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Leon McKenzie

By Michael Harton


LEON MCKENZIE (1932-2011) McKenzie caught his appreciation for teaching during grade school from the Sisters of St. Margaret School. That passion was fueled by opportunities to teach as a parish associate, and later as a high school teacher/principal. However, his career path was set when he encountered Paul Bergevin through a Lilly Fellowship at Indiana University. Through his wide interest in improving adult learning he has influenced education in the fields of community, professional, medical, higher and religious education while contributing to the expanding theoretical and philosophical base of adult education as a field of research, study and practice.


Leon McKenzie was born in Chicago, Illinois March 20, 1932, the eldest of three children in a family that endured almost constant poverty and experienced gnawing hunger on a regular basis. Poverty eventually took its toll on the marriage of Jeanette and Robert McKenzie, and when Leon was five years old Jeanette moved with her children to live with her parents in St. Louis, MO.

Leon points to his experience in attending St. Margaret School in St. Louis as a turning point in his life. "Teaching sisters, "he often noted, "are frequently represented as stern task masters who would hit their students at the drop of a ruler. This portrayal is far from the truth. They loved their students dearly and disciplined them in a reasonable manner. Under their caring tutelage and with a love shaped by their religious vocations, I received an education that came to my aid the rest of my life," reports McKenzie. 2

It was to be expected that a few boys and girls in each graduating class would be interested in a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. McKenzie entered minor seminary in the fall following his graduation from eighth grade. A minor seminary in the pre-Vatican II Church lasted six years. The course of study was comparable to a six-year college prep school program. After completing minor seminary requirements McKenzie advanced to the major seminary. The first two years of study emphasized the major requirements for the B.A. degree in Philosophy.

After completion of major seminary studies McKenzie was ordained a priest in 1958 for the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas. Mark K. Carroll, the bishop of Kansas was the former pastor of St. Margaret Parish in St. Louis where McKenzie attended grade school. McKenzie was appointed assistant pastor of St. Mary Church in Parsons, Kansas. One of his duties was to teach grades seven and eight. In preparing to meet requirements for a Kansas teaching license McKenzie encountered his first courses in education and pedagogy.

McKenzie spent three years in Parsons and thoroughly enjoyed his role as teacher. He found it exhausting, however, to fulfill both pastoral and teaching duties. The frustration continued as he was appointed in 1962 as assistant pastor at St. Anne's parish, Wichita, and teacher/counselor at Cathedral High School in Wichita. McKenzie was delighted when the new bishop asked if he would be willing to pursue a graduate degree from Fordham University where a new program in religious education had recently begun. Here was his opportunity to escape the exhaustion of pastoral duties combined with teaching, while pursuing his love of the latter.

The young priest began his studies at Fordham in the summer of 1966. Some of his professors included visiting teachers from European universities. McKenzie was particularly captivated by lectures by renowned international philosopher Frederick Copeston, author of the multi-volume History of Philosophy. This influence and his growing interest in philosophy would follow him throughout his changing career.

Upon receiving his M.A. in 1968 McKenzie returned to Wichita where he spent a brief stint teaching at Bishop Carroll High School, serving also as chaplain for the Christian Brothers who staffed the school. Soon he was appointed Assistant Superintendent of the Catholic School System in the diocese, which included five high schools and 35 elementary schools. In his role as assistant superintendent, he was responsible for enrichment of religious education programs and was liaison between the Catholic and Public school systems as well as with the federal government with regard to federal grants.

In the wake of turmoil following Vatican II, McKenzie found himself caught between conservative and more liberal factions, each accusing him of being either too conservative or too liberal. For example, on one occasion McKenzie refused to allow a Mass which included a procession that resembled a modernistic ballet, resulting in a challenge by students that he was hyper-conservative. However, after giving a speech on religious education in a local parish he was challenged on his orthodoxy. Of this experience, McKenzie reports, "It was not the first time in my life that I was heckled, but it was the first time I was heckled by what I expected to be a friendly audience of fellow Catholics, fellow priests, and parents of students."

When rumors surrounding the work of the "liberal" Assistant Superintendent reached a newly appointed, extremely conservative bishop, McKenzie asked to be allowed to resign in order to avoid impending conflict. His request granted, McKenzie was appointed to a pastorate in rural Kansas, ostensibly to isolate the young, liberal priest and minimize his influence. While he fulfilled his pastoral role dutifully, he missed the excitement of the classroom, both as a teacher and as a student.

