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A Lifelong and Life-Wide Framework for Adult Literacy Education

ProLiteracy is excited to highlight “A Lifelong and Life-Wide Framework for Adult Literacy Education,” by Stephen Reder of Portland State University. This article is featured in the Adult Literacy Education: The International Journal of Literacy, Language, and Numeracy, ProLiteracy’s free online, peer-reviewed research journal created to inform practitioners, researchers, policymakers, and funders about best practices in adult literacy, numeracy, and English language education.

An excerpt of “A Lifelong and Life-Wide Framework for Adult Literacy Education” is highlighted below.

In this forum, I argue that adult literacy education needs to be repositioned within a new framework of lifelong and life-wide learning, a framework in which new policies are formulated, programs are designed and evaluated, and research is funded and carried out. To appreciate how much this suggested framework differs from the neoliberal framework in which adult education is currently embedded, it is worth considering briefly how neoliberalism has gained its foothold in (some would say its stranglehold on) adult education.

Many who started their careers in adult education in the 1970s or before were initially drawn into the field by the strong connections among adult literacy, social justice, community development and human empowerment. Influenced by visionaries and activists such as Paulo Freire, adult educators once aimed for broad programmatic outcomes in social, economic and political arenas, both in the United States and around the world. The heady optimism and activism of adult education started to evaporate in the 1980s as the hegemony of neoliberalism developed, prioritizing “free markets” as the mechanism for solving a wide range of social, economic and educational problems.

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