The Re-Education of the American Working Class

The Re-Education of the American Working Class

The Re-Education of the American Working Class

The Re-Education of the American Working Class


This work brings together articles and papers by union leaders, activists, social scientists, and educators to provide an overview of the field of worker education. Along with complete coverage of the historical models of worker education, the book examines the most pressing issues confronting worker educators today. The book's final section presents alternative models of worker education that illustrate a variety of approaches currently being employed. All selections found in this volume represent original contributions not published elsewhere.


Joseph S. Murphy

The 1980s was a decade of privatism and retrenchment in the United States. It was a time in our history when institutions associated with progressive and humane initiatives were often placed on the defensive. This was certainly true for labor unions and public higher education.

Given this recent experience, it may not seem to be the best of seasons in which to suggest an expanding role and liberatory mission in society for worker education. The ideas and efforts of those chronicled in this book give ample reason to think otherwise.

Worker education is a phrase with a radical ring, but the concept of education for working men and women is neither new, nor is it, today, a revolutionary activity. Essentially the worker education movement is a U.S. permutation of a rather radical European invention. The Old World worker movements were not oriented toward some value-neutral search for enlightenment; they were a prelude to political action. And there was more than a little of that here. At U.S. worker education conferences in the early part of this century, delegates talked not just about teaching basic literacy and U.S. civics to the latest wave of immigrants, but about class struggle, class war, and worker self-government in industry.

By the late 1930s, however, the worker education movement had lost its revolutionary character. It had become a collection of programs run by . . .

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