Often phrases are spoken or written with little thought as to their real meaning. I would suggest that there is an enormous difference between these two, apparently similar terms and that recognition of the difference is key to a fundamental understanding of education. It all boils down to the contrast between the meaning of the words ‘teaching’ and ‘learning’. Respectively these could imply:
pushing out and pulling in
delivering and receiving
radiating and absorbing
offering and gaining
Adding the meaning of the word ‘social’ to each of these or even their implications and one begins to perhaps see a different perspective to the qualitative potential of education. For instance, if a tutor or facilitator were described as a ‘social radiator’, it would be quite a positive concept, surely. If learner were described as a ‘social absorber’, that could be an interesting moniker. An organisation with a ‘social offering’ would be seen as somewhat ethical, even altruistic. Someone who could say they had ‘socially gained’ from an experience might be more likely to be content and fulfilled. In modern terms, the words ‘push’ and ‘pull’ are used in the world of technology. The former is all the rage these days, as it forces content out to people, who opt in to it. The latter is outmoded in some respects, yet affords the recipient control over what they consume and when. Ironically, push technology has often negative connotations in modern life as it can become overly intense if every aspect of life is full of it. Should we then be considering Social Teaching as a risky venture, when Social Learning, if given to an audience who want to take it in, may be a more sensible way forward? Andragogy, that is, the teaching of adults in an adult fashion, would agree. The two way partnership between the tutor and the learner enables both to teach and learn,and to both benefit from the expereinces of doing so. ‘Social’ is an important word, because it downplays knowledge acquisition and brings in strands such as awareness, responsibility and consideration. Lifelong Learning could be about the pulling in of added experience, receiving new information, absorbing skills and knowledge and gaining from the entire process. Such activity, if understood correctly, can only be beneficial for individuals, their communities and society in general.