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Department of Education, ; Rose, The aim has been to provide those interested in the AELS with a breadth of information and references that they may consult for greater depth of coverage of various topics, personalities, and issues. In addition to changing definitions of literacy, it should be noted that there has been a shift across time in how people who are not literate are addressed. Issues for policy and practice. Among the institutions are the U, essay on adult literacy.



Chapter Two Thomas G. Sticht In the last decade of the twentieth century nearly 40 million people enrolled in the programs of the U. What is even more remarkable than the sheer number of enrollees is the fact that these adults were for the most part members of the very population identified in numerous studies and reports as being unlikely to seek such education Quigley, , pp. But of the more than 31 million enrollees in the AELS from through , 7. Department of Education, More than two-thirds of the 15 million enrollees during had not completed twelve years of education or received a high school diploma, and more than 3.

This act, which provided federal laws and funding for adult basic education ABE , was followed by the Adult Education Act of , which moved ABE from the poverty programs of the Economic Opportunity Act to the education programs of the U. Today the AELS is an adult education delivery system funded in part by federal monies appropriated by the U.

Congress and in larger part by the states and localities. In , the DOE estimated that of some four thousand federal grant recipients, 59 percent were local education agencies public schools , 15 percent were postsecondary institutions mainly community colleges , 14 percent were community-based organizations, 4 percent were correctional institutions, and 8 percent were "others" including libraries, literacy councils, private industry councils, and sheltered workshops U.

This chapter provides a broad-brush history of the emergence of the present-day AELS in the United States over the last four hundred years. The first column presents important dates associated with the historical events listed in the second column, which are those events traditionally given as critical in general, popularized histories of the United States such as Davis, Finally, the third column presents some-but far from all-of the significant events, institutions, and people in the history of the rise of the AELS.

In the discussion that follows, the progression from Colonial to contemporary times follows a path from general to specific, reflecting the emerging nature of the AELS. That is, the earlier history of adult education is characterized by a broad array of educational activities engaged in by adults with a wide range of educational and socioeconomic backgrounds. Over the decades, it becomes possible to discern people, organizations, and events having a more direct influence on the eventual formulation and passage of the Adult Basic Education Section of the Economic Opportunity Act of and the subsequent passing of the Adult Education Act of , which provided the federal organizing framework for the present AELS.

During my research for this review, four themes emerged that reveal critical social forces involved in the formation of the AELS: From the Revolutionary War to contemporary times, the U. A shift from self-improvement to charitable education. From the middle of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century, adult education went from being regarded primarily as a middle-class activity for self-improvement in the wake of a flood of new scientific and technical knowledge to being regarded as a charitable activity for the benefit of the undereducated and mostly lower economic classes.

A continuous, albeit uneven, stream of immigrants has brought millions of adults into the nation. Beginning in the late nineteenth century and continuing to the end of the twentieth century, immigration has created a persistent need for a system of adult education that can provide instruction in the English language and knowledge of American culture. Liberal education versus human resources development. Related to the second and third themes, particularly during the second half of the twentieth century, has been the conflict between those individuals and organizations favoring a national adult education system focused on broad, liberal education for all adults and those favoring a "human resources development" point of view, seeking education for the least well-educated adults to enable them to contribute to the economic productivity of the nation.

In addition to these four themes, two topics, concerning the definitions of adulthood and literacy, are especially salient across time in the area of adult literacy education.

The history of adult education is complicated by changing ideas about who is considered an adult. In Colonial times, according to Long , girls and boys aged fourteen years were likely to be considered adults. Census Bureau definitions of adulthood and literacy, Soltow and Stevens , p. Cook reported that from through , persons aged ten years or older were used to calculate illiteracy statistics for the U.

From through , "illiteracy" or "functional illiteracy" was estimated for those aged fourteen years or older and was based on the highest number of school grades completed. The definition of adulthood in government regulations regarding adult literacy education has changed only a little over the last half-century. In , amendments to the Adult Education Act dropped the definition of an adult to age sixteen or older Rose, , p.

