Research Note May 16, 2004
The Adult Education and Literacy System of America: Separate and Still Unequal
On May 17, 1954 the U. S. handed down the decision known as Brown v Board of Education that struck down the prevailing idea that schools could be separate for black children so long as they were equal to the schools for white children. It was held that such an arrangement was inherently discriminatory and conducive to radical differences in the education that black and white children receive. This May 17, 2004 the nation is looking at the changes that have been made in public education since Brown v Board of Education and finding that many of the hoped for changes have not been forthcoming. Segregation of education for whites and minorities is once again a growing reality.
Adult Literacy Education: Separate and Still Unequal
In 1964, the War on Poverty was signed into law by President Lyndon
Johnson and created the Adult Basic Education program for undereducated,
functionally illiterate, adults. In 1966 the ABE law was changed to
the Adult Education Act of 1966 and the program was shifted fully to
the U. S.
Poverty Level Funding
Today, combined federal and state funding per enrollee in adult education and literacy development is less than $900 per student, in contrast to over $6500 per K-12 student and $16000 for a higher education student.
Facilities for adult literacy students are largely separate from those
Devoted But Underprepared Teachers and Tutors
The instructional staffs in the adult education and literacy system are made up primarily of part-time teachers and even greater numbers of volunteer tutors who are not specially educated and trained in educational methodologies, psychological testing and assessment, cognitive science foundations of education and learning, instructional curriculum design and development, and other aspects of educational training that can help in meeting the needs of adult literacy learners, who are frequently among the most difficult to educate learners in the nation.
Tyring to "Fix" Kids While Leaving Parents in Limbo
Today, billions upon billions of federal, state and local dollars
are put into the hands of pre-school and in-school educators to provide "compensatory" education
to the children of parents who are so destitute that they cannot even
take the time to engage in adult literacy education.
But knowing this, we still do not seem to feel that we should strive to provide an Adult Education and Literacy System which, while separate from the K-12 system and higher education systems, should still be equal in funding, facilities, instructional staff, and social acceptance as the systems for K-12 and higher education. For some little understood (by me) reason, after forty years we still consider it socially justified to maintain the Adult Education and Literacy System in America in a grossly unequal status from our other major education systems.
Perhaps someday there will be a Brown v Board of Education decision by the U. S. Supreme Court for the Adult Education and Literacy System. Who knows, a strong, well-funded, mainstream, Adult Education and Literacy System might serve to unleash the social, political and economic potential of millions of adults, and it might even contribute to eventually making Brown v Board of Education a success, too.
Thomas G. Sticht
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