The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Education, Adult

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Education, Adult
Edition of 1920. See also Adult education on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

EDUCATION, Adult. The conviction that the duty of society in the education of its members does not cease with the completion of a school or college course has gained ground during the last decade. Because of this, widespread efforts to educate the adult have been made with varying results. On the whole the progress has been satisfactory, yet a co-ordination of effort and a scientific plan is still lacking. The National Society for Broader Education, organized in New York 1910, is the only organization for adult education that has a definite plan and actually covers the entire country. The Society with its headquarters at Carlisle, Pa., has, however, because of lack of funds, limited its activities to economic, sociological, literary and musical fields. In 1917 it gave 7,796 lectures, concerts, talks. It gave 32 addresses for every day of Society's working year of nine months. Its audiences, including classes, numbered 1,339,907, or 5,583 persons every working day. In addition to its field work, the National Society for Broader Education maintains scholarships in many colleges and universities. Its staff in 1917 numbered 176 persons. Adult education has been hampered by the lack of suitable meeting places. Satisfactory halls existed but the rental charged precluded their use. The National Society tor Broader Education organized a country-wide campaign for the open schoolhouse. Various educators either working with the Society or independently aided the movement. As a result of the effort, a canvass of 603 cities of over 5,000 inhabitants made by the Russell Sage Foundation showed that schoolrooms in these cities were used after class hours for the instruction of the adult. In 294 cities for miscellaneous educational activities, in 219 for lectures, in 207 for meetings of Parent Teachers Association, 129 as social centres and in 39 for vacation schools. In 11 States in 1917 grants were made for the education of the alien adult but these efforts have only been a beginning of a needed work. Minnesota and Wisconsin are the most active and most successful States in adult education and New York city has for years stood pre-eminently first among the cities in its provision for adult instruction. The 25th annual report of the supervisors of lectures of the New York Board of Education showed that in 1917 there were 174 lecture centres, 676 lecturers speaking on 1,695 topics before 5,405 audiences. Total aggregate audience was 1,154,066, an average of 214 per lecturer. For 25 years these lectures have cost the city of New York about $150,000 annually. The University of Minnesota has earned the University atmosphere over the State, reaching 25 towns on each year's circuit. University week is a six-day program conducted in each of the towns listed throughout the State, during which effort is made to present in epitome as many as possible of the widespread activities of the University. Members of the University faculty lecture on a great variety of subjects, the glee club gives concerts, debating societies hold debates, the dramatic club gives performance as do musical organizations and there are talks to business men at noonday luncheons and women's clubs in the afternoon. The University of Wisconsin is a pioneer among educational institutions in establishing a school film exchange as one of the means of solving the motion picture problem. Motion pictures are used by several churches, among them the Grace Methodist Episcopal Church and Saint Bartholomew's Episcopal Church of New York city. They give on Sunday afternoons pictures of travel through Palestine, biblical scenes and events in the history of the Church. It is generally conceded that the public has in its hands the ultimate development of the motion picture. The public has been importuned to demand a high grade of pictures. Many public schools and other educational institutions are now furnishing films to students and sending them out to the general public when centres are organized for their reception and exhibition. In 1891 New York State appropriated $10,000 for adult education, it was the first State appropriation. Work was classified under title “Home Education” and included “Study clubs, exchanges, traveling libraries, public libraries and library schools.” Similar work was begun in Chicago in 1892 but quickly abandoned when the University of Chicago incorporated this work as part of its activities. In December 1891 a National Congress on Adult Education and University Extension met in Philadelphia, at which it was reported that in the four years, 1887-91, 28 States and Territories had begun adult education in some form. This work was relatively unorganized and there was no organized adult education before 1892, and in that year organization in two institutions only, University of Chicago and University of Wisconsin. Between 1906-13, 28 institutions organized adult education and 21 institutions reorganized the work in addition to 12 institutions which had begun the work between 1892 and 1906. Modifications and gradual change of methods have taken place in the last 10 years. It has been decided that the English plan of lectures, class work, syllabi, collateral reading and more or less rigid examinations was not well adapted to the larger part of the adult student body in America, whose need was great for educational opportunities offered out of work hours. Modifications were introduced and in quick succession departments were added including the educational bulletin and package library, and of welfare work covering the entire field of civic and social betterment. Adult education now includes all extra-mural university service, and certain types of intra-mural work. Under the latter head are included institutional short courses and conferences and opportunities to attend classes or lectures out of work hours as are offered sometimes with and sometimes without the customary entrance requirements. Of institutions offering education to adults, 20 give degrees. In addition to the above-mentioned institutions with organized work in adult education, 52 colleges and universities give more or less attention to the subject. In adult education great service has been done by the General Federation of Women's Clubs, with its 9,000 clubs, its 50 or more federations, and 3,000,000 members working through 12-15 departments. The Federation stands for better homes, better schools, better things for men, women and children and a broader vision of life. Among its departments are art, music, literature, civics, library extension, conservation of public health, social and industrial conditions, social hygiene, child hygiene, legislation, home economics and education. One praiseworthy activity is the rural welfare service through which town club women invite the farm women to a “get acquainted meeting” at which informal discussion of school and other problems is subordinated to visiting and general social enjoyment.

Correspondence has played an important part in adult education. Though organized as business enterprises several of the schools of correspondence may be classed as private educational institutions. As a factor in the educational problem they are of great importance. Several of the correspondence schools serve at one time anywhere from 1,000 to 35,000 students, with faculties running as high as 350 persons, with, in addition, as many as 400 text and lecture writers and examiners. The average age of those taking course is about 30. Music, through the Music League of America and other musical organizations, and drama, through such societies as the Drama League of America, have done much for the æsthetic side of adult education. The Drama League of America, now in its seventh year, was founded on the belief, according to Richard Burton, its president, in 1914, that the drama is fast becoming an appreciable and important part of American literature. The league refuses to censor or attack bad plays. It believes that it is most effective to call attention to that which is good. This is done through the agency of a play-going committee reporting through a bulletin system inaugurated in Chicago, the birthplace of the League. The National Government is perhaps the most active agency in adult education and this chiefly through public documents. During year ending 30 June 1915, 34,714,186 copies of government publications were mailed free and 3,252,919 copies were sold. These publications report legislative, executive, financial, postal, military and naval functions common to all governments, comments on world activities and the results in popular printed form, for the instruction and practical use of all the people, of scientific investigation, covered by the United States.

Guy Carleton Lee,
Managing Director, National Society for Broader Education, New York.