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.

Author Biography

Tom Nesbit
Tom Nesbit is associate dean of Continuing Studies at Simon Fraser University. A former tradeunion official, he has worked as an adult and continuing educator in Great Britain, Sweden, the United States, and Canada. His research interests include social class, workers’ and workplace education, adult numeracy, and the institutional provision of lifelong learning. He is editor-in-chief of the Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education.
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