Adult Education's Contributions to Society Evolve as Our Needs Change
West, Linda L., Leadership
Public adult education in California is celebrating its 150-year anniversary. The memoirs of John Swett, California's fourth superintendent of public instruction, record that in 1856 he taught an evening class sponsored by the San Francisco Board of Education in the basement of St. Mary's Cathedral. From that first classroom, a multiple-provider system has grown that meets the challenges and serves the needs of more than 2 million adults every year.
Early years of adult education
The early evening classes, like those today, consisted largely of immigrants--in those days, Irish, Italians and Chinese. Subjects included citizenship and elementary subjects. John Swett convinced the San Francisco Board of Education to make the school tuition-free, beginning another enduring tradition.
In the last half of the century, evening schools were established in other large cities, such as Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose and Los Angeles. Courses included vocational and academic subjects like arithmetic, algebra, grammar and bookkeeping. By the turn of the century, evening schools existed all over the state as what were then called "Americanization" centers.
In the early years of the 20th century, community demand for adult education resulted in dramatic growth, facilitated by successful court tests and favorable legislation. In 1907 the Legislature authorized high schools to have postgraduate courses, allowing the formation of the public junior college.
In 1926, the first State Plan for Adult Education was presented at a conference at Asilomar. The plan marked a change in the official goal of adult education from removing educational handicaps to organizing resources to improve the community.
In 1921, legislation was passed requiring that Americanization classes be formed when requested by 25 or more people. This mandate for adult education is still a part of …
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Publication information: Article title: Adult Education's Contributions to Society Evolve as Our Needs Change. Contributors: West, Linda L. - Author. Magazine title: Leadership. Volume: 35. Issue: 5 Publication date: May-June 2006. Page number: 28+. © 2009 Association of California School Administrators. COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group.
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