The University and Democracy: Habermas, Adult Learning and Learning Society

Fleming, Ted (2006) The University and Democracy: Habermas, Adult Learning and Learning Society. In: What Price the University? Perspectives on the meaning and value of higher education from the National Universityof Ireland, Maynooth. (Special Issue). National University of Ireland, Maynooth.


This paper will attempt to articulate an agenda for the university that transcends the reductionist vision of the economic agenda. I write this from the perspective of anadult educator in the university. Adult education as a field of practice provides access routes for 2,000 mature students each year who enrol in modular, credit-bearingcourses outside the College. But adult education is also an academic discipline with its philosophy, sociology and psychology, articulated and tested in the world ofpractice. It borrows from other disciplines and creates its own epistemologies,theories of learning and pedagogical practices. It has answers (even if, like alldisciplines,these are provisional and contested) to such questions as, what is an adult?What is adult learning? What is adult education? And what is a university for?- The ideas of Jurgen Habermas will be the starting-point for the discussion of the role of a university, and this paper will attempt to reawaken the notion that the university has a critical role in the life of the Republic.

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