Spirituality in Social Work and Education

Theory, Practice, and Pedagogies
Wilfrid Laurier University Press (CA)
  • 1. Auflage
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  • erschienen am 24. Januar 2013
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  • 282 Seiten
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978-1-55458-381-2 (ISBN)
Over the past ten years, the fields of social work and education have grappled separately with definitions of spirituality, ways to integrate spirituality into the classroom, and the rendering of spirituality as a meaningful concept for practitioners, students, and researchers. Social work and education have many commonalities in areas of engagement with children, families, and communities. For the first time, this book brings together these two professional disciplines for interdisciplinary discussions that advance our knowledge in the broad area of 'spirituality.' The book's three sections reflect broad topic areas created to facilitate dialogue between the contributors, all of whom have established expertise in exploring spirituality in education or social work. The first section of the book explores the historical and theoretical underpinnings of spirituality in education and social work. Examination of our respective heritages uncovers the religious roots within our professions and reveals a present understanding of spirituality that calls for active engagement in challenging oppression and working toward social justice. The second section shifts the focus to the pedagogical implications of incorporating spirituality into higher-education classrooms. The varied level of acceptance and the tensions that come from including spirituality, implicitly or explicitly, in the programs and coursework in our respective faculties are illuminated by authors in both professions. The final section explores issues related to practising and teaching in the field from a spiritually sensitive perspective.
  • Englisch
Wilfrid Laurier University
  • 2,41 MB
978-1-55458-381-2 (9781554583812)
1554583810 (1554583810)
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Chapter 2
For Whose Purposes? Examining the Spirituality Agenda in Adult Education

Leona English

The more sand in the oyster, the more chemical the oyster produces until finally, after layer upon layer of gel, the sand turns into a pearl. And the oyster itself becomes more valuable in the process.. [In thinking of this] I discovered the ministry of irritation. (Chittister, 2008, pp. 15-16)


Adult education has its roots in religious impulses and directions, from the early days of the Presbyterian Minister Alfred Fitzpatrick (1920/1999) setting up the literacy initiative Frontier College in the railway camps, to Mary Arnold and Moses Coady working with the Antigonish Movement in the 1920s and 1930s in northeastern Nova Scotia (Neal, 1998), to abstinence crusaders such as Letitia Youmans speaking at the Chautauqua Institute, a major social gospel arena in upstate New York during the late 1800s (English, 2005a). In general, human service work can be said to have spiritual connections, since religious groups have always been at the forefront of education, health, and social work the world over. In adult education, the connections have been especially strong since my field is so close to the community and has grappled, often while lacking the necessary funds, with fundamental human needs: adult literacy, ESL and settlement services, and the right to a sustainable livelihood.

Like the many streams of transformative learning embedded in my field (Taylor, 2008), there have been a number of versions of spirituality and education. The oldest texts concerning these come from the pen of Basil Yeaxlee, who published his dissertation entitled Spiritual Values in Adult Education in the United Kingdom in 1925. His book heralded a very humanistic and religious type of spirituality that assumed it was largely church-going people who would see spirituality as part of their religious and daily practice. The fact that Yeaxlee was employed by the YMCA at that time indicated his own religious connections.

In my field, spirituality in the sense of creating and doing good work has always been important, and it appears that both faith-based organizations (FBOs) and secular non-profits continue to support good work in the community today (Botchwey, 2007). While motivations and spiritual impulses may differ, at heart the focus is similar. As noted in Graham and Shier's chapter, we share a similar history with social work.

This chapter explores the tension between spirituality as a sacred and secular phenomenon. I begin with a brief overview of the roots of spirituality in the field of adult education, and then move on to identify critical social science issues affecting spirituality, such as emotion, race, geography, gender, and social class. Building on these insights, I examine spirituality at three sites of adult education: workplace training, higher education, and community development. Finally, I propose a number of critical points to consider when integrating spirituality into adult education. I have two guiding questions: For what purpose is spirituality being promoted in these settings? And whose interests does it serve?

