University Continuing Education Units: Agents for Social Change?

Bob Cram

Abstract


Many commentators have argued that Canadian university continuing education has gradually abandoned its historical commitment to social justice in educational programming in favour of a market-oriented approach. Although such literature clearly expresses a deeply-felt sentiment among continuing educators, it has tended to have two problems. First, many proponents of this view have not explained what they mean by social justice, which makes informed discussion of this issue difficult. Second, in praising historical adult education as a social justice movement, many commentators have neglected to provide coherent and pragmatic alternatives for the present. This article addresses these two problems by providing a dialogic theory of social justice, derived from political philosophy, as a conceptual framework to examine ways in which a new understanding of social justice could be practically applied in both strategic and program planning for university continuing education. This conceptual framework is then used to guide and inform a discussion of how information and communications technologies (ICT) can be used by university-based continuing education units to develop and implement learning opportunities designed to empower persons and organizations working for social justice.

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