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Not only in the United States, also in the Old World, "serious" historians and public servants are seldom taking seriously what we are doing. They don't seem to grasp that genealogy -- sorry, Family History -- is more than knitting names together. They don't understand yet the many aspects of family history. The sociological implications are important, the permanent learning proces even so.

Andragogy is a proper English word, although it is not in my English dictionary. It is in my Dutch dictionary: spelled "andragogie".

Andragogy is for adults what pedagogy is for children: education for adults.

The words are derived from ancient Greek:

Pedagogy = from paidagogos = originally the slave who led the children to school, later "teacher"

from pais (singular)/paidos (plural) = child and agogos = guide

Andra- = formed in analogy with pedagogy

from aner (singular) /andros (plural) = man

The learning process and the motivation is different for adults than it is for children, which makes andragogy an important subject in learned circles in these times of permanent education. The term is still primarily used by educational psychologists and folks in continuing education.

Without being conscious of it, we learn every day from doing genealogical research, and most of us are highly motivated! The role of the teacher is being altered.

I am doing research since I was relatively young: twenty-one. I have hundreds of books related to local history and genealogy, have had my fair share of seminars, and yet: I still have to learn every day. Not only every Era and every area is different: every human being is different.

However, one can learn in various ways: spontaneous or organised.

When I learned how to express myself in an understandable language, this was a very spontaneous process. My mother didn't take me on her lap every evening to teach me how to open my lips and twist my tongue, and yet, I succeeded very well indeed.

At school, things got organised. It was more of a drill: add, abstract, multiply, divide, memorize ten latin words a day, etc.

I got my MBA some years ago and hated the drill. Statistics: bah, but I loved the subjects which one could learn to understand spontaneously, which were mainly organised as role playing in teams.

I take it that most genealogists are adults and don't feel very much for organised studying, or don't have the resources -- time being an important element.

We have in our midst quite a number of people who really know what they are talking about and have ways of presenting matters to us the "playish" way instead of the "teacherish" way. Without being conscious of it, one is learning from what they are saying. It is important to know that the genealogy public is highly motivated: we want to learn!

Family history is not only about finding the vital data of the father and mother of John, Jack and Jim: it is also about culture, human behaviour, social relations, sociology, biology, psychology, philosophy, geography, economics, law, philology, you name it.

When learning, we shouldn't get overorganised, but rely on the know how and the specific ways and means of every fellow researcher. Mistakes will be made en route, wrong information relied upon, an occasional shouting, but we will be learning from these mistakes, this wrong information, this shouting: "the real thing".

What we must attain is that everybody who has to say something has the courage to say it. Internet is an excellent medium for that: it is very anonymous.


Malcolm KNOWLES, in Androgogy in Action" (Jossey-Bass, 1984) pg 6, writes:

I found the solution in the summer of 1967, when a Yugoslavian adult educator, Dusan Savicevic, attended my summer session course on adult learning and at the end of it exclaimed "Malcolm, you are preaching and practicing androgogy." I responded, "Whatagogy?" because I had never heard the term before. He explained that the European adult educators had coined the term as a parallel to pedagogy, to provide a label for the growing body of knowledge and technology in regard to adult learning, and that it was defined as "the art and science of helping adults learn." It made sense to me to have a differentiating label, and I started using the term in 1968 in articles describinbg my theoretical framework for thinking about adult learning.


I have used in this text ideas and words of my friend Robert Magnan.

[adapted from a posting on Roots-L in 1995]

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