This age of sixteen or older has persisted to the present as the definition of adults qualified for programs funded under Title II of the Workforce Investment Act of Currently, the number of adults qualifying for adult education is based on U. Census data giving the number of adults sixteen years or older, out of school, who have not completed twelve years of education. In most studies of the history of literacy in the early United States, the term literacy has been more or less understood as the ability to read or write.

Studies of the prevalence of literacy among adults during Colonial and Revolutionary times have used indicators such as signatures on wills, marriage licenses, military records, or other legal documents to infer the prevalence of literacy Long, ; Lockridge, ; Gubb, During the s, U.

Census enumerators asked respondents about the number of adults unable to read or write, and in they asked, "Can you read and can you write? From to , the Census asked people whether they could read or write in their native language reading was always considered the less difficult of the two literacy skills, and those taught to read were often not taught to write Long, After questions about literacy were dropped and people were instead asked to give the highest grade in school they had completed Cook, At different times during this thirty-year period adults with less than three, four, five, or eight years of education were considered "functionally illiterate," a higher standard of literacy than that indicated by signatures or the simple ability to read or write Cook, In addition to changing definitions of literacy, it should be noted that there has been a shift across time in how people who are not literate are addressed.

In the earlier years of the growing nation and up through the mids, it was common to talk about "illiterates" or "functional illiterates," and organizations gave themselves names like National Illiteracy Crusade and Commission on Illiteracy Nelms, But in the last decade of the twentieth century, the community of literacy workers has been more likely to talk about literacy and degrees of literacy than about illiteracy and to address the development of literacy rather than the "stamping out of illiteracy" Sticht, In this chapter I retain the common usage for the time period under discussion.

The foundations for our present-day public school system were laid early in the Colonial period. A Massachusetts law of provided " 1 That every town having fifty householders should at once appoint a teacher of reading and writing, and provide for his wages in such manner as the town might determine; and 2 That every town having one hundred householders must provide a grammar school to fit youths for the university, under a penalty of 5 pounds for failure to do so" Knowles, , p.

This basic arrangement for a common school set the stage for the subsequent emergence of the tax-supported school system that provides for the largest number of programs in the contemporary AELS. Present-day public libraries had their origins in the private collections of well-to-do colonists.

Some of these collections were donated to towns for general use by their citizens and some parish libraries were available to the public. However, the largest impact on library use came from the organization of "subscription libraries" established by a voluntary association of individuals who contributed to a general fund for the purchase of books made available to association members. The first such library was established in by Benjamin Franklin, who later established the Junto, a club whose members studied and discussed intellectual concerns such as morals, politics, and natural philosophy science and technology as a form of self-improvement Knowles, , pp.

These early library and discussion groups provided a foundation for the later emergence of public libraries as well as institutions such as the Lyceums of the nineteenth century. Early on, these institutions played active roles in the liberal education of adults for the purpose of self-improvement. Later, they also began to provide basic literacy instruction for many of the least literate adults in what became referred to as "second chance" or "remedial" education rather than "self-improvement.

Tutors advertised in Colonial newspapers, often noting that they taught children during the day and adults in the evening. Between and , one William Elphinistan advertised for students in the New York Mercury, offering to teach "persons of both sexes, from 12 years of age and upwards, who never wrote before, to write a good legible hand, in 7 weeks one hour per day, at home or abroad" p.

While there is scant evidence regarding the extent to which adults learned to read and write during this time, Galenson used occupational records for samples of native-born colonialists and found that minors were less literate than older workers, which suggested to him that adults engaged in some literacy learning.

By comparing the signatures of girls and widows on legal documents, Main estimated that in the period to , 13 percent of girls signed documents of guardianship, while 32 percent of women signed documents of deeds p. In another study estimating literacy learning in adulthood, Main presents data comparing the signing of guardianship papers by children with the signing of deeds by adults born in the same time period.

