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Adult and Higher Education

Thinking about WISR’s Curriculum and Mission in relation to the “Bigger Picture” of American Higher Education and Today’s Society—Historically, and with Regard to Today’s Society and Professions, and to Hopes and Possibilities for the Future

A recently written article by WISR President, John Bilorusky, both critical and hopeful.  In it, he discusses the ways in which key themes in the history of American Higher Education continue to influence Higher Learning, as well as the intensifying impact of information technology and the myth of the meritocracy in a society where there is, in fact, increasing economic inequality.


The following article discusses “learning the WISR way” and presents some of the key ideas on the learner-centered approach to adult and higher learning that has been developed at WISR over the past 40 years:

Learning the WISR Way:  The Role of Students and Faculty in Personalizing Education.

A number of articles on WISR’s approach to learning may be found online as part of the syllabus for the “orientation” course to WISR on “Learning the WISR Way.”

The excerpt from John Bilorusky’s dissertation [Reconstitution at Berkeley:  The Quest for Collective Self-Determination] (UC Berkeley, 1972) discusses issues of higher education and social change, with the insights growing out of his research on the organizational dynamics at the University of California at Berkeley in the aftermath of the May 1970 US invasion of Cambodia and the killing of students at Kent State and Jackson State.  There are recommendations for changes within higher education, but beyond that, he articulates a vision of a network of experimenting communities, which exist both inside and outside of existing institutions.  Through these Experimenting Communities, he suggests that fundamental social change is possible, and indeed more likely than through mere reforms of existing institutions, and also more likely than by completely separating change efforts from the mainstream.  This excerpt–the concluding portion of the dissertation–was added to other portions, most of which previously was published as the second part of the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education’s (1971), May 1970, Richard Peterson and John Bilorusky.


John Ohliger Institute for Social Inquiry

John Ohliger (1926-2004) was an adult educator, peace activist, public intellectual and co-founder of WORT Radio and Basic Choices, Inc., a Midwest Center for Clarifying Political and Social Options. WISR is fortunate to have the collegial support of John’s widow, Chris Wagner, and John’s friend, David Yamada (WISR PhD alumnus and Board member).  Chris Wagner has generously donated most of John Ohliger’s writings to the WISR library, as well as much of his collection of books on adult education, independent scholarship and intelletual activism and social change.  Two shelves of WISR’s library contain this collection of valuable works.  Those interested in learning more about John Ohliger’s important work are referred to the website of the John Ohliger Institute for Social Inquiry. This website seeks to make his work and thought accessible to all. John was a prolific writer. Currently, this website only contains a small portion of his work. We will continually add to it and would like to hear from any of you who knew of John’s writings about which of his works should be added next.