Putting ourselves into practice: Popular education at/and universities
Von Kotze, Astrid
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This paper looks at different ways in which popular education has been played out in South African university adult education (UAE) since the 1980s. It traces the changing relationships between UAE and sections of civil society, notably social movements, within the context of shifting socio-political dynamics. It suggests that today, there is a tension: UAE is asked to pay allegiance to vocationalism, market values and individualism. Adopting the old struggle language of ‘empowerment’, ‘participation’, and ‘people-centred education’ seems to signal that the old freedoms adult education as non-formal education utilised, are still alive. However, popular education is in danger of becoming a technology, divorced from the purpose and alliances that gave it meaning in the past. The paper asks what role does popular education have to play, today? It outlines some ways in which UAE can still make itself accountable and useful to struggles for social justice. These are proposed as a model of good practice – encapsulated by Collins’ (1991) suggestion that rather than putting theory into practice, we should put ourselves into practice.