Profile photo of John Bilorusky

About John Bilorusky

John Bilorusky is President of WISR and Member of WISR's core faculty. John was one of WISR's four founders in 1975, and WISR has been, and will continue to be, the hub of his professional and community involvements. John received his BA from the University of Colorado (cum laude in Physics and cum laude in General Studies) in 1967. He received his MA from the University of California at Berkeley in 1968 and his PhD in Higher Education from UC Berkeley in 1972. He has also held major faculty appointments in the College of Community Services at the University of Cincinnati (1971-73), in the Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Studies at UC Berkeley (1970-71) and at University Without Walls-Berkeley (1973-74). He has actively written and published in the field of adult learning and social change. He lives with his wife, Janet, and 18-year-old twins, Kyle and Nicole. Janet is a nurse at the Regional Center of the East Bay, serving and supporting people with developmental disabilities. Kyle and Nicole are currently enrolled at Berkeley City College. He has an adult son, Clark, who has a Master's in Asian American Studies from San Francisco State, and who lives with his wife, Donna, and their two children, Ilaw and Tala, in Vallejo, CA. Clark provides Tech Support in the Union City School District.

Reflections on Dire Circumstances in Higher Education and Society–Proposed BA Program Using Transformative Education for Disenfranchised Learners and the Public Good

The background and discussion paper for my recent presentation at the 4th Annual Conference can be found at: http://4thannualconference.wisrville.org/files/2012/08/Transformative-Education-in-the-face-of-Dire-Circumstances_-third_version.pdf That paper proposes an expanded role for WISR–in the face of a significant void left by a deteriorating American higher education today–a void that is a result of deepening societal, cultural and economic ailments that have been the concern of the 99% movement. WISR must return to that part of its original mission in 1975 which saw it as becoming one day a Center and Model for Experimentation in Higher Education.

In this paper, I’ve tried to reflect on the state of inequalities, and what Giroux calls the culture of cruelty, in today’s society. I examine the history of American higher education, especially the last fifty years, and reflect on how the state of affairs in American higher education has deteriorated from being in danger of corruption by powerful special interests to its current circumstance of seemingly having lost almost all of its intellectual integrity and moral compass. Higher education seems to be viewed and appreciated mostly as a tool for vocational preparation and as a tool to produce and disseminate knowledge for the highest bidder. Seldom is the “public good” mentioned, much less served by academic institutions. Furthermore, despite the emphasis on vocational preparation, more and more, college graduates are unemployed, underemployed and weighed down by a mountain of student loan debt–they face the prospect of lives not so much as respected professionals as indentured servants at the mercy of those whose wealth and power place them beyond public accountability. More than ever, American higher education needs new models, new alternatives. Programs are needed that are financially accessible to all young adults, especially those from lower-income backgrounds and disenfranchised communities. And, middle-aged and elder adults need access as well. Furthermore, mere admissions to an institution does not qualify as meaningful access. Meaningful access entails transformative learning for the individual student and nurturing the student’s likely contributions to the “public good”: 1) education and training for immediate employment, 2) broader knowledge and skill development–in liberal arts, writing and communicating in one’s own voice, understanding of the uses and limitations of science and technology, the ability to use rather than be used by the internet and new media/technology, critical and imaginative thinking, how to make use of community-involved methods of action-inquiry, and economic and politcal literacy, 3) experiencing the passion for and commitment to active citizen participation informed by a deep concern with the “public good,” 4) know-how in building bridges to the next important steps in one’s life, both for economic survival and for the pursuit of a meaningful life. The proposed further expansion and development of WISR’s BA programs would provide that kind of meaningful access–in the interests of individual students and the larger public, alike.

We’re Looking Forward to WISR’s 4th Annual Conference–Community Conversations on the 99% Solution!


Welcome! This blog is devoted to information, posts and comments about WISR’s upcoming 4th annual conference, Thursday evening, August 23 through Saturday evening, August 25. We’re really looking forward to this year’s conference. We expect about 50 participants–students, faculty, Board, alumni, prospective students and friends from the larger community. We anticipate that there will be 15 to 25 participants in most sessions, and we already have indications from members of the WISR community that people will be traveling here from such varied places as Boston, Kansas, Miami, and China.

Please take a look at our conference program and schedule, and feel free to make comments or posts on this blog about ideas for the conference prior to August 23. Then. during and after the conference, please use this blog to share your insights, questions, thoughts and planned activities that result from the conference.