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This volume brings together leading progressive adult educators toexplore how class affects different arenas of adult educationpractice and discourse. It highlights the links between adulteducation, the material and social conditions of daily and workinglives, and the ecoomic and political systems that underpin them.Chapters focus on adult education policies; teaching; learning andidentity formation; educational institutions and social movements;and the relationships between class, gender, and race.
Overall, the volume reaffirms the selience of class in shapingthe lives we lead and the educational approaches we develop. Itoffers suggestions for adult educators to identify and resist theencroachments of global capitalism and understnad the role ofeducation in promoting social equality. Finally, it suggests that aclass perspective can provide an antidote to much of the socialamnesia, self-absorption, and apolitical theorizing that pervadescurrent adult education discourse.
This is the 106th volume of the Jossey-Bass quarterly reportseries New Directions for Adult and ContinuingEducation.
Social class is a major determining factor of accomplishment in most educational, employment, and social arenas-still one of the best predictors of who will achieve success, prosperity, and social status. Yet class is difficult both to define and discern. We can examine it empirically only through its consequences or outcomes. Thankfully, educational systems are so central to the functioning of advanced industrial societies that they provide fertile ground for the investigation and analysis of class.
Education closely influences personal and social development in the technical and economic spheres but also in the wider political arenas of emancipation and democracy. Education also affects how people experience social, cultural, and economic forces; and it shapes abilities and dispositions toward their transformation. Because of this, education has always represented a site of struggle between those with the power to define what constitutes legitimate knowledge and those excluded from such decision making.
These aspects of education are closely related to issues of social class. Ideas about class influence the goals and purposes of education, its forms and approaches, as well as where and when it takes place and who participates in it. Class not only affects these elements but also shapes how we think about them. At its most fundamental level, the goal of education-and particularly adult education-is usually to ameliorate the social disadvantages of learners' backgrounds; yet too often education serves only to further extend such differences. So it's ironic that, compared to the related analytic vectors of gender and race, class is so unexplored in North American adult education. Why do scholars acknowledge class so significantly less than its counterparts? Why is it so underrepresented in social and educational theory? Indeed, why does American society generally so abjure or ignore class? And what might adult educators do about it?
This sourcebook addresses these questions by exploring the role of class in various areas of adult education policy and practice. Its purpose is less to provide an exhaustive examination of all aspects of class than to introduce key themes, topics, trends, and approaches. Examining the operation of class in this way helps clarify how class informs the interrelated roles of structure and agency in our work as adult educators. It also explains how adult education practices produce, reproduce, and maintain the complex inequalities of social class across varied contexts. The goal is to help adult educators better appreciate how values and purposes are inherent in their educational work and how larger social structures and norms influence adult educators and their work. Thus, the sourcebook encourages readers to observe and comprehend the role of class in shaping their own conceptions about and practices of adult education. Because the focus is firmly on practice, this volume also encourages readers to explore how they might increase their students' and colleagues' awareness and understanding of class and class analysis and how they might strengthen these aspects in their own teaching and research.
Because class is understood and appreciated differently around the world, the sourcebook tries to highlight such diversity in approach by deliberately involving authors from several different countries: Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, and the United States. As well as being able to provide an international perspective, the authors are all strong advocates for class analyses and practices that champion the less privileged. Each author is not only an experienced scholar and practitioner of adult education but also a committed social activist. So their chapters depart from the conventional academic practice of examining class through a dispassionate academic lens or viewing it from the standpoint of middle-class culture (which tends to regard the working class adversarially).
Each chapter assumes a slightly different focus in exploring how class shapes a specific area of adult education practice. In Chapter One I provide a historical overview of the development of the concept of class and its applicability to the study of adult education. The following two chapters deal with the macro and micro aspects of class and adult education. In Chapter Two Kjell Rubenson explores how social class has influenced the development of social policies about adult education in various countries. He argues that the present policy discourse on adult education is a result of weakening working-class interests. Then in Chapter Three, Lyn Tett explores learning and identity through the analytic lens of social class. Showing how assumptions about learner identity are often based on a deficit view of the working classes, she illustrates an alternative discourse that shows how to generate useful knowledge in a family literacy program.
