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In this paper I want to build on those moments of dissension and dissatisfaction that have occasionally emerged to disturb the equanimity of adult educators who align themselves with the idea of self-direction. In different ways these productively troubling elements have been expressed by Gelpi (1979), Griffin (1983, 1987), Candy (1989, 1991) and Hammond and Collins (1991) and they center chiefly on the fact that the political context, cultural contingency and social construction of self-directed learning activities have generally been ignored. Brockett and Hiemstra (1991) write that ‘concerns about the sociopolitical dimension of self-direction remain valid today” (p. 97) and they note as one of their concludng recommendations for theory that “the political dimension of self-direction continues to be largely overlooked by adult educators and this needs to be remedied” (p. 220). In building on the criticisms this group of authors make, this paper has two purposes. First, I want to argue that critical adult educators may be making a strategically premature decision to dismiss self-directed learning as wholly accommodative and therefore having no contribution to make to building a critical practice of adult education. Given the popularity of the concept in contemporary adult education, some important consequences could ensue for the field if it were reframed with a critical edge. We could miss an important tactical opening in the fight for a critical practice of adult education if we conclude too decisively that self-directed learning as an idea has been so hopelessly compromised that it can only function as an agent of domestication. Second, I want to make explicit what I see as the political dimensions to the idea in the belief that if adult educators acknowledge these it could affect fundamentally how many of them practice their craft. These arguments are, I believe, interconnected and they suggest that the concept of self-directed learning, if interpreted politically, could play an important role (along with critical theory, critical pedagogy and other work on transformative and emancipatory education) in providing a rationale for a critical practice of adult education. Stephen Brookfield, Self-Directed Learning, Political Clarity and the Critical Practice of Adult Education. 1993
Critical writers that connect this line of thinking with new technologies relating to information and communication continue to evade me.