University Professor' New Books The lower hall of the Robert Samut complex at Floriana was packed to full capacity on Thursday 24th February as books by two scholars from the University of Malta's Faculty of Education were launched. The scholars in question are Professor Kenneth Wain, author of The Learning Society in a Postmodern World. The Education Crisis (Peter Lang, New York, 2004), and Professor Peter Mayo who wrote Liberating Praxis. Paulo Freire's Legacy for Radical Education and Politics (Praeger, Boulder, Co., 2004).
The event, sponsored by the editorial team of the Journal of Maltese Education Research (JMER) under the direction of its Editor, Dr Carmel Borg, Dean of the Faculty of Education, consisted of a presentation on each of the two books, some comments by the authors themselves, a brief presentation on JMER and questions from the floor. Professor Kenneth Wain and Professor Peter Mayo provided brief comments regarding their respective books. They outlined some of the reasons why they embarked on writing their new books, provided some insights regarding the development of the ideas contained in the volumes and mentioned some of the challenges they faced, including the authors they had to read, as they sought to develop their initial ideas further.
Dr Ivan Callus, from the Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Malta gave a presentation on Professor Wain's book while Dr Gloria Lauri Lucente, from the Department of Italian, Faculty of Arts, University of Malta, did likewise with respect to Professor Mayo's book.
In his address, Dr Ivan Callus explained why Kenneth Wain's The Learning Society in a Postmodern World should be seen as an an authoritative study of various correspondences and tensions between perspectives on the learning society and constructions of the postmodern. Attention was drawn to the relevance of the book's argument regarding the concept of 'posteducation', in other words, the increasing emphasis at various levels within educational provision for an agenda that, in Professor Wain's words, is 'economic and vocationalistí rather than 'humanist and educationist'. Specifically, The Learning Society in a Postmodern World studies the impact on education, and on the lifelong education movement particularly, of 'a postmodern turn emphasizing a nonideological world and the consequent dominance of the criterion of performativity' (everything is measured in terms of effective outcomes). It does this in two ways: firstly, by offering a critique of the lifelong education movement and of the transition to the notion of a learning society; and, secondly, through considering how the work of postmodernist and poststructuralist thinkers provide important points of reference for that critique.
Dr Gloria Lauri-Lucente defined Professor Peter Mayo's book Liberating Praxis, as a pioneering critical analysis of the pivotal notions of praxis, consciousness, agency, and possibility underlying Paulo Freire's works. Dr Lauri-Lucente went on to explain that, for Mayo, pedagogy in Freire is synonymous with critical literacy, an emancipatory process which enables the learner to read not only the word but also the world. Thus construed, pedagogy, or the critical appropriation of knowledge, becomes the site of liberation from an oppressive hegemonic reality, and the ideal locus of praxis.
She stated that Mayo's Liberating Praxis studies Freire's theoretical formulations in the light of their Catholic underpinnings which coalesce with their Marxian and Marxist roots. According to Dr Lauri Lucente, one of the greatest strengths of Mayo's critical work overall has to do precisely with his comparative work of Freire and another monumental twentieth-century figure, namely Antonio Gramsci. She argues that what indeed gives immense scope and precision to the pages of Liberating Praxis is the way in which Freire is constantly analysed in the light of Marx's framework, an analysis which gains lucidity and precision through a series of rigorously researched references to Gramsci's work.
Professor Wain's previous books include the edited volume, Lifelong Learning and Participation (University of Malta Press, 1985) and the single authored works, Philosophy of Lifelong Education (Croom Helm, 1987), The Maltese National Curriculum. A Critical Evaluation (Mireva, 1991), Theories of Teaching (Mireva, 1992) and The Value Crisis. An Introduction to Ethics (Malta University Publishers, 1995).
Professor Mayo's previous books include the edited volumes, Beyond Schooling. Adult Education in Malta (co-edited with Godfrey Baldacchino, Mireva, 1997) and Gramsci and Education (co-edited with Carmel Borg and Joseph A. Buttigieg, Rowman & Littlefield, 2002). His other book is the single authored Gramsci, Freire and Adult Education. Possibilities for Transformative Action (Zed Books, London, 1999), the Portuguese translation of which, published this year by ArtMed Editora of Porto Alegre, Brazil, was launched at the 1Vth International Paulo Freire Forum, University of Oporto in September.
Dr Borg, who chaired the event, also provided a brief exposition on JMER which is a fully refereed journal with both a Maltese and foreign Editorial Advisory board. One can obtain a free subscription to the journal through the following website: www.educ.um.edu.mt/jmer It is now in its third volume and is published twice a year. Dr Borg argued that electronic journals, which are rigorously reviewed, with an internationally respected board of consulting editors, can help academics gain control over their intellectual property and, at the same time, achieve academic recognition beyond their shores in view of the fact that electronic journals can easily be included in international databases and therefore have a global reach.