The next three chapters all recognize that adult education activities have to take place in specific arenas and communities of practice. In Chapter Four Griff Foley examines the role of educational institutions in supporting working-class learning. In asserting that a distinctive working-class learning style exists, Foley analyzes the institutional educational experiences of working-class adults and shows how they can suggest approaches that are supportive, challenging, and class-conscious. In the following chapter on the pedagogical influences of social class, Janice Malcolm considers how class helps construct the identity and ultimately the teaching of certain groups of educators. She also explores ways of making class explicit within teacher education classrooms. In Chapter Six Shirley Walters examines how class influences the educational activities of social movements. Drawing on examples from her native South Africa, she illustrates how class, intertwined with other social categories, fundamentally shapes the organizational and educational practices of social movements.
Thinking about class draws attention to other forms of oppression. People's experiences of class also depend on their race and gender, so no meaning of class is completely independent of such factors. The next two chapters explore the intersections and interweavings of class, gender, and race in greater detail. In Chapter Seven Mechthild Hart focuses on gender. She describes how women's labor is beneficial to global capitalism and thus how class and gender are inseparable, regardless of the specific national or cultural content in which women work. In Chapter Eight Shahrzad Mojab examines the dialectical relationship between class and race as it pertains to adult education epistemology, pedagogy, and practice. Finally, in Chapter Nine I summarize some of the key ideas about social class, discuss their continued relevance to the work of adult educators, and identify some further resources.
Over the years many people have helped me think about the relationships between social class and adult education. I'm honored that several have either contributed to this sourcebook directly or appeared in the reference lists. Others, not included here but nevertheless influential, include (in chronological order) Richard Hoggart, Robert Noonan, Les Roy, Sarah Harrop, John Berger, Michael Standen, Simon Henderson, C.L.R. James, John Stirling, Doug Gowan, Janet Ericsson, Richard Ross, Adrienne Burk, John Hurst, Phyllis Cunningham, Budd Hall, Libby Tisdell, Mike Welton, Peter Jarvis, Fred Schied, Gunilla Harnsten, D'Arcy Martin, Jack O'Dell, and Nick Blomley. I also want to thank Susan Imel, who supported the idea of this sourcebook so enthusiastically and offered many practical suggestions; Jovita Ross-Gordon, the model of a careful but compassionate editor; and Ed Taylor, with whom I discussed some of the initial ideas and who, as always, has been a constant source of support and encouragement. Some of these folks I know personally; a few are even good friends; others I know chiefly through their work and writing. Yet I want to acknowledge each by name because they constitute a group of colleagues with whom I share a (too often unspoken) sense of solidarity; being able to work alongside them is a privilege. To me they represent a class of adult educators committed to the struggle for social justice through the development of a democratic and critical practice of teaching adults. La lutta continua.
Tom Nesbit Editor
Excerpted from Class Concerns: Adult Education and Social Class by Tom Nesbit Excerpted by permission.
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EDITOR’S NOTES (Tom Nesbit).
1. Social Class and Adult Education (Tom Nesbit)
This chapter provides a historical overview of the development ofthe concept of class and its applicability to the study of adulteducation.
2. Social Class and Adult Education Policy (KjellRubenson)
Social class has influenced the development of policies about adulteducation in various countries. The present policy discourse onadult education is a result of weakening working-classinterests.
3. Learning, Literacy, and Identity (Lyn Tett)
Assumptions about learner identity are often based on a deficitview of the working classes. This chapter illustrates analternative discourse that shows how one family literacy program inScotland generated useful knowledge.
4. Educational Institutions: Supporting Working-Class Learning(Griff Foley)
Asserting that the working class has a distinctive learning style,this chapter argues for a supportive, challenging, andclass-conscious pedagogy.
5. Class in the Classroom (Janice Malcolm)
The author considers how class helps to construct the identity andultimately the teaching of certain groups of educators. The chapteralso explores ways of making class explicit in the teachereducation classroom.
6. Social Movements, Class, and Adult Education (ShirleyWalters)
Social movements in South Africa, often organized aroundclass-related issues, provide rich material to illustrate howclass, intertwined with other social categories, shapesorganizational and educational practices.
7. Class and Gender (Mechthild Hart)
Women’s labor is beneficial to global capitalism; thus, classand gender are inseparable, regardless of the specific national orcultural context in which women work.
8. Class and Race (Shahrzad Mojab)
The author explores the dialectical relationship between class andrace as it pertains to adult education epistemology, pedagogy, andpractice.
9. The Continued Relevance of Class (Tom Nesbit)
The editor summarizes the volume’s main ideas, discusses thepractical importance of adopting a class perspective on adulteducation, and suggests some further readings.