From student activism to a way of life : a case study of student activists-turned-peasant activists in South Korea
Social movements have emerged as a new source of adult learning in the current literature of adult education. They offer different aspects of adult learning which have been put aside in institutional settings. In the institutional settings, the focus of adult education was placed on obtaining technical knowledge which enabled the learners to access better jobs based on individual competitions. The dichotomy between the educators as experts and the students as passive learners seems apparent and the existing power relation is seldom covered. Learning in social movements challenges the existing power relation, espouses collective learning, and gives more power to the learners as the subjects of their learning in a true sense. The current study was designed to explore this learning process in detail. Six Korean student activists-tumed-peasant activists participated in this study. They went to universities during the 1980s when South Korea suffered under military regimes. They became student activists energetically engaging in the prodemocracy movement against the military dictatorships. On leaving universities, they turned themselves into peasants to engage in the peasant movement, which they thought was one of the key forces for Korean revolution. In their communities, they worked hard to transform themselves into peasants as well as organizing the communities for the peasant cause and social justice for over 15 years. In-depth interviews and observations were used to explore their transformative learning process in their communities. The results show that the lives of the activists were full of transformative learning processes and the transformation has been sustained for over a decade. They learned from the peasants and the reality, modifying their vision for future. The discrepancy between their initial vision and the reality has been overcome through their practices. Experiential learning and collective learning were identified as key factors to speed up the learning process of the participants. They also developed their own pedagogy through their practices. Non-rationality factors, such as commitment, dialogue, and relation-building, were identified as key components in their pedagogy. Furthermore, social actions became the important places of learning for the participants. They went through personal transformation in the actions and obtained the critical knowledge to improve their practices.