The Jesuit weekly America carried an ad which caught the pastor's eye, and after much prayer and reflection McKenzie responded to the opportunity to enter the competition for a Lilly Fellowship at Indiana University. The fellowship completely paid for enough graduate hours to enable the holder to secure a doctoral degree in adult education.

Upon receiving the fellowship, and being granted permission by the bishop to pursue further studies, McKenzie was heartily welcomed by Dr. Paul Bergevin, Chairman of the Bureau of Adult Studies. McKenzie says it was not long before he realized that he had traded an oppressive work atmosphere for one that was characterized by kindness and collaboration. He found not only his studies fulfilling, but his frequent informal conversations with faculty, especially, Bergevin, were extremely stimulating.

Toward the conclusion of his studies McKenzie wrote a letter to the new Bishop of Wichita informing the Bishop that he would be returning to the diocese in about six months when he completed his doctor of education degree in adult education. A week later he received a letter from the bishop written on a single rumpled page. The bishop warned McKenzie that upon his return from Indiana University he would never again be permitted to teach in a Catholic school. A postscript added, "Do not reveal the contents of this correspondence to anyone." McKenzie says he realized that he had been reduced to the status of a pariah! He forwarded his resignation to the bishop and requested that the necessary paperwork be filed with the Vatican.

The circumstances and timing are unclear, but before the Lilly Fellowship ended and his doctoral studies completed, McKenzie received the Bergevin Fellowship and was subsequently asked to remain in the Bureau of Adult Studies at Indiana. Among other responsibilities he was assigned to teach Bergevin's history and philosophy of adult education course. Both his studies and the mentoring of Bergevin prepared him well to accept this mantle.

McKenzie remained at Indiana University for twenty-two years as professor of adult education. During which time he married the medical librarian at Indiana University Hospital, Mary, and assumed duties as Director of Human Resources Development for the hospital, a role discussed below. Over his career as an adult educator he was a frequent conference leader, guest lecturer, consultant and board or committee member in a wide array of venues. He served on the Publications Committee of the Adult Education Association of the USA and on the editorial board of "Lifelong Learning," a publication of the Adult Education Association.

A religious educator in a secular setting

This writer is convinced that his contact with Leon McKenzie was providential. I was a year into my teaching career, joining a seminary faculty as an adult education practitioner in need of a doctorate and the theoretical base it would provide. Indiana University was a default choice for three reasons: my predecessor was a graduate of the I.U. adult education program; I.U. still had a premier program in AE; and it was two hours from my home in Louisville.

As I scrambled for a text for the first course I would teach in ARE, I discovered McKenzie's Adult Education: the Twentieth Century Challenge, using it both as text and primary source material. I also discovered that McKenzie was on faculty at I.U. When I was ready to explore doctoral studies it seemed natural to seek out Leon, at least to get some direction on how to proceed. To my pleasant surprise, he invited me to meet with him, and not in his office but at his home.

On the appointed day I followed his directions to the McKenzie home on the outskirts of Indianapolis and for at least two hours we sat at the dining room table, getting acquainted and outlining an entire program of study. This personal approach was only a portend of the model of adult education I would experience in and out of the classroom with McKenzie. Our frequent conversations over dinner in the hospital cafeteria covered everything from adult education principles to our religious backgrounds. I wonder if he was aware of his mentor role in those conversations.

One of the curiosities to me as a graduate student in a secular university yet teaching in a theological seminary was the absence of any hint of McKenzie's ministry background or his faith commitment in his teaching and in most of his writing in adult education. This was due in part to my own naiveté, yet due also to my lack of understanding regarding McKenzie's philosophy. Over time I came to understand that McKenzie lived out his faith commitment in the way he treated people, demonstrating Christian virtues, and in valuing the experiences of others. His greatest delight was in seeing people grow, and his greatest burden as a teacher was recognizing students' dependence on the teacher for helping them understand. Over time I came to appreciate McKenzie's approach to living his faith, and I considered him a model of the virtues of adult education. I also came to understand the roots of his philosophy that education may be religious by virtue of either the content or the intent.

