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Dr Pyhillis Cunningham

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Autor:   •  March 15, 2011  •  2,131 Words (9 Pages)  •  750 Views

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"A strong civil society, which promotes the full participation of its citizens, ensures that we strive toward a participatory democratic goal" (Cunningham, 1993). This quote by Dr. Phyllis Cunningham epitomizes her philosophy of life. She has spent her entire life trying to improve the world in which we all live. Her educational philosophy mirrors her personal philosophy in that she sees the purpose of adult education as means to pursue the cause of social equality. She strongly believes that the purpose of education is to bring about fundamental social, cultural, political and economic change in society.

This paper provides a quick background on Dr. Phyllis Cunningham and examines some of the influences on her as well as how she became and continues to remain involved in improving adult education in our society. Next, this paper explores Dr. Cunningham's educational philosophy and how she sees using education as means to a better and more equal society. The paper also looks at some of her accomplishments and professional writings. Finally, the paper examines the different ways she has impacted the field of adult and continuing education. Dr. Cunningham's accomplishment in the adult educational field is exhaustive and this paper will by no means attempt to address all of her accomplishments. The paper highlights some of the key areas where she is involved in an attempt to shed some light on this outstanding scholar and adult educator.

Currently, Phyllis Cunningham is a Presidential Teaching Professor at Northern Illinois University. She is widely published, has been presented with numerous awards, and was inducted to the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame in 1996. Dr. Cunningham earned her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1973 and has been an active participant in the field of adult education. The main emphasis of the work she is involved in focuses on community development, participatory research, and critical pedagogy. Through her education, experience, active participation, research, and publications, Phyllis Cunningham has made great contributions to the field of Adult Education. She has numerous awards and honors (Woodhouse, 2002,

Ð'* 1982Ð'-Outstanding Adult Educators Award, American Association of Adult Continuing Education, Washington, DC

Ð'* 1988Ð'-Honorary Professor, Shanghai Second Institute of Education, Shanghai, PRC

Ð'* 1989Ð'-Outstanding Service Award, American Association of Adult Continuing Education, Atlantic City, N.J.

Ð'* 1990Ð'-John Ranton McIntosh Visiting Scholar Award, University of Saskatchewan

Ð'* 1993Ð'-Top ten Graduate Teaching Excellence Award, Leadership and Policy Studies Department, Northern Illinois University

Ð'* 1994-1998Ð'-Presidential Teaching Professor Award, Northern Illinois University

Ð'* 1995Ð'-Outstanding Service and Dedication to Latino(a) and African American Students in Adult Continuing Education, Northern Illinois University

Ð'* 1996Ð'-Phyllis M. Cunningham Annual Award for Research for Social Justice; Established in the Adult Education Research Conference

Ð'* 1999Ð'-Northern Illinois University Minority Faculty and Staff Award

Just as important as the awards you see here, is her involvement in the many organizations and programs that advance adult education programs throughout the world.

Now that we have a little background on Dr. Cunningham, let's look at some of the influences on her and how she became and continues to remain involved in improving the field of adult education and our society. The biggest influence on Dr. Cunningham is her concern for social and ethical responsibility. It is this concern that has marked her life's work. She is an active participant in popular education and participatory research projects in collaboration with "grass roots" organizations and low income communities seeking social and political change (National-Louis University, 2005, Dr. Cunningham, for the past 20-plus years, is a supporter of the transformation theory of education which she feels deepens our understanding of what it means to learn in adulthood. She aligns herself with the works of Paulo Freire, Laurent Daloz, Jack Mezirow, and others, who address the sociocultural and personal dimensions of transformative learning (Dirkx, 2000). It is through this group of scholars, and organizations like "The Urban Life Center" that she espouses her radical philosophy of adult education. Twenty-five years ago, she, along with several friends, established the Urban Life Center. It brought college students into the south side of Chicago to learn to appreciate diversity and to develop careers in fighting oppression. Faculty from surrounding colleges came to the city for seminars and worked hard to fight racism, sexism, and violence. Her efforts with the Urban Life Center parallels the efforts of other radical philosophers such as Freire, ILLich, Kozol, Habermas, Collins and Perelman and their effect to promote programs such as the feminist studies, free school movement, Highlander Folk School, Afro-centrism, social workers education and social justice education (Philosophy of Adult Education Inventory, 1999).

Dr. Cunningham is also the editor of The Convergence, a major worldwide journal of adult education that addresses issues, practices and developments in the broad field of adult and non-formal education. It is published quarterly on behalf of the (International Council for Adult Education) ICAE by The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE). ICAE is a non-governmental voluntary organization formed in 1973. It comprises over 100 national, regional and sectoral member associations involving 77 countries and 7 regions of the world. The overall objective of the Council is to promote human resource development to enable people to participate more fully in determining their economic, social, political and cultural development. The aim of the Council is to promote the education of adults in accordance with the development needs of individuals, communities and societies as a way of enhancing international understanding, achieving economic and social development, and advancing the skills and competencies of individuals and groups (National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, 2005,


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