EMERGING VOICES: Capitalizing on Adult Education: The Economic Imperative for Literacy in 1960s Federal Policy Discourse

By Bannon, Jessica L. | College English, March 2016 | Go to article overview

EMERGING VOICES: Capitalizing on Adult Education: The Economic Imperative for Literacy in 1960s Federal Policy Discourse


Bannon, Jessica L., College English


For composition and rhetoric scholars, 1966 is a familiar year, one often touted as the birth of the field in modern academia. As the narrative goes, the National Council of Teachers of English and the Modern Language Association sponsored a conference on the teaching of English. The approximately fifty American and British teachers and scholars attending the conference at Dartmouth College responded to the emergent needs to define English and establish pedagogical approaches to the subject. According to Harris, some scholars mounted discontent with the Harvard model of writing instruction that privileged direct training in the formal rules of Standard English and promoted instead a growth model of composition that favored expressive writing. Others expressed interest in defining English as an "academic discipline," a subject of study with a distinct body of knowledge (634). The resulting discussions, while reflecting intense conflicts over how to define and teach English, led not just to revisions of the study and teaching of writing but also to the formation of a new academic discipline. Since the Dartmouth Conference, composition scholars in the United States have focused on efforts to investigate the composing process, foster students' authentic voices through personal, expressive writing, and ultimately understand writing as an activity worthy of study in its various forms and contexts.

The year holds less, if any, significance in the field for what should be considered a remarkable move by the federal government to launch a publicly funded system of adult education with the Adult Education Act of 1966. The same year that English and composition studies experienced what "has symbolized a kind of Copernican shift from a view of English as something one learns about to a sense of it as something one does" (Harris 631), the federal government engaged in a much different effort to change literacy education-one that positioned literacy as something one obtains. In 1966, Congress passed the Adult Education Act as Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Spurred on by Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty, adult basic education became part of the Economic Opportunity Act in 1964 and aimed to increase individuals' employability by improving their English reading, writing, and speaking skills. The Adult Education Act solidified the government's investment in education as a vehicle for economic advancement. As I will demonstrate, this legislation and the Congressional discourses accompanying it also solidified a popular skills-based notion of literacy that has shaped not just publicly funded adult literacy education but literacy education at all levels.

I begin with this comparison because I think it was no accident that these developments occurred during the same period. Their concurrence demonstrates that literacy ability-variously defined and at all levels of education-had become a national priority. However, federal and academic efforts to shape literacy education took off in separate directions, and a sharp distinction formed between literacy in the academic context and literacy in the federally funded educational context. Composition scholars were interested in interrogating the very meaning of English, literacy, and composition in order to understand how these subjects or activities should figure into educational contexts. The government, by contrast, was interested in negotiating the rationale for investment in literacy education, assuming literacy to be a stable, neutral, and transferrable set of skills. That rationale centered on an idea that most members of Congress, the executive branch, and political groups could agree on-literacy education leads to higher economic productivity.

This article complements existing histories of the development of composition studies1 and literacy research by examining the historical development of federal adult education policy, which has been given limited attention in composition studies. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

EMERGING VOICES: Capitalizing on Adult Education: The Economic Imperative for Literacy in 1960s Federal Policy Discourse
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.