The pilgrimage to adult education

The background for the McKenzie's idea that education may be religious by virtue of its content or its intent began in his early years as a high school teacher in Kansas. The brethren brought parents to the teacher to meet their educational needs religious and otherwise, and one of the first classes he offered, at the request of parents, was on evolution. He continued to ask adults what they wanted and tried as best he could to meet their felt and expressed needs, whether it be a Bible study or a parenting class.

McKenzie's greatest opportunity came when he responded to an ad for a Lilly Fellowship in Adult Education, and was accepted by Indiana University. Founder and then chair of the Bureau of Adult Studies, Paul Bergevin took the young priest under wing. Throughout the course of the fellowship many long conversations took place, about education, about religion, about philosophy. In fact, McKenzie and Bergevin connected because of their mutual interest in philosophy. Bergevin was a good listener, open to new ideas, and accepted divergent views. McKenzie credits Bergevin with passing on his open-minded compassion and his respect for adult students. McKenzie bore this out in his own classroom. As a simple example, always, at the beginning of the first class session, he would have students go around the room introducing themselves. Immediately, he would go around the room naming every student and welcoming him or her personally-without a note.

When the Lilly fellowship ended and with his graduate studies complete, McKenzie was invited to join the faculty. One of the courses he picked up was Bergevin's history and philosophy of adult education. One gets the sense that "the master" would only entrust this beloved course to his protégé.

McKenzie taught courses on both the Bloomington home campus and at the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Later, in addition to teaching he became the Director of Human Resources for Indiana University Hospitals. The choice of an adult educator for this role may have been a stroke of genius on someone's part, because some hospital staff (including doctors and nurses) were reluctant participants in continuing education. But, while some curricula were dictated, McKenzie conducted needs assessments and tried to structure learning opportunities accordingly. And though the content was often technical, the human relations approach engineered by an adult educator softened the approach.

Contributions to Christian Education

Contributions to adult religious education and the larger field of AE

Through both his writing and his teaching McKenzie has had broad influence across diverse fields including medical, university and religious education. He provides a model of stewardship both of professional adult education principles and infusion of those principles into religious education. The former was done through his teaching and journal articles and forums, as well as through selected books. The latter was done largely through his writing for religious journals and significant books. For example, McKenzie helped keep the andragogy debate alive and refined through his contributions to the forum section of the Adult Education Journal. The same may be said for his debate of Mezirow's perspective transformation, a debate carried out through the pages of the journal. His Adult Education and the Burden of the Future may be seen as a bridge. While thoroughly secular in language, the philosophy and background of his argument for adult education as an avenue to worldview construction may be seen as stemming from his religious convictions.

Adult Education: The 20th Century Challenge was published by Paulist Press (1975) as a primer on adult education as applied to the parish, complete with an explanation of Knowles' andragogy. One of the most useful little books McKenzie produced was Decision Making in Your Parish (Twenty-Third Publications, 1980). A simple application of good empirical research practice, McKenzie demystified consulting and compiling decision making data from adults, especially for adult education planning.

Adult Religious Education became a seminal work in the field, published initially by James Michael Lee's Religious Education Press (1982). It stayed in print and useful as a graduate text and resource for denominational staffs and parish educators for twenty years before being revised and republished by Smyth-Helwys (2002). The revision is intended to appeal to a protestant as well as Catholic audience, and adds examples of practice in adult religious education as well as foundational theory and philosophy.

After retirement from teaching and administration McKenzie confined his writing to religious subjects, mostly for Catholic publications. Attention to non-education themes came with time to focus. "Prior to that I was very busy with two jobs and had to focus on the field to get promotion," McKenzie admits. However, one post-retirement book, in particular, demonstrates his continued concern for adults. Pagan Myths attempted to build a bridge, attempting to keep religion at the center of the public arena. The audience is college educated adults who may distain religion, as well as religious educators who must be able to answer questions about the veracity of the resurrection.

