Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Manuscripts: Repeat Performance: How Adult Education Reproduces the Status Quo

Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Manuscripts: Repeat Performance: How Adult Education Reproduces the Status Quo

Article excerpt

This paper focuses on the similarities of Adult Basic Education and English literacy programs with junior and senior high school programs in terms of a system of difference for Chicano/a learners. Perspectives of Chicano/a adults who have engaged in adult education over time share their stories of discriminating teacher attitudes, questionable academic programs and cultural disregard. Findings suggest the need for the restructuring of adult education and teacher education.

Introduction

Notions of "dropout" from adult basic education give the appearance that people do not want to participate in programs while ignoring the underlying problems with mainstream programs and the ideology which guides and maintains them. We know that by focusing on the failings of individuals rather than the inadequate practices of adult education programs, maintenance of the status quo is ensured. According to Nell Keddie (1980) "The ideology of adult education achieves for practitioners a promise to their clientele that their primary concern will be with students' needs and interests" (p.46) thus masking the inadequate and irrelevant practices used in most adult education programs.

Ineffective practices in the past have contributed to the meager enrollment of between 6% (National Center for Education Statistics, 1993) and 9% (Gonder, 1991) of the total number of people eligible to participate in formal adult basic education and English literacy programs. With new Federal policies including welfare and immigration reform, plus the economic and social forces inherent in these policies pressing on adult education practitioners to redesign programs to meet mandated requirements, program (in)effectiveness has come squarely into focus. We have an opportunity to examine and change program strategies, structures, and practices that have proven to be inadequate to the lives of the students we hope to serve.

A cross cultural ethnographic study was conducted with Chicano/as of the Southwest, who were eligible to enroll in adult basic education but were not participating in programs, to investigate the impact of social structures and the action people take regarding their educational needs (Sparks, 1995). This article uses a subset of data which focuses on the similarities of adult basic education and English literacy programs with junior and senior high school programs in terms of a system of difference for Chicano/a learners.

This study investigated the historical contexts of education, learning, and literacy (Spanish and English) experiences of Mexican American, or Chicano/a, adults. Individuals described their efforts to reach their educational goals as youth and adults. Three general questions were asked of participants:

* Describe your past childhood schooling.

* Describe your efforts to return to school as an adult.

* Discuss the decisions and action you have taken regarding adult basic education and English literacy programs.

Related Research

According to Creason (1996) there will be a 56% population increase in Hispanics in the United States by the year 2000. Currently, over 50% of Chicano/as are failing most of their classes (Baker, 1996) and 45% drop out of school (National Center for Educational Statistics, 1993). A study commissioned by the Education Commission of the States and supported by the College Board (1988, as cited in Stuckey, 1991, p. 105) "Access to knowledge: Breaking down school barriers to learning" reported that the quality of education children receive can be predicted-to a considerable degree-by their race, parents' income, and gender. Further, classifications of students according to ability often reflect diverse language and cultures rather than actual differences in ability. Studies of minorities in our public schools are finding that their cultures are not regarded as legitimate to the curriculum. Students of color report efforts of teachers to "monoculture" them (Vogel Zanger, 1994), of the insensitivity of teachers to the realities of students lives (Baker, 1996), and a lack of awareness among teachers regarding the impact of linguistic differences on understandings of English texts and tests (Walsh, 1991). …

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