I was at an interesting lecture recently. The paleoanthropologist Chris Stringer talked about the Origin of Man, how we all come from Africa, and why we are the only humans left alive. When he speculated about why Homo sapiens survived and the Neanderthals, Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis and Homo floresiensis did not, he said something unexpected. One reason we survived might be our social skills. As far as we can tell, Homo sapiens has always been a very social creature. This provided us with advantages, as the group was stronger and more resilient than the individual. Wow, I thought. Perhaps when the community managed to share experiences, it survived. This was true then, this is true today. It is possibly in our genes by now. His whole train of thought is collected in the book Lone Survivors – How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth.
If we are essentially par t of a group, what impact does that have on how, where and why we learn? Do we learn to improve our lives, or do we learn to improve the collective strength of our community?
In this issue we take a look at different kinds of learning communities in the world. Community learning is the foundation of much Adult Education. As Alfonso Torres points out on page 4, adult educators sometimes use “the community” as a kind of slogan. You know, a little bit like the concept Lifelong Learning has begun to lose its meaning due to overuse. We wanted to go deeper, beyond the catch phrases. A question quickly arose. What kind of communities are there? We found many, including indigenous, migrant, rural, urban, online, refugee, sexual, professional and action-oriented cause-based communities all engaged in adult learning. The more we looked, the more we found. So we made a selection, to give you a taste of the many flavours of com munity learning out there.
The borders between them are cer tainly blurred, as we all usually belong to several groups at the same time. Identifying rif t lines and similarities has been one of the great experiences of making this issue. Traversing the globe in search of learning concepts has been a very interesting journey. The red thread in all our stories is Man’s ability to adapt, and our incessant thirst to learn. As humans we are not only social. We are also very curious.
I used to think we are all basically alone, even when in groups. Now I see it differently. To be seen by others, to be accepted. To feel a shared moment. That is perhaps deep down what being a human is about.
It is true they don’t have any prisons in Greenland. They have a far worse punishment. When someone in the traditional Inuit community commits a crime, they simply banish him/her from the community. Nature takes care of the rest.