Former student Susan Weber, Director of Evaluation and Congregational Learning for the Indianapolis Center for Congregations and a successful congregational consultant, reflects on McKenzie's influence: "In the 1980's I pursued a Master's degree in Adult Education and was privileged to have Dr. McKenzie as an exceptional teacher, advisor, and mentor. Dr. McKenzie had profound impact on shaping my own philosophy of adult education in the church setting and in particular the value of listening well through community consultations that are conducted using thoughtful social research. Sitting on my bookshelf is a taped and dogged-eared copy of Dr. McKenzie's book, Decision Making in Your Parish (1980). Over the years, this slim but concise book has served as a trusted teaching tool with congregations on how to navigate with confidence the intricacies of social research. Dr. McKenzie's commitment to the life long faith formation of adults and to social research that both involves and informs the community continues to be influential in my ministry. His approach and philosophy of adult education remains fresh and relevant in today's congregations. There is a saying that ‘the foundation for doing good is doing well'. Dr. McKenzie was gracious and generous in giving his students this solid foundation."

Dr. Matthew Hayes, President of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis says, "Leon McKenzie was integral to my development as an adult religious educator both practical and visionary. His practical focus on data driven needs assessment and rigorous program planning shaped my ministry with parish communities attempting to move relevant adult learning into the center of educational ministry. His vision of ‘worldview construction' as a ‘transcendent aim' of adult education that is inclusive, active, critical and other accepting (Adult Education and Worldview Construction, 1991) was foundational to my doctoral work with the National Issues Forum and its use within the Catholic community."

Dr. and Mrs. McKenzie live in Greenwood, IN south of Indianapolis where they remain as active as possible in their local parish.

Addendum: LEON MCKENZIE passed away on September 8, 2011 in Greenwood, Indiana, at the age of 79. 

Works Cited

  • 2 "Leon R. McKenzie: A Biography," a monograph provided to the writer by Mary McKenzie. All subsequent quotes in this biographical section come from this monograph. The remainder of the material for the article was gathered from several hours of conversation with McKenzie at his home in Greenwood, Indiana, with the gracious assistance of Mrs. McKenzie, as well as from e-mail correspondence with McKenzie's former students.



  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1973) An Adult Education Graduate Course in Simulation Games: A Prescriptive Study. Doctoral dissertation, Indiana University Bureau of Adult Education.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1967) Process Catechetics. New York: Paulist Press.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1973)(Co-edited with John McKinley). Adult Education: The Diagnostic Procedure. Viewpoints, School of Education Bulletin, Indiana University, Vol. 49, No. 5,
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (Editor) (1975) Participation Training: A System for Adult Education. Indiana University School of Education.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1975) Adult Religious Education, The 20th Century Challenge. West Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1977) Creative Learning For Adults: The Why/How/Now of Games and Exercises. West Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1978). Adult Education and the Burden of the Future. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1980) Decision Making in Your Parish. West Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1982) The Religious Education of Adults. Birmingham: Religious Education Press.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1991) Adult Education and Worldview Construction. Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1997) Pagan Resurrection Myths and The Resurrection of Jesus. Lovingston, VA: Bookwrights Press.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (2002) (revision, with R. Michael Harton), The Religious Education of Adults. Macon: Smyth & Helwys.


