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Learn more about Adult Education in the United States

  • For an overview of the Adult Education system in the United States, visit World Education's Adult Education Fact page, which includes data and information on the need for Adult ed, providers, teacher preparation, funding, adult learners, and more.  
  • The Case for Investment in Adult Basic Education (2017): ProLiteracy prepared this report to share the work of Dr. Stephen Reder, whose research demonstrates the positive outcomes that adult basic skills programs can have on a person's life, career, and income.  
  • Toward a Vision of Movement Building in Adult Literacy Education (2020) - Ira Yankwitt of the Literacy Assistance Center in NYC was asked by a colleague in his 20s, when and why the discourse in the field of adult literacy education shifted from the language of “human rights” and “social justice” to the language of “human capital” and “workforce development.” This is Ira's response.
  • The Turtle's Shell: Protecting the Life Underneath (2013) - Four long-time adult literacy practitioners - John Garvey, John Gordon, Peter Kleinbard, & Paul Wasserman - recount their pathways into the field in the late 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. Their stories highlight the creativity and openness that characterized literacy work in those years and point out what has been lost as the field has become dominated by the Workforce Investment Act and the National Reporting System. 
  • The Open Door CollectiveThe ODC was founded in 2014 to reduce poverty in the U.S. by building partnerships between adult foundational (basic) skills programs and organizations supporting social and economic justice.

History of Adult Education Playlist

Adult education has happened in formal and informal settings throughout the history of the US. We hope to continue building this playlist to reflect, uncover and tell stories for anyone interested in this work. 

Currently in the playlist:

  • History of Adult Ed in America (10 min)
  • Septima Clark (5 min)
  • Freedom's Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark (9 min)
  • Highlander Folk School: The Movement's Halfway House (3 min)
  • Highlander Research & Education Center (9 min)
  • Radical Hillbilly, Myles Horton: A Wisdom Teacher for Activism and Civic Engagement. An interview with Bill Moyers (2 hours)

Septima Poinsette Clark (center) teaching at a Citizenship School on the South Carolina Sea islands.

SEPTIMA POINSETTE CLARK. This episode of the podcast BIAS BENDER, offers a brief history of Septima Poinsette Clark, hero of adult education, and her role in creating the Freedom Schools and Citizen Schools during the Civil Rights Movement. 

ADULT LITERACY & SOCIAL JUSTICE. In this episode of the Critical Teaching and Learning Forum podcast, Ira Yankwitt, a long-time adult educator & current Executive Director of the Literacy Assistance Center in New York City.

Throughout his time in adult education, Ira has grounded his work in a commitment to social justice. This has often time put him at odds with approaches that speak in terms of human capital development, and during the conversation he notes how this tension has shaped the field. Ira highlights current openings for social justice work and he shares what he thinks the field needs to learn from its history in order to move forward.

Do you have any resources about the history, the present, or the impact of Adult ed you think should be included on this page? Click HERE to let us know!

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