Canadian Adult Education: Still a Movement

Tom Nesbit


Writing recently in this journal, two of Canada’s veteran adult educators contemplated the “death” of the Canadian adult education movement. I disagree and argue that adult education in Canada is as vital an activity as ever and one that still fully justifies being called a movement. Specifically, Selman and Selman (2009) list five trends that they assert have brought about the adult education movement’s demise: a general retreat from collaborative activities and collective action; a concern about “missionary” activities; the structure, values, and rewards within universities and other institutions of higher education; a shift toward “lifelong learning” as an organizing concept; and the movement somehow becoming less Canadian. In this paper, I consider each trend in some detail and provide examples to counter the Selmans’ analysis. Instead, I show that adult education continues to be a critical and vital movement in Canadian society and one very far from dead.

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