Discussions and Implications for Adult Education

In Global Issues and Adult Education: Perspectives from Latin America, Southern Africa, and the United States, Merriam, Courtenay, and Cervero (2006) note, “Globalization is an exceedingly complex issue” (p. 486). It has the potential to build societies while it destroys individuals, groups, and communities within nation-states. It is no wonder, then, that in the age of globalization, North American adult education faces an urgent and perplexing set of questions about how to educate students for this new world. As Green (2002) argues, we cannot make the common claim to have the best system of education in the world unless our graduates can free themselves of ethnocentrism bred of ignorance and navigate the difficult terrain of cultural complexity. Although some evidence is emerging from the margins of the data, our findings suggest that research and pedagogy in adult education do not overwhelmingly expose students to international issues and concerns and, hence, prepare them for global and multicultural living and working arrangements. This study found only a small number of conference papers that critically examined the negative
64 Alfred/Guo “Toward Global Citizenship”
impact of economic globalization on adult education (Cruikshank, 1995; Sumner, 1999), work and workers’ education (Cruikshank, 1995, 2001; Spencer & Frankel, 1996), human rights (Mulenga, 2001), and recent immigrants (Alfred, 2005; Guo, 2005, 2010; Mojab, Ng, & Mirchandani, 2000). With respect to its impact on adult education, Cruikshank (1995) argues that under globalization, adult education has undergone massive funding cuts and has been pressured to operate as a business, profit making has become the priority, and the needs of marginalized groups have been ignored. In another study, Cruikshank (1996) explored the negative impact of economic globalization on the future of work. She maintains that globalization serves the interests of corporations at the expense of ordinary citizens. She identified the negative consequences of economic globalization as “high unemployment, increased poverty, a widening of the gap between the rich and the poor, an increasing number of people who are homeless and forced to live on the streets of our cities, and a general feeling of helplessness” (p. 62). Furthermore, Mulenga (2001) suggests that globalization has adversely affected human rights for workers (particularly women workers), peasants and farmers, and indigenous communities, especially those in the South. As Nesbit (2005) notes in his review of the Handbook of Adult and Continuing Education (edited by Arthur L. Wilson and Elizabeth R. Hayes, 2000):
I was surprised to find few authors refer to or reflect upon the national and international political issues that marked the 1990s. The corporate scandals, the rapid increase in economic globalization, the growing gap between rich and poor, the drift toward various fundamentalisms, continued conflict in the Middle East, including those of Iraq and Afghanistan (and a few others not so apparent), the demise of the Soviet Union, genocide in Rwanda, ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia … are hardly mentioned at all. (p. 74)
Overall, this study highlights the near static nature of U.S. and Canadian adult education and the reluctance to move beyond the local to more global issues. The finding has important implications for adult educators in building a research agenda that helps us understand the interconnectedness of the global community and our shared responsibility in building a global civil society.