  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1972) "Change: The Key Concept in Adult Education." The Living Light, A Christian Education Review. Vol. 9, No. 2, Summer.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1993) "Adult Education: Program Evaluation." The Living Light, An Interdisciplinary Review of Christian Education. Vol. 10, No. 3, Fall.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1973) "Diagnostic Procedure for Goal Identification." in Adult Education: The Diagnostic Procedure. Viewpoints, Vol. 49, No. 5. September.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1973) "Toward a Working Philosophy of Adult Education." (book review). Adult Leadership. Vol. 22, No. 4.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1973) "An Adult Education for Nurse Educators." Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing. Vol. 4, No. 4.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1974) "Adults, Change, and Leadership." Focus on Adults. Vol. 2, No. 1.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. "Simulation Gaming in Adult Education." Adult Leadership (1974), Vol. 22, No. 1.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1974) "Instructional Planning for Adult Education." Focus on Adults. Vol. 2, No. 4.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1974) "Trends in the Professional Field of Adult Education." (with John McKinley), (Mountains Plains Journal of Adult Education. Adult Education, Vol. 2, No. 2.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1974) "Adult Education: Areas of Proficiency for Nurse Educators." Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, Vol. 5, No 4.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1974) "Evaluation: Program Variables." International Journal of Instructional Media, Vol. 1, No. 4, Summer.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1975) "Simulation Gaming in Nursing Education." Journal of Continuing Education for Nursing, Vol. III, No 3.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1975) "Participation Training: Introduction and Analysis." In Participation Training: A System for Adult Education," in Viewpoints, Vol. 51, No. 4.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1976) "The Design of Simulation Games for Education: Three Conceptual Models." International Journal of Instructional Media. Vol. 3 (1).
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1975) "Analysis of Bildungsroman Literature as Research Modality in Adult Education." Adult Education. Vol. XXV, No. 4.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1977) "Beyond Pluralism: In Search of a Metaphor." Adult Leadership. Vol. 25, No. 8.
  • McKenzie, Leon M.(1977) "Hospital Education: Does It Cost Too Much?" Cross-Reference. Division of Human Resources Management, American Hospital Association, Vol. VIII, No. 2.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1977) "A Response to Elias."("Critique: Andragogy Revisited" by John L.Elias), ADULT EDUCATION, Vol. 29, No. 4.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1977) "The Issue of Andragogy." Adult Education, Vol. 27, No. 4.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1978) "The Midlife Crisis and Educational Programming." Research in Education, Education Resources Information Center, ED 143784, ERIC Clearing House on Career Education, February.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1978) "Non-Participation in Adult Education: An Empirical Study." The Living Light, An interdisciplinary Review of Christian Education, fall.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1979) "Education for Mid-Life Trauma." Programming for Adults Facing Mid-life Change. Alan Knox (ed.), Jossey-Bass.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1980)"The Case for Adult Education." (with Travis Shipp) NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER, Vol. 17, No 1.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1981) "A Contingency Approach to the Management of Instruction." Lifelong Learning, Vol. 4, No. 8.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1981) "The Determination of Sample Size in Adult Education Research." Perspectives on Adult Learning and Development, Vol. 1, No. 2.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1981) "Adult Learners and Non-Learners: Demographic and Psychographic Profiles." (with Travis Shipp) Adult Education, Vol. 31, No. 4, Summer.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1982) "Needs Assessment: The Basis of Program Planning." Christian Adulthood. Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, pp. 33-36.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1982) "Urban College Campus as Location for Continuing Education: Preferences of Adults, A Research Report." Continuum, Vol. 40, No. 2.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1982) "How Adults Define Faith: A Factor-Analytic Study." (with Matt Hayes) The Living Light, An Interdisciplinary Review of Christian Education, Vol. 19, No. 1, Spring.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1983) "Supervisory Training: No Yellow Brick Road." Supervisory Management, Vol. 25, No. 3.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1983) "Adult Intentionality: A Study of Life Goals." Report for the Council on the Continuing Education Unit, May.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1983) "Foundations: The Scope, Purposes and Goals of Adult Religious Education." Christian Adulthood, A Catechetical Resource, United States Catholic Conference, Washington, D.C.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1983) "Adult Life Goals and Program Planning." Lifelong Learning: An Omnibus Of Practice And Research, Vol. 7, No. 3.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1983) (with R. Michael Harton). "Faith and Its Development: A Study of Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics." Review and Expositor, Vol. LXXX, No. 4, Fall.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1984) "Three Kinds of Supervisory Knowledge." The Health Care Supervisor, Vol. 2, No. 3.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1984) "The Supervisor as Instructor: Planning Instruction." The Health Care Supervisor, Vol. 3.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1985) "Philosophical Orientations of Adult Educators." Lifelong Learning, Vol. 9, No. 1 McKenzie, Leon M. (1985) "The Supervisor as Instructor: Selecting Instructional Techniques." The Health Care Supervisor, Vol. 4, No. 1.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1985) "Developmental Spirituality and the Religious Educator." In The Spirituality of the Religious Educator, James Michael Lee (ed). Religious Education Press, Birmingham, Alabama.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1986) "The Purposes and Scope of Adult Religious Education. "in Handbook of Adult Religious Education, Nancy Foltz (ed.). Religious Education Press, Birmingham, Alabama.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1986) "The Supervisor as Instructor: Small Group Discussion." In The Health Care Supervisor, Vol. 5, No. l.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1986) "Approaches to Learning: A Typology of Health Care Supervisors." in Journal of the American Society of Health Care Education And Training, Vol. 1, No. 2.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1987) "The Supervisor as a Learner: The Study Process." The Health Care Supervisor, Vol. 5, No. 4.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1987) "Worldview Construction and Adult Education," Adult Education Quarterly. Vol. 37, No. 4.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1988) Supervision as Art: Imagination and Intuition." The Health Care Supervisor, Vol. 6, No. 2.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1990) "Supervision: Learning from Experience." The Health Care Supervisor, Vol. 8, No. 2.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1992) "Educational Discourse in the Postmodern World." Educational Considerations, Vol. 19, No. 2, Spring, 1992.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1992) "Critical Thinking in Health Care Supervision." The Health Care Supervisor, Vol. 10, No. 4.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1993) "Management Ethics for the Health Care Supervisor." The Health Care Supervisor, Vol. 11, No. 4, June.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1993) "Process Management: Two Control Charts." The Health Care Supervisor, Vol. 12, No. 1, September.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1994) "Cross-Functional Teams in Health Care Organizations." The Health Care Supervisor, Vol. 12, No. 3.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1998) "The Risen Lord." The Catholic Answer, Vol. 12, No. 1, March/April.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1998) "Pagan Myths and the Virgin Birth." The Catholic Answer, Vol. 12, No. 5, November/December.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1998) "'Thou Shalt Not Be Judgmental' and Other Postmodernist Notions." New Oxford Review, Vol. LXV, No. 9, October.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1999) "Resurrection Themes in the Natural World." The Catholic Answer, Vol. 13, No. 1, March/April.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (1999) "The Credibility of Jesus' Resurrection: Two Interior Witnesses." Review for Religious, Vol. 58, No. 2, March-April.
  • McKenzie, Leon M. (2000) "God and The Big Bang." The Catholic Answer, Vol. 14, No. 3, July/August.

