I heard the term “self-authoring” yesterday in the context of adult education. I think this is really beautiful. It’s used in developmental psychology to denote an advanced stage of social and emotional development, when individuals are able to stop identifying completely with their own needs, emotions, or interests, or with the prevailing culture, emotional demands or assumptions made by the people around us, and able instead to take a step back and make judgements from a systemic perspective.
Lesley Scanlon, at the University of Sydney, writes about “self-authoring” as something that adults are seeking when they return to courses of study. Not just to qualify for a new job but to get perspective on their lives and tell a better story about their own identities. This satisfies a higher-order need. It makes me think of Emerson’s writing about the ship tacking back and forth : you may set your course steadily but the wind and waves force you to diverge and the overall pattern and path may not be clear to anyone else.
I think there are a lot of innovative enterprises that are doing a great job educating adults efficiently and affordably and effectively connecting them to the world of work in all kinds of ways: the DevBootCamps and the SNHUs and the WGUs and the Straighterlines. and the But what about connecting adults to each other, themselves and the universe?
Some of this work goes on under the radar. I think transformative moments are happening in all kinds of settings but the trick is to honor them, surface them, make time for them. In part by asking participants to take on more responsibility to each other. How else could this be done?