Situating Spirituality in Our Field

Nothing could be harder to dismiss than the role of religion and spirituality in the histories and life stories of adult education's scholars and practitioners. The number of ministers and people who have religious training in adult education is quite high. Peter Willis, Peter Jarvis, Carolyn Clark, and Michael Newman are just a few of those who have acknowledged their work in and affiliation with organized religion, and they are all very much imbued with the spirituality of social change (English, 2005a; Jarvis & Walters, 1993). This interlocking of purpose between justice and spirituality has stood the test of time. Most adult education initiatives in Canada and the US, including the Antigonish Movement, Highlander, and Chautauqua, were rooted in and influenced by various religious movements, and many of them appear to have had tensions with organized religious leaders. Admittedly, their definition of spirituality is far more sacred than our secular version today. Yet I do not take the position that spirituality and religion are totally separate; rather, some people express their spirituality through religious practice (i.e., in more formalized and institutional ways) and others through alternate means. Acknowledging the contributions of religious groups and their continued support of spiritual practices and beliefs, I value the wisdom of O'Sullivan (1999), who reminds me that "it must also be acknowledged that religious movements have also been the focal point of social transformation and revolutionary vision" (p. 267).

Historically, spirituality and adult education were entwined, with many of the early figures in the field coming of age through religious groups and impulses. One only has to think of those famous initiatives like Mondragon, Chautauqua, Highlander, Frontier College, and the Antigonish Movement to see evidence of religious impulses and supports. I look at several of these to illustrate this point.

Frontier College

From a Canadian perspective, Frontier College is one of the most innovative programs in adult education history; indeed, it is the oldest adult education institution in Canada. Begun in 1899 by Alfred Fitzpatrick, Frontier College was a grassroots movement of hired educators working alongside railway workers during the day and teaching them to read and write at night (Cook, 1987). A Presbyterian minister, Fitzpatrick had grown up in Nova Scotia in a religious family, and took that experience with him throughout his life, promoting literacy and the social gospel simultaneously. His own book, University in Overalls (1920/1999), chronicles his dreams about education and his plans for Frontier College's expansion to grant post-secondary degrees, eventually becoming an alternative university. Though some of his dreams did not materialize, including this one, Frontier College is a milestone in our history. It continues today at the new frontier: on city streets and in shelters, among Native communities and disabled persons. It embodies Fitzpatrick's vision of adult education, which he described in his oratorical and faintly preachy style as "[t]his office is the college, and the vast domain of Canada is your campus" (p. 7). Significantly, he presaged Freire and Illich's resistance to institutional education in his 1936 unpublished manuscript "Schools and other Penitentiaries" (Fitzpatrick, 1920/1999, p. 24). However, his main contribution was bringing literacy to the men working in the railway and lumber camps.


Another example of the connections between adult education, spirituality, and social justice is Chautauqua, a village of learning begun by John Heyl Vincent, a Methodist minister, and Lewis Miller, an industrialist, in Western New York State. It began in 1874 as a two-week retreat and summer school for Sunday school teachers in the Methodist church (Kilde, 1999; Scott, 1999). This summer school was intended to parallel the normal school experience for teachers. Jane Addams (Founder of Hull House, a settlement house for the poor in Chicago) and noted suffragettes Susan B. Anthony and Julia Ward Howe were attendees. Influenced by social gospel, Chautauqua became a supportive environment for those with religious and social justice leanings, and even for those with Marxist ideas, since faith and Marxism are not necessarily contradictory (Reiser, 2003). Chautauqua hosted a temperance meeting which sparked the creation of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), one of the most successful women's activism movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. American and international temperance leader Frances Willard was also an attendee of this summer retreat. Unlike society as a whole, Chautauqua welcomed activist women and gave them a place to speak and be heard. It was a site of religious learning and political action that supported suffrage and women's organizing, including the formation of associations that were forerunners of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) (Kilde, 1999; Scott, 1999). It became a critical venue for women, though some authors such as Kilde have challenged the community's elitism and lack of diversity.

The Antigonish Movement

The Antigonish Movement is an often-cited example of the intersection between spirituality and adult education. A social justice and economic cooperation movement that started in the first half of the twentieth century, it had strong ties with the Roman Catholic Church and St. Francis Xavier University, its operational base (Welton, 2001). The movement involved not only Father Moses Coady and his cousin Father Jimmy Tompkins (giants of Catholic social justice) but also a cadre of strong women who worked alongside them. They organized study clubs, established libraries (Sister Dolores Donnelly), edited the cooperative newspaper (Zita O'Hearn Cameron), hosted a radio show (Sister Marie Michael MacKinnon), organized a handicraft program (Sister Irene Doyle), established cooperative housing (Mary Arnold), and in general supported the activities of the movement (Neal, 1998). The spiritual dimensions of this movement were rooted in Catholic teachings about social justice, and it involved a massive collective effort to work with the economically disenfranchised, educating and mobilizing them to build farming,...

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