism, but he articulated the same perception that the assumption of intellectual superiority and instrumentalism inherent in teacher-centered curricula reinforced authoritarianism and should not be tolerated. Lindeman asserted that the ultimate purpose of education in a democracy was simply democracy itself. The content of the learning situation is determined by historical circumstances. The means, democratic practice, evolves in style but remains the core methodology of progressive education. Lindeman perceived democracy as a living, growing social organism, originally made possible and constantly recreated through the interactions of individuals pursuing self-discovery in the context of their peers’ pursuit of self-discovery. Lindeman asserted that self-discovery is the same as learning.

Although Lindeman did not write about self-actualization, his understanding of the purpose of adult education can, with no fundamental theoretical loss, be thought of as self-actualization in the context of democratic responsibility.