About 45 percent of girls born between and signed letters of guardianship, while 60 percent of women born during those years signed deeds p. These studies led Main to suggest that some females learned to write as adults during and directly following the Colonial period and National periods. Of course, all such studies of literacy during these early years of the nation depend on samples of adults who do not represent the entire adult population of the colonies and so are contentious on the basis of sampling bias.

Kaestle a provides a critique of literacy estimates that rely on the signing of documents such as military records and deeds. One of the more significant events in adult literacy education during the later eighteenth century was the first commitment of government resources for teaching literacy skills to troops of the Continental Army.

While this request was tabled and eventually forgotten p. By the end of the eighteenth century, the Navy employed schoolmasters and teachers to teach reading and writing to seamen Langley, As these and later examples illustrate, from the very beginnings of the United States of America, the military has played a key role in the emergence and development of the AELS. For example, as more people become literate, the amount of fiction circulating commercially will increase and newspapers will become cheaper; in a society where more reading material is available, there is more motivation for people to learn to read and to use their skills.

If schools turn out more highly literate people, this will, in turn, affect the job structure, which can affect the future demands placed on schools. Thus one of the effects of literacy at the societal level is that it fosters more literacy" pp. The rapid assent of literacy in the United States might well be traced to the influence of the writings of those who advocated for freedom from British rule and the creation of a new democratic republic.

In the twenty years after , five times as many books were published than in the preceding sixty Kaestle, b, p. Truly, the nineteenth century became the prime example of how more literacy begets still more literacy. The explosion of knowledge being released in volume upon volume of fiction, scientific, and technological writings begged for dissemination to a wider audience than those who could afford to possess books, and numerous adult education activities were taking place.

As noted earlier, popular demand for knowledge spawned the Lyceum movement, a national network of local study groups that numbered more than three thousand by The aim of group members was self-improvement through learning and mutual teaching.

Another was to serve as a model for adult study and learning. This later encouraged the formation of the Chautauqua Institution in western New York, which grew to sponsor education programs across the nation and led in to the "first integrated core program of adult education organized in this country on a national scale" Knowles, , p. Perhaps the most important occurrence in the nineteenth century for the future of the Adult Education and Literacy System was the rise of the national system of state-supported schools.

Overcoming resistance from private schools, conservative taxpayers, church schools, and other vested interests, those in favor of publicly supported schools saw them established in most northern states by Following the Civil War, by , each of the thirty-eight states then in the Union had free public schools, including both elementary and high schools, and a chief educational officer.

With the growth of the public school system came parallel growth in evening schools for youth and adults in both elementary and high schools. For the most part, these evening schools served young people who could not attend school during the day, and their curriculum was the same as that followed in the daytime. A large number of voluntary associations formed during the nineteenth century contributed to the rise of the AELS. All promoted educational activities for youth and adults, including literacy education for adults Knowles, , chapters 2, 3; Gere, Education of African Americans In the Antebellum period, the education of African American slaves was generally forbidden by various state laws.

Nonetheless, many adult slaves were taught to read and write by abolitionist whites or other slaves. During the Civil War, the Union Army provided many educational opportunities for former slaves Cornish, Blassingame provides numerous examples of educational activities engaged in by officers of the Union Army, including the work of one General Banks: Banks appointed these men for the sole purpose of teaching the Negro soldiers.

Later, Banks realized that he could not procure enough teachers for the Negro soldiers. As a result, on November 30, , Banks modified his system by ordering the chaplain in each regiment to teach the colored soldiers" pp. After the Civil War, the U. Congress created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands as the primary agency for reconstruction. Between and , fifty-one antislavery societies, involving some 2, teachers and more than 2, schools, were conducting education for freedmen pp.

Citing fiscal burdens, the U. According to Houle , Hudson was apparently the first to use the term adult education, which he regarded as the organized and institutional provision of learning opportunities, principally for "the lower classes of the community" p.



Key Literacy Component: Writing By: National Institute for Literacy. Students who donít write well arenít able to learn and communicate effectively. Western Nevada College West College Parkway Carson City, NV

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