Giuliana Brahim, Principal of Milpitas Adult Education Programs, wrote the following historical article about Adult Education and its impact in Milpitas, and the community at large:
The first recorded adult education class in California was held in the basement of St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco in 1856. The class was authorized by the San Francisco Board of Education to teach English to Irish, Italian, and Chinese immigrants. John Swett, who was the first volunteer teacher for the class, later became a State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Since then, Adult Education has made tremendous progress through perseverance and persistence. Not too long ago Adult Ed was considered the odd relative we don’t want to associate with and as I once heard “the story of Adult Ed is like Cinderella without a prince.” I am thrilled to say that it is not the case anymore. Every person that believes in Adult Education has a powerful story that it is worth sharing. In doing so, we are intentionally bringing awareness to the importance of Adult Education and its place at the table in the public educational system.
In 1968, Malcolm Knowles - the father of Adult Education - built the Theory of Adult Learning. Knowles and others developed the Andragogical model based on the six assumptions. Andragogy in Greek means Man-Leading opposed to Pedagogy which means Child-Leading. Here are the six assumptions and or characteristics of the adult learner; can you identify some of these traits in your own students, in yourself? The need to know – Adults need to know why they need to learn something before undertaking to learn it. The learner’s self-concept of being responsible for their own decisions, for their own lives is present. Learner’s prior experience and knowledge are invaluable, adults come into educational activity with both a greater volume a different quality of experience either formal or informal. Impressively, adults come to our programs ready to learn those things they need to know and be able to do in order to cope effectively with their current real-life situation. Most importantly, adults orientation to learning is life, adults apply learning when focusing on tasks geared to solve problem-situations. While adults are responsive to some external motivators like better jobs, promotions, higher salaries, the most convincing motivators are the internal pressures, the desire for increased job satisfaction, self-esteem, and quality of life. Adult learners want to do best for themselves, their families and their community.
Adult Education Week is the prime opportunity to draw the attention of the public, legislators and education decision-makers about the importance of Adult Education as an engine that supports the economic growth of the state, the region, and our communities. In the past, Adult Schools have been called upon on numerous occasions to assist the state as it dealt with significant social, political, and economic issues. Examples include job training programs during the Great Depression; training skilled and under-skilled workers during World War II; and preparing millions of residents for citizenship. In 1982 when the Ford Motor Company announced that it was closing its San Jose Assembly Plant, Ford and the UAW (United Automobile Workers Union) signed several provisions in the form of letters of agreement to respond to the needs of the displaced workers. The company, among other services, provided space at the plant to allow on-site delivery of services by the California EDD (vocational counseling) and Milpitas Adult Education, which provided basic skills courses. In today’s world, Adult Education is shaped by needs of the industry, access to career and post-secondary education pathways. Our responsibility is to provide access to these opportunities for the adult learner in an inclusive way.
This year the California Council for Adult Education CCAE celebrates its 75th anniversary. Last month, several colleagues throughout the state attended the Regional CCAE Conference at Fremont Adult School, where we were given a direct charge. Adult Education is all about three words: Advocate!, Advocate! and Advocate! I invite you to learn more about Adult Education and visit our school sites. You will not be disappointed, you too will become an advocate.
Knowles' Theory of Andragogy
A Brief History of Adult Education in California