Community education and the conflict of ideals in the history of English adult education movements
The main objective of this thesis is to examine a conflict in the field of community education in the 1970s and '80s over whether its efforts should be directed mainly to the intellectual, social and cultural development of the individual (In the tradition of liberal adult education) or, conversely, to the cause of social change. The two schools of thought which confronted one another are termed the liberal' and the 'radical' wings of adult and community education. The thesis argues that the type of debate which ensued was not in fact new to adult education, but has been endemic in the history of adult education movements in this country, representing not simply a difference of opinion on organisation, content and methodology, but a more fundamental divergence of beliefs, values and attitudes. The thesis attempts to identify the significant factors leading to the adoption of a particular educational stance and from these constructs a theoretical framework for analysis in the form of a matrix, identifying three particular positions upon a continuum (Paternalist, Liberal and Radical). Throughout the thesis's treatment of adult and community education, in both their historical and their contemporary applications, links to this matrix are demonstrated and developed. The thesis examines in detail the emergence both of the dominant school- based model in this country and of the new 'community action' or 'community development' model. It considers the defence put forward by proponents of liberal adult education and the contrary critique mounted by the 'radical' side. It presents the results of a series of interviews with six individuals who took part in the debate over community education and finds that its analysis is for the most part corroborated by the recollection and reflections of the participants. It ends by considering briefly the current state and possible future of community education, as well as suggesting what further research might be relevant and useful.