Education, Justice, Peace

Adult Education’s
Long Tradition
of Social Justice
California Adult Education
1856 to present
Protecting and Expanding a Vision
of Inclusion, Empowerment and
Today’s Agenda…
I. Stand up for Adult Education!
II. Adult Education as an
instrument of Social Justice
through the years
III. Our response to the current
CA Adult Education
Our Long Tradition of Striving for Social Equity
Our Traditional Assumptions
• Healthy Democracy requires social justice:
Well-educated (literate) citizens who share
equally in opportunity, responsibility and
• Reaching a state of Social Justice requires
equalizing access to each of these goods.
Education is key for each.
• Adult Education has been responsive to
conditions of Social Injustice by addressing
educational need of individuals and
marginalized populations.
Adult Education
Shaped by Social Justice “contexts of need”
From inception to the present, the system’s
programmatic focus has been defined by our
response to ever-shifting combinations of factors:
Immigrant and Refugee trends
War and political events and trends
Economic trends and events
Social and Cultural Movements
Factors move in and out of prominence, creating
shifting “contexts of need”.
Each programmatic development can be traced back
to a context.
Social Justice Vision
Shared But Not Unanimous
Social Justice movements must always
progress in spite of resistance from interests
preferring status quo (society and privileges to
remain exclusionary of immigrants, other
disenfranchised people).
1856 – 1910’s
The Melting Pot - Americanization and Assimilation
• Chinese, Europeans – economic, class betterment
Politics - Russian Revolution, WWI
• Manifest Destiny and RR plutocracy, good market
for unskilled labor: need for bodies to populate and
build (and fight WWI)
Social movements
• Melting Pot – Americanization
Educational Developments
• 1856 - Adult Ed started…
• 1902 - and becomes publicly funded
(along with K-12)
the Constant Challenge
• Illiteracy is fundamental to each “context”
• Sometimes driven by a political agenda,
sometimes by a social movement
• Military Mobilization: since WWI Adult Education
has been needed not as a social justice good, but
as a pragmatic response to the need for competent
soldiers - in 1963, fully 1/3 of inductees were found
to be “unfit” for duty due to lack of education.
• Civil Rights Movement: right to vote rested on
ability to pass reading tests
Transitions - Post-War, Pre-Crash
Prosperity fostered broader-based Adult Ed:
• Adult Education was expanded beyond
Americanization to include educational needs of
all adults.
• Focus changed from remediation of educational
lack to organizing resources to improve
• Growing social conscience/awareness of
labor/economic issues with Russian Revolution,
1929 – 1940
Depression and Remedy
• Americans fleeing Dustbowl
• Braceros seeking farmwork
• Europeans fleeing Third Reich
• World - unrest: Hitler, Franco, Mussolini, Hirohito
• USA – New Deal
• 20’s World inflation, US Market bubble led to –
• 1929 Stock market crash and 30’s World Depression
Social movements
• 20’s – Emancipation (20’s)
• 30’s – social justice/labor
Educational Developments
• Retrench of Adult Ed scope and services with crash
• Horton, Highlander and beginning of social justice focus
1940 – 1965
War and Cold War
• Europeans fleeing Hitler & aftermath of WWII
• Cubans fleeing Castro
Politics – WWII, Korea, Cold War, Cuba
Economics – War boom, post-war prosperity, Military
Industrial complex
Social movements
• 40-46 – sacrifice and common goal
• 47–65 - McCarthysim, baby boom, conformity (Beat
• 60-65 – Free Speech
Educational Developments
• 1946 - GI Bill
• civil rights movement
• Freire and literacy as political and personal
1965 - 1980
Free Speech to Stagflation
• 1975 - Iranians (monarchy collapse), SE Asian (Vietnam)
• Cold War
• Vietnam
• Iran revolution/hostage crisis
• 1973-1974 recession
• 1979 stagflation – decline of steel belt
Social movements
1963-66 - free speech/civil rights/feminism
1967- 1974 – counter culture/anti-war protests/human potential movement
1975 - returning vets –disaffection moving to ”me generation”
Educational Developments
1966 - passage of Federal Adult Education Act
1978 - Prop 13
1980 -2000
Immigrant/Refugee Population
• SE Asian (Vietnam, Cambodia),
• Eastern Bloc (USSR dissolution)
• USSR fall 1989
• Operation Desert Storm 1991
• Manufacturing moving offshore
• Reaganomics “trickle down”
• boom and bust
Social movements
• 1980’s - Blue collar backlash, Yuppies, Gen X 1994-98
• Newt Gingrich/Contract with America
Educational Developments
• 1982 passage of Federal right to education for undocumented children
• Amnesty laws affecting undocumented in 1986
History’s Context
and Adult Education’s Response
• Theories and practices about Adult Learning have
developed from the long tradition of Progressive
• Horton, Freire, Knowles are theorists who have
described our adult education classrooms and the
conditions that empower adult learners.
• John Dewey - Public education is foundational to
movements for greater equity, justice and a
stronger democracy. Education must compensate
for students’ disadvantages.
Myles Horton (1905-1990)
and Highlander Schools
• Education to alter the balance of economic and
political power relationships to the advantage of the poor
• “Learn from the people; start their education
where they are.”
• Transformative education is grounded in the learners’:
• Values and culture
• Interests
• Social experience
• Shared situation
• Transformative education links the learners’ conscious
actions to the historical development of society
• Citizenship Schools across the South informed and fueled
the civil rights movement
Malcolm Knowles
and the Human Potential Movement
As a person matures…
Self-concept …his self concept moves from one of being a
dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human
Experience …he accumulates a growing reservoir of experience
that becomes an increasing resource for learning.
Readiness to learn …his readiness to learn becomes oriented
increasingly to the developmental tasks of his social roles.
Orientation to learning …his time perspective changes from one of
postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application,
and accordingly his orientation toward learning shifts from one of
subject-centeredness to one of problem centeredness.
Motivation to learn …the motivation to learn is internal .
Paolo Freire (1921-1997)
and Adult Literacy
• Adults who become literate shift from seeing
themselves as an “object” to being the “subject”
of their lives.
• Adult education is not the effort to fill up an
empty vessel but rather opportunity to build on
the grounded life experiences of the learners.
• Learners experience personal transformation
and “conscientization” when they see their own
circumstance in an historical context.
2000- 2011
Latinos, Iraqis, Africans
9/11/2001, Afghanistan war, Operation Desert Shield
• Housing bubble and foreclosure/banking crisis
• healthcare crisis
• unemployment crisis;
• approaching retirement of Boomers
Social movements
• Bush years – how define THAT?
• Tea party gains momentum
Educational Development
• until 2008 – participation-based programs re: ADA
• 2009 – massive cuts – local funding decision - grieving and retooling
Bubble and Burst Economic Patterns
• Paradox - Economic downturns simultaneously
create spikes in need (students) and scrutiny of the
validity of our work (funders, e.g. taxpayers)
• When times are hardest, adult education is needed
• When times are hardest, adult education is hardest
to defend.
Adult Education as a…
• Gateway – acquiring language and literacy skills
and knowledge to contribute and succeed in
• Leveler – remediating a disadvantaged beginning
or life setback:
• Right? (to individuals)
• Necessity? (to Democracy)
The ongoing debate…
Downward Cycle of Undereducation
• For the first time in our Nation’s history 24-35
year-olds have less education than the older
• The economic and social costs of undereducation mount and the hourglass economy
makes us look like a third world country
• Education is necessary to defend education
“The more the people become themselves,
the better the democracy.”
Horton & Freire
What does today’s context
mean for how we continue
our work?
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