“Oh, how I hate theoretical tinkering!” sighed a course mate once upon a time, on a university course on international relations theory.
I smiled but couldn’t agree. I thought “theoretical tinkering” was some of the more interesting stuff at uni: trying to build a consistent and (to a degree) predictable model of a phenomenon, based on research and insight.
Back then I also often thought that theories were a bit like religion – mutually exclusive. You adopt one theory and renounce others, as this is the only rational thing to do when you have competing world views with very different underlying assumptions about how the world works.
This kind of thinking draws a lot from the Kuhnian incommensurability thesis, arguing that (especially natural) scientific paradigms are worlds of their own, intranslatable to each other.
Naturally Kuhn has his critics. Incommensurability depends on the particular theories in question. Theory can be pragmatically viewed as a toolkit for practice, too. As Jyri Manninen points out in this issue, one can pick and mix insights from different educational theories on the basis of what works in a particular context, given of course that some of the basic underlying assumptions meet. The basic point Manninen makes is that all practitioners would benefit from knowing more about the theoretical underpinnings of their work.
Practice, as always in LLinE, is the angle with which we approach theory in this issue. We have two broad aims:
First, on a “meta-level” we strive for the big picture of which theories dominate the adult education field, how practitioners and policymakers relate to theory in their everyday work and which thinkers young researchers look up to.
Secondly, we write about interesting theories, such as actor network theory which is rising in prominence, and feminist and critical theories which would deserve more attention. We hope you find the issue inspiring.
Dear reader, this is the last “business as usual” theme issue of LLinE. As you may remember, LLinE is merging with the InfoNet network to form a bigger and better online magazine.
The name of the new baby is European Lifelong Learning Magazine. We hope friends will call it Elm! Elm will launch in December with a test issue in September!