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Role of Leisure in Humanizing Learning Cities

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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The key point to remember is that leisure has a close connection to education, especially adult education, in changing behaviors and advancing the needs of society.


The posting below looks at the personal and social impact of leisure in learning.  It is from Chapter 6 Role of Leisure in Humanizing Learning Cities by Dan K. Hibbler, and Leodis Scott in the book Learning Cities for Adult Learners, Leodis Scott, editor. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco. Copyright © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., A Wiley Company. One Montgomery Street, Suite 1200. San Francisco, CA 94104-4594 All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.




Rick Reis

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Tomorrow’s Teaching and Learning

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Role of Leisure in Humanizing Learning Cities

Continued Perspectives of Leisure

The historical influences of leisure have affected our current views of leisure and the ways we consider leisure in society. The key point to remember is that leisure has a close connection to education, especially adult education, in changing behaviors and advancing the needs of society. This section describes leisure as time, activity, or state of mind. These descriptions suggest a hybrid of perspectives that indicate the important personal and social impact of leisure, especially in our ongoing discussion about adult education, lifelong learning, and learning cities. 

Leisure as Time. Many people equate leisure with a specific period of time. It is typically related to discretionary time, or the time that remains when free from work and after accomplishing daily responsibilities or necessary commitments related to work and family (Rapoport & Rapoport, 1975; Stokowski, 1994). Therefore, it is reasonable to suggest that if leisure time is the time left over after the important obligations, then leisure time appears by default to be valued as less important. As such, living one’s life has become a matter of prioritizing the use of time (Russell, 2009, 2013). In comparison to work time, it becomes easy to see why leisure time mistakenly takes on a lower priority and significance. What many people may not understand, however, is that by placing leisure time in higher regard, one may become even more productive at work and in performing other life obligations. 

Leisure as Activity.Viewing leisure as activity describes the outward expressions freely chosen and self-determined (Kelly, 2012). Expressions such as “I am a karaoke singer,” “I am a flag-football player,” and “I am a cloud gazer” suggest freely chosen activities by individuals defining such activities as leisure performed in their discretionary time. However, if we delve deeper, these “I am” statements are powerful indicators of the development of identity. Leisure activities are instrumental for participants in the psychological process of self-development and the accompanying esteem that is associated with a strong sense of self. Therefore, leisure as an activity can be effective in assisting individuals to learn who they are in the context of their communities and the wider world around them, making leisure activities much more important than simply something one does in his or her spare time. When used effectively, leisure as activities can be an essential means of learning and enriching human development. 

Leisure as State of Mind. Whereas leisure as time or as activity can be measured or described, leisure as a state of mind is more subjective, elusive, and difficult to quantify (Russell, 2009, 2013; Stokowski, 1994). Leisure as a state of mind is connected to feelings or attitudes of fulfillment, also freedom from obligations and constraints. As such, leisure can take on subjective, mental, emotional, psychological, and spiritual qualities (Kerr, 1962; Neulinger, 1981; Pieper, 1952; Stokowski, 1994). A theologian may refer to self-actualization, or an environmentalist may connect leisure to nature. Irrespective of the discipline, leisure as a state of mind can connect with many values and beliefs in living an authentic life and becoming fully human. It is being human when paying attention to larger ideals, connecting to a universal energy, even experiencing the simple joy of being alive in knowing exactly what it feels like to be truly happy: to live and serve for truth and humanity. 

The results of leisure being related to time, activity, or status invite other values and perspectives. Thus, it is important to note that leisure is not solely an individual endeavor, but a social experience. Leisure has been described as a symbol of social status, yet leisure also has a social agency for the future in “transforming human beings” (Godbey, 2003). Such a future, as Godbey envisions, will have to do with increasing our quality of life and living healthier lives; “[w]hile humans have devoted centuries to changing the world, the next century will be devoted more to changing ourselves” (p. 383). 

With the help of adult and continuing education, we believe that leisure can be the agent for social change through active human participation in developing truelearning cities. The potential of social agency in the practice of leisure requires a “leisure education” (Verdun & McEwen, 1984) that expands our social networks for the purposes of improving individuals and rebuilding communities. In simple terms, learning cities can be measured by the number of social networks they create. 


Godbey, G. (2003). Leisure in your life: An exploration. State College, PA: Venture Publishing. 

Kelly, J.R. (2012). Leisure(4thed.). Urbana, IL: Sagamore Publishing. 

Kerry, W. (1962). The decline of pleasure. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. 

Neulinger, J. (1981). The psychology of leisure. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas. 

Pieper, J. (1952). Leisure: The basis of culture(A. Dru, Trans.). New York, NY: Pantheon Books. 

Rapaport, R. & Rapaport, R.N. (1975). Leisure and the family life cycle.Boston, MA: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 

Russell, R.V. (2009). Pastimes: The context of contemporary leisure(4thed.). Urbana, IL: Sagamore Publishing.

Russell, R.V. (2013). Pastimes: The context of contemporary leisure(5thed.). Urbana, IL: Sagamore Publishing.

Stokowski, P.A. (1994). Leisure in society: A network structural perspective. New York, NY: Villiers. 

Verduin, J.R., & McEwen, D.N. (1984). Adults and their leisure: The need for lifelong learning. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.