The Life and Death of the Canadian Adult Education Movement

  • Gordon Selman
  • Mark Selman


Adult education in the Western tradition goes back at least to the craft guilds of the Middle Ages; however, the adult education movement, that is, organized attempts to promote and gain support for the practice, had its origins in Canada, at least, in the late 1920s and petered out in the 1990s. Part I of this article traces the development of that movement and includes brief references to the pre-movement years and comments on the periods identified as the Idealistic Period (the late 1920s to 1950) and the Professionalized Period (the early 1950s to the end of the 1980s). Part Two explores the causes of the movement's demise and speculates about its revival.

Author Biographies

Gordon Selman
Gordon Selman is professor emeritus of the University of British Columbia, having worked at that institution as extension worker and professor for 38 years. He is also a past president of both CAUCE and CAAE and was chair of the committee that drafted the constitution for CASAE. He is a co-author of The Foundations of Adult Education in Canada and the author of several books, including Adult Education in Canada: Historical Essays.
Mark Selman
Mark Selman develops and manages educational programs in the Faculty of Business Administration at Simon Fraser University, where he has worked for the past 21 years. Most of his work is with large corporations and First Nations communities. He is a former board member of CAAE and a past president of CASAE. He is a co-author of The Foundations of Adult Education in Canada and has written a number of articles on philosophical and educational topics.
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