Popularized Social and Cultural Trends Thesis

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[. . .] But even this assumption has given way to other kinds of considerations as new forms of affordable, interactive technologies are finding favor across socio-economic, gender, racial and other classes (Morrissey and Manning, 2000). The fact is that access to new forms of learning is being seen by students and teachers alike as a very desirable way to learn more than what schools have to offer. (See http://www.GreenHeart.org.)

A related problem is connected to the cost factors for governments as they struggle to pay for American and other national educational directives and systems. Continuing and/or nonstop learning through programs in communities is expensive. It requires large amounts of time and money as well as psychic energy, and these resources are becoming difficult for individuals and governments alike to justify spending (Scott, 2004). But whether this is true or not is being called into question by some as they propose that fundamental shifts in education have to occur to make public education feasible (Jinchao, 2004).

But looking at the evolution of learning away from controlled schooling toward a life-wide perspective cannot be fully understood only in these terms. An entire new mindset of understanding is taking place -- one based on ecological thinking and acting mentalities and perspectives (Lombardo, 2001; Puk, 2002). An entire movement is underway to ingrain the possibilities of what it might well mean to "Think Like A Tree," as one commentator has called it referring to the systemic approach to thinking from an ecological viewpoint (Resnick, 2003). Ecological perspectives are centered very strongly and confidently in the idea that learning about and understanding the world as an integrated and interconnected reality. It is about understanding not just the pieces of knowledge but how those pieces go and work together, or their relationships with each other in narrow and very broad contexts. The elements of nature don't usually work in isolation nor as simply as is sometimes presented within the confines of a small pond of life; and, as such, they need to be understood appropriately as a much larger portion of a different kind of recognition of patterns and purposes and results. Understanding this requires one's full-throated acceptance of an entirely new kind of ecoliteracy that some would argue is well under development at this time. (See http://www.Ecoliteracy.org.)

The learning systems and learning purposes of past efforts have often fail in these regards both in the way that we seek to educate our young and our older people, particularly because of their vocational preferences and what it requires. One contemporary early educational website on ecological teaching in the early years of schooling put it rather dramatically,

A main lesson of ecology (indeed, the essential science of ecology) is that everything is interconnected. But the longer our students stay in school, the more they are "subjected" to disconnection -- taught, through subject specialization and reductionism, a worldview in which everything is disconnected. They can't see the real world "forest" that is life for all the homework and marks given out as "trees." (http://www.greenhearted.org/integration.html).

The vocational prejudices instilled in traditional schools for young people and those approaches used in continuation studies share this same tree problem -- they favor very isolated, very closed concepts of learning. While these may be good expectations when it comes to moving into or between jobs across one's career, they do nothing to reinforce the core understandings of a truly integrated ecological perspective (Attfield, 2010).

Then again, these assumptions do not fully overcome the problem of how selfish alternative pursuits are. While it is certainly possible that any individual can use his or her education of whatever kind in ways that benefit society, it is also just as likely (and perhaps more so) that an individual engaged in pursuing education as an adult is likely to study subjects that are again very self-specific. Personal interest (or perhaps the opportunity for professional advancement) is likely to be the primary motivation for choosing particular subjects to study. Benefiting the world is usually not the primary motivator for lifelong learning (Thomas, 2005), or at least that was the belief before other transformative approaches began to be considered.

A final cautionary note is worth mentioning. Since these issues have started to surface, other larger business and cultural trends in business have begun to take hold. There has been a significant force of people taking seriously the promises of work and responsibility perspectives that seek directly to blend the benefits of profitability and various social and environmental positive impacts (Emerson, 2007). These double bottom line and triple bottom line viewpoints literally have given their own momentum toward developing hybrid educational models of their own. While lower level classrooms are starting to integrate green thinking and acting across a broad range of subjects, it could well be this new collection of Impact Investors and revolutionary thinkers who give their own substance to the need for Blessed Unrest are having an major financial influence (Hawken, 2007). These new approaches are inherently justice oriented and yet are being undertaken by some very well respected wealthy business people and philanthropists. (See The Global Impact Investment Network, http://www.theGIIN.org.)

These collective conditions and problems have given rise to progress on both fronts, advancing in parallel the lifelong learning and ecological awareness movements. Yet, they still leave many questions unanswered. The remainder of this study seeks to advance the progress by posing the following questions:

What is lifelong learning? And how has it changing and evolving since its inception?

What is occurring in the social and environmental ecology movement that has relevance to a new learning model?

And, what commonalities exist as these two advances coalesce toward a very similar and united future.


Lifelong learning and the affirmation of the generation of an ecological mindset are parallel constructs and philosophies that are evolving simultaneously toward a common language and acceptance of the importance of a lifespan of learning and environmental advancement.


In understanding the commonality of the progress associated with both lifelong learning and ecological advancement, it is necessary to review how each field has come into being and evolved in its own right. This will provide the foundation for identifying their commonalities and the ways in which they are coming together in true to life social, business and organizational representations in the U.S. And across the globe.

In this section, I review the literature regarding the definitions of lifelong learning and ecology from the perspective of developing a systematic understanding of environmental factors associated with integrated learning. For lifelong learning, this begins with a summary of what it means and what various researchers and commentators have uncovered as they have investigated its potential. For the evolution of an ecological mindset, I start with how the acceptance of a sense of "ecological thinking" and "Ecological Intelligence) has led to a companion thrust toward developing a specific acceptance that there needs to be an ecoliteracy, which effectively involves the naming and using of the broader mindset elements. I then look briefly at how the domains are already overlapping in practice on the global front, in part because this progress demonstrates piecemeal modifications and refinements of very similar trends. The Methodology section focuses on making point-by-point comparisoins of the commonalities and how they are growing together quite naturally. The final section reviews the results and conclusions of this assessment from a rather happy viewpoint (Ceasar, 2009). Since this is not meant to be a comprehensive review of either the literature or of the fields of education or ecology, some limitations of my approach are noted. For those looking to understand more comprehensively how the underlying concepts are unfolding, it is recommend that you review the new work of Baldauf McBride (2011).


Lifelong education, as a concept, has its origins in the 1960s (Bostrom, 2003; Lombard, 2001). It springs from a larger philosophical and theoretic background whose preliminary work can be found in the various writings of Aser Deleon, Torsten Husen, Cyril Houle and Ryszard Wroczynski, among others. Various studies have identified other people whose importance they note as well, but these and other educational theorists are often credited with having been the primary movers of the idea (Medel-Anonuevo, 2001).

Once this foundation was provided, Arthur Croply detailed some of the specific elements in his writings in 1976 and 1980. In these writings, as reviewed in Bostrom (2003), Croply identified the three important principles that he found relevant. He conceptualized first that lifelong learning had to stretch from birth to death, that it had to occur formally, informally and non-formally, and that it was highly dependent upon the characteristics of an individual and his or her personal ability to benefit from the process (Gough, 2009). Aspin and Chapman (2001) undertook their own three-prong assessment, but favored instead the associations of learning across the life spectrum with economic progress and development (which connects to vocational advancement), the desire of some to achieve personal growth on many fronts,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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