Charles A. Wedemeyer (1911–1999) was a pioneer in the field of independent and distance learning. He challenged university administrators to expand access and opportunity to autonomous learners. “Educational change is evolutionary, and its tempo is glacial,” he wrote.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1911, to parents of modest means, Charles Wedemeyer developed a sense of excitement for what he described as “self-initiated” learning. His parents, Adrian August Wedemeyer and Laura Marie Marks Wedemeyer strived to provide books and magazines and an environment conducive to learning. An avid reader, the young Wedemeyer made great use of his local library in his quest for knowledge. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Education with a major in English, later pursuing a master’s degree in English, both from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Northwestern University. As a young educator, he taught English and Science to disadvantaged youth. It was at that time that he began to formulate his progressive ideas on extending educational opportunities as integral to the democratic project.
What non-traditional learning does not need is anything that would diminish the freedom of choice, autonomy and independence that has kept this kind of learning vital, practical, resourceful, innovative, and humane from the beginning of this century.