Excerpts from Publications

McKenzie, Leon M. (1991) Adult Education and Worldview Construction. Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company (p. 129)

A worldview is both a perspective in time and culture from which a person "sees" or experiences the world and a person's interpretive understanding of the world in terms of ultimate, penultimate, and immediate personal concerns. Tradition is a privileged kind of experience that derives from a particular frame of reference. This frame of reference, in turn, contains values, beliefs, assumptions, and patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting. While worldview construction occurs naturally, the process can be facilitated directly and explicitly when educators help adults structure discussions about worldview issues. Interventions on the part of educators can assist adults in meeting the obligation of worldview examination, an obligation that can be fulfilled by means of private reflection or group discussion. In facilitating worldview construction educators also aid adults in the development of their interpretive understandings of the world.

McKenzie, Leon M. (1978). Adult Education and the Burden of the Future. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America (p. 93)

In a graduate seminar in adult education at Indiana University the participants once asked me why I was a teacher. "Why are you present here tonight doing what you are doing?" was the inquiry. I offered a number of responses to the questions. What exists at the heart of what moves anyone to do anything consciously is always multivariate. "I am present here tonight, " I responded, "because it is my job. I get paid for being here tonight and with my salary I provide for my basic survival needs. My salary also furnishes me with the wherewithal for economic security. Furthermore, I enjoy being here. I enjoy the give and take of the discussions; I enjoy being intellectually stimulated; I enjoy learning; I take delight in asking questions that get the minds of others in gear. My presence here tonight is rewarding to me in terms of belonging to a group of searchers; I take delight in what I do because it is a way for me to grow as a person."

"Another reason I am here tonight, "I continued, "concerns my hope that all of us will leave this classroom a little more Promethean in our orientation to the world and a little less Epimethean." (I indicated that this reason could be discussed further at another time). "But the most important reason I am here, the ideal that moves me more than any other ideal, is that I wish to contribute what I am able to the construction of a utopian future."

No doubt my response was received differently by the individuals who were participating in the seminar. I am quite certain that I "lost" many of the participants when I began talking about the Promethean and Utopian ideals. I imagined that a number of descriptors would be attached to my explanation of why I was with them in the seminar: idealistic (in the pejorative sense), fanciful, out of touch with the real world, abstruse, unrealistic, dreamy, whimsical, visionary (again in the pejorative sense), etc. But it did not matter. My vision is for me a stimulus to action; it is what keeps me going when everything about me seems to be falling apart; it sustains me when I begin seeing evidences of the possibility that the "center will not hold." …It is maintained here that the utopian ideal ought to be a persistent value underlying the process of lifelong learning.

