No Fear: Adult Learners' Week and the blind precipice of perilous lives


There is a lot of hard work ahead for there has to be some changes in this old world of ours. The rich have to live on less and the poor have more than they have to day, and I hope you will be one of them that will work for those changes, what ever they may be.
                                                 Mary Diefenbaker to her son John
                                                 on his election as a Canadian MP
, 1940

I haven't thought much about International Adult Learners' Week. I'm never quite sure when it is and the few things I've seen locally or online have been too paltry to take seriously. But I did meet an adult learner  in the wild, recently. We hooked up late in the evening at a Tim Horton's - her tired from her cleaner's job, me returning her laptop cleaned and tuned, reading a book on Diefenbaker while I waited.

This is someone I've known for years. She was my fourth-ever adult literacy learner, and we meet up every few months. Although she never completed any adult learning program, ever, to anyone else's satisfaction, she has been a wonder and constant source of inspiration to me. She raised two boys, found full-time work, clawed her way off of social assistance and, after a round of knitting therapy, became a completely unofficial New Brunswick craftsperson.

NB Crafter 2

That last is, maybe, the most significant change in her life. It was her knitting, and the things that she was able to make and sell, that allowed her to purchase her own Christmas turkey for the first time ever. I know it seems a small thing, but it meant a lot. Later, she took up with beads and has been making and selling - or, more often, giving away - bead work. The last time we talked, she was excited about getting out of the city for a workshop on beading. No, not a workshop. Different than that. She said, "We're going to meet with the lady who runs the bead store, and she's going to show us some of her patterns, and I'm going to teach her how to do one of mine."

Not a workshop. Not the schooling people still urge upon her. Rather, an instance of learning without official permission or oversight. An exchange of ideas and hopes and skills. The sort of non-institutional thing International Adult Learners' Week celebrations could be about.


UNESCO tells me this year's dates for Canada are March 24th through April 1st.  They add, "For the 10th anniversary of International Adult Learners' Week in Canada (IALW) 2012, the Canadian Commission for UNESCO would like to stress the urgent need to reach a broader public."

Yeah, well. They can be as urgent and stressed out as they like.

It's still the case that most adult learning happens far away from our traditional institutions of government and university, big media and big business, certified schooling and bureaucratic control.

And thank goodness for that.

The Evangelists descry this street. They envisage
infidels, the lost souls; they slow to a crawl, get
out of their cars gingerly like it was hot, like
they were afraid they'd fall off the bank and
don't know what they'd find. They fear the blind
precipice of perilous lives.
                                                     Heather Pyrcz, No Fear

NB Crafter

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