This article rejects the powerful consensus in the UK and beyond to the effect that lifelong learning is a wonder drug which, on its own, will solve a wide range of educational, social and political ills. The main features of the consensus are encapsulated in a few central tenets and their influence demonstrated by a few representative quotations. Ten key problems with the consensus are listed and this analysis·prompts the question, if the thesis is so poor, why is it so popular? Alternative visions of the learning society and of lifelong learning are then presented, including a sceptical version of lifelong learning as social control, which treats lifelong learning not as a self‐evident good but as contested terrain between employers, unions and the state. Finally, some reflections are offered on possible ways forward. Both the critique of the dominant consensus and the suggestions for policy have been shaped by the Economic and Social Research Council's Learning Society Programme and by the findings produced so far by its 14 projects.
British Educational Research Journal – Wiley
Published: Sep 1, 1999
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