Tripping with Stephen Gaskin: An exploration of a hippy adult educator

Gabriel Patrick Morley


For the last 40 years, Stephen Gaskin has been an adult educator on the fringe, working with tens of thousands of adults in the counterculture movement in pursuit of social change regarding marijuana legalization, women's rights, environmental justice issues and beyond. Gaskin has written 11 books about his experiences teaching and learning with adults outside the mainstream, yet, he is virtually unknown in the field of adult education. He lists his religion as hippy; he is a member of the Counterculture Hall of Fame (inducted 2004), a convicted felon, a United States Marine, a Korean War combat veteran, and a convenor. From 1967 to 1970, Gaskin led weekly rap sessions in which thousands of hippys, up to 3,000 by some accounts, would talk openly about sex, love, drugs, religion, and politics, all with a goal of emancipatory learning for social justice. These informal adult education classes signified the beginning of Gaskin's four decade-long struggle against social injustice and The Man. The primary focus of this dissertation is to examine Gaskin's life and mission by analyzing his theories and methodologies in relation to adult education and adult learning in order to show that he is an unrecognized adult educator who has contributed demonstrably, and uniquely, to the field of adult education. Gaskin's writing is situated in a contextual paradigm framed by several existing areas of adult education, including spirituality, ecological consciousness, praxis, and emancipatory learning.