There have been many opinions put forward about creating an effective learning approach in the last few decades when the major changes in the world became prevalent. Scholars have continued to support different approaches to learning with the basis of both ideological and pedagogical assumptions. One of the most studied approaches is transformative learning. A kind of learning that is supposed to inherently create understandings for participatory democracy by developing abilities of critical reflection on assumptions taken for granted that support contested viewpoints and participation in a dialogue that eliminates frictional threats to the values those rights and freedoms are designed to protect.
However, a review of the literature on transformative learning raises two important questions: What are the key aspects that should be considered ineffective transformative learning? How should transformative learning assist in knowledge acquisition under the present and future learning environments? Despite the deficiencies observed in the previous literature, transformative learning that encompasses all aspects of globalization should be regarded as the most appropriate approach to education in today’s world.
Bowers argues that the present ideas on transformative learning are not encompassing, but limited to fit in a few current education systems. They are not different from those of earlier theorists whose assumptions are rooted in the neoliberalism of western globalization. While these assumptions might be important in the learning process, the author insists on the need to transform them in order to include the important aspects such as cultural and environmental changes that have weakened the initial purpose of transformative learning. The emphasis on new markets, technologies and a consumer lifestyle advocated by western globalization neoliberals, does not guarantee success in education under the world’s diverse cultural and environmental commons. Indeed, Bowers maintains that the focus on theories that exclude these commons may be the Trojan horse of neoliberal globalization.
With my knowledge of transformative learning, I agree with Bowers’ main argument that the present ideology on transformative learning is based on biased conclusions. The most prevalent conclusion is the liberal idea of the western civilization of new markets, technologies and a consumer lifestyle shaping the approach to transformative learning.
Modern thoughts have promoted the need for a transformative process of each element expected to facilitate the effectiveness of the learning process. In essence, transformative learning achieves this idea of transforming all elements of learning and the shift from topical-focus to content-focus in designing the teaching curriculum. Therefore, in line with Bowers’ argument, I agree that transformative learning should be based on the enlightenment assumption of progress which privileges change over tradition (Bowers, 2005, p.157).
Bowers’ mention of cultural diversity and environmental changes as the deficits in liberalizing education is liable to a great deal of criticism. Marxist theory suggests that bourgeois liberal society synthetically separates individuals from the community, community from the environment, production from production relations and economics from politics, rather than considering these trends as all internally related.
Contrastingly, Bowers argues that the world’s cultural diversity and environmental changes interrelate with the elements of western globalization and thus influence the effectiveness of transformative learning not only in the third world context but in the western context as well. In my opinion, the author presumes to be a neoliberal while in actual sense he displays the characteristics of a capitalist. Actually, he acknowledges technologies as the major forces driving transformative learning today depicting his capitalistic viewpoint (2005, p.118).
The present dilemma concerning effective learning leaves educators wondering; how transformative learning would assist in knowledge acquisition under the present and future challenges. Bowers’ ideas about effective learning are centered on deep changes in cultural patterns. Many of these ideas portray the author’s lack of specificity on educational schemas. One of the most significant ideas in supporting this criticism is that technology is not universally progressive.
My assertion is that technological changes must be taken into consideration before any learning approach is developed to determine the penetration of globalization. Modern liberals are of the opinion that learning should be considered as the avenue towards a better future. The liberal future is determined in terms of free social, economic and political lives. Technology is the most significant driver of the three determinants should then be given a higher priority in liberalizing education than cultural diversity and environment.
Bowers’ arguments that the ideas of Freire undermine the local commons such as culture and environment by transforming indigenous ways of understanding, exposing them to technological globalization characterize him as a capitalist rather than a liberal. He keenly observes that a liberalized transformative learning is the key to modernizing the education system, yet he ignores the essential phenomena that lead to this liberalization. His plan of adopting an education that conserves cultural diversity and environment is most fit for societies that practically have been included in the capitalist system. Evidence supports technological changes as the key factors to consider in developing a liberalized learning approach, yet the author refutes this conclusion strongly.
Bowers, C. A. (2005). Is transformative learning the Trojan horse of Western globalization? Journal of Transformative Education, 3(2), 116-125.