Public issues and adult education
This chapter has summarised some of the key trends and patterns in movement-based adult and community education. Some movements and groups appear to have been more successful and/or active in organising programmes at certain times. Thus, in 1983 various oppositional groups were active in organising educational programmes focusing on economic policy issues. In the mid-1980s, however, these groups were less active in organising public programmes, and it was only in the late- 1980s and early-1990s that there was a re-grouping of oppositional forces and the establishment of a number of campaigns and programmes to debate and challenge the assumptions underlying economic policies. A similar pattern is also discernible when one looks at programmes focused on health and social policy issues. Here too it was only in the late-1980s and early-1990s that there was a resurgence of programmes focused on these issues. When one looks at other areas, somewhat different patterns emerge. The peace movement appears to have been most active in organising educational programmes in 1983 (when nuclear disarmament was the predominant issue), and in 1991 (at the time of the Gulf War). On the other hand, more programmes addressing issues of racism and bi-culturalism were organised in 1985 (