McKenzie, Leon M. (1975) Adult Religious Education, The 20th Century Challenge. West Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications

Adult religious education may be religious by reason of the educational agent's intent. The intent of the educational agent is to serve the needs of the learners and this intent is based on religious affirmations and convictions. The educational agent may be teaching the poor how to use food stamps more effectively (something that has little to do with the concept of religion in its most obvious sense) and yet he could be engaged in religious education because of his religious intent to help the poor.

The definition of adult religious education would be formulated as follows:

Adult religious education is a formally structured process in which an educational agent, because of this religious convictions, enables adults to actualize their potentialities to the end that they become more fully liberated as individuals and more fully prepared to participate in bettering the life of the communities to which they belong.

It is true, of course, that both content and intent may correspond. A person may help others learn religious concepts because of his religious beliefs.

What I am trying to express by offering two slightly different definitions of adult religious education is that adult religious education may address itself either to the so-called profane needs of people or to the so-called sacred needs of people. There are not two orders of reality; the sacred and the profane. There is one order of reality as we perceive it: the human. Adult religious educators cannot neglect the secular needs of people with the excuse that "after all, we are religious educators and, therefore, should not concern ourselves with world needs." (p. 14)

Many adults today are in need of educational services addressed to their immediate earthly needs. These needs cannot be met unless a legion of social institutions, including the churches, get into the business of human need. It seems to me that a fantastic human service can be provided by religious institutions in this country, if only educational programs in the churches are oriented in directions other than the theological.

In advising that churches embark on educational ventures that meet secular needs, it must be noted I am not arguing that current religious content courses be dismantled. Quite obviously there is a place in educational programming in a parish or local church for courses of study that concern religious themes. But there is also a place in the educational programming of parishes and local churches for courses that respond to the mundane needs of adults. Such a place exists, if for no other reason, because many human beings are in need of such a service. (p. 23)

McKenzie, Leon M. (1982) The Religious Education of Adults. Birmingham: Religious Education Press. (160-161)

(Conclusion to chapter on Approaches to Program Development)

What emerges out of this discussion is clearly indicated: The religious educator is advised to utilize program development approaches that direct attention to the concerns of adults in the parish. This is a central message of both andragogy and the expectancy theory of motivation. This may be taken as bad news by some religious educators. It is much easier to develop a program by selecting program topics in a somewhat arbitrary fashion.

Programs developed according to the diagnostic/prescriptive, analytic/subscriptive, and subscriptive approaches entail much work and some competence in social science research techniques. Again, we are confronted with the need for greater competence on the part of the religious educator in the field of adult education and in the area of applied research. A problem arises for religious educators who have had no opportunity to gain social science research skills in a systematic way. How can they possibly conduct, for example, a survey of the adults in their parishes when they know next to nothing about questionnaire construction, random sampling, or the statistical interpretation of the data they collect? There is nothing wrong with religious educators studying theology, but theological studies do not prepare religious educators as educators, and more precisely as adult educators who must necessarily be firmly grounded in social science research competencies. Nor do theological studies prepare religious educators as instructors, administrators, or audio-visual specialists. They problem, at its root, has been stated previously: The academic preparation of adult religious educators must involve them thoroughly in the field of adult education. Until such involvement occurs for large numbers of religious educators of adults, church-based adult education will remain as enterprise with marginal impact.

McKenzie, Leon M. (1975) Adult Religious Education, The 20th Century Challenge. West Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications

McKenzie's first book on adult religious education, this work is still amazingly current in its overview of basic adult education theory and practice. Knowles' andragogical approach is explained in sufficient detail to give parish educators an introduction to adult education theory, and McKenzie proceeds to apply that theory to practice, including suitable educational techniques with adults.

McKenzie, Leon M. (2002) (revision, with R. Michael Harton), The Religious Education of Adults. Macon: Smyth & Helwys.

A forty-percent revision of McKenzie's first edition, this piece is compatible to Catholic and protestant religious educators, and adds chapters on evaluation and practical examples of program development. Worth the purchase price of the book is McKenzie's original chart describing five approaches to program development, some of which are damning to much current practice, while others challenge the religious educator to new approaches and better ("best") practice.

Author Information

Michael Harton

Michael Harton (Ed.D., Indiana University) currently serves as Interim Dean of Faculty at the Baptist Theoloical Seminary at Richmond, Richmond, Virginia.