Michael Newman: Maeler’s regard: images of adult learning

This book, originally published in 1999, provides an original insight into ‘the mysterious and complex process of learning’. Written by Michael Newman, it covers a range of themes, including experience, critical and uncritical thinking, consciousness, forms of power and social control, social movements, civil society, social action, resistance and protest, learning as social beings, and learning as moral beings.

links: the third contract: theory and practice in trade union training (michael newman) · defining the enemy – adult education in social action (michael newman)
Michael Newman (1939- ) has made a significant contribution to our appreciation of adult education and lifelong learning. Refreshingly, his writing has been infused by a strong social commitment, a concern to explore and develop practice, and belief in the power of theory. One of his great achievements has been a series of books that have explored the issues, opportunities and orientations of ‘activist educators’.

Michael Newman is Australian and started his working life as a journalist in Sydney. In the early 1960s he left for the UK where he tried his hand at acting, writing and film-making but found himself teaching adult education classes to stay alive, then setting adult education classes up, and then working for seven years as a community education worker in inner London. Towards the end of the 1970s he was appointed Warden of the Working Men’s College, an institution set up in 1854 to provide a liberal education for working people. In the early 1980s Michael Newman was invited back to Australia to head up the Sydney Workers’ Educational Association. He left the WEA to work for four years as a trainer with the Australian Trade Union Training Authority, and in 1989 took up a post as Senior Lecturer in Adult Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Technology, Sydney. He retired from UTS in 2001.

His books include Adult Education and Community Action (1975)The Poor Cousin: A Study of Adult Education (1979), The Third Contract: Theory and practice in trade union training (1993), Defining the Enemy: Adult Education in Social Action(1994) and Maeler’s Regard: Images of adult learning (1999). His most recent book is Teaching Defiance: Stories and Strategies for Activist Educators (2006).

Maeler’s Regard: Images of adult learning begins with a story from Michael’s time as a community outreach worker in west London. He had visited an organization of blind people. In the house an artist (“Maeler”) was completing a mural that worked as both a tactile and visual experience. Someone in the group commented on the apparent urgency with which he was working:

I … remember Maeler turning and looking at us—at me, because I felt isolated in his regard at that moment whether he looked directly at me or not—and my understanding that there was something wrong about his eyes and my being told that, yes, he was eager to get the job finished because he was going blind. (Newman 1999: 7)

Newman argues that, ‘out of habit or as a defence’, many of those writing about adult education ‘engage in a purely theoretical form of discourse’ (Newman 1999: 4). In this book he tries to do something different – linking theory with image. As he comments:

Sometimes these images have a direct association with adult education and learning but sometimes they do not. So I have taken time out in the text to describe a surfer, a painting, a climb, a night in a jazz club, and pieces of theatre. I have described recent and distant events from my own past. I have described other people’s experiences. I have placed case studies at various points in the text. And I have described people in a number of different contexts: on a picket line in South Africa, in the brick kilns of north Pakistan, in a women’s refuge in Sydney, on an oil tanker in the Persian Gulf. I have not privileged practice over theoretical discussion but, by peppering the book with images, I have tried to place practice at the centre of theoretical discussion.

The result is a book that is refreshing different from the usual run of texts about adult education. Michael Newman looks at the nature of thinking; forms of control; the process of learning; people, practices and civil society; and the role of the adult educator.

[Page numbers refer to the electronic version]

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How to cite this book: Newman, M. (2007) Maeler’s Regard: Images of adult learning. www.michaelnewman.info. (Originally published 1999 by Stewart Victor Publishing).

This piece has been reproduced here on the understanding that it is not subject  to any copyright restrictions, and that it is, and will remain, in the public domain. First placed in the archives: March 2007.

Last Updated on June 20, 2019 by infed.org