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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Colloquium Archive

Jessica Bannon

Name: Jessica Bannon, English Department

Presentation Title: "Adult Basic Education in the 20th Century: Examining the Roots of Federally Funded Adult Education"

Date: November 30, 2006


This talk is part of a larger project that examines federal adult education policy, particularly the representations of literacy and literacy standards in this policy since the introduction of the Adult Education Act as Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1966. In this context, literacy -- configured as basic reading and writing -- is considered a central component to this education and is hailed in many policy discussions as a gateway skill with liberatory power. In order to illuminate how such notions of literacy developed, I will review scholarship on adult education prior to federal involvement. During the period between the Great Depression and the Adult Education Act, the United States underwent significant social, political, and economic upheaval that led to a variety of adult education efforts. This talk considers the ways this historical context and the educational ideals developed within it shaped federal interest in adult education and federal policy characterizations of literacy.