Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Step It Up

Susan Lopez, City College of San Francisco Instructor and Member of the CFT Adult Education Commision, puts forth this powerful suggestion for a shift in thinking and strategy:

Here's an argument for broadening the advocacy strategy of adult school advocates. I think the most important thing is that there be resources made available in the public sector for the students be served. That means more adult schools, more programs at those schools ---for example including older adults, more Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) and more community college noncredit. And the government is now cutting adult day care, which is a related function. Services to seniors, to immigrants, and to high school dropouts are all big parts of the picture.

Adult school teachers can certainly advocate only for reopening adult schools if they wish---that is in part a jobs matter. But I think the bigger picture is to serve the students, to meet the need. If K-12/CDE has little interest in adult education because they have their own money problems, that does not let the government off the hook for providing the services. There is far too little noncredit in community colleges and the limited amount that many colleges do is under pressure in some quarters for elimination. Realistically, at the present time, we will probably need continued dual system involvement in order to restore or even maintain services.

Therefore, I propose that we need to "step up adult education across the board."

I like "step up" which is more affirmative than "restore;" it's forward-looking, not backward-looking. Efforts to turn back the clock tend to be resisted, so maybe that is the way to phrase it. Even the library volunteer programs that are set up as each one/teach one and the former CBET programs are part of the overall picture. All low cost/free public resources are needed--whether the funding is local, state, or federal. None are NOT needed. 

The problem is all the pressure to do less and to fund less of this type of education. The pressure has been across the board and the coalition to resist can be broader if the message is broadened. It doesn't exclude anyone who could stand with you as part of a coalition, and it doesn't put the unions in an awkward spot between competing providers. Also, "these services are needed for the following reasons" just makes a better argument than "we love our school and want it to reopen." The first is a practical matter while the second tends to be seen as sentimental. Reopening a school is a means; it's preferable in our support-building messages to put the primary focus on providing the services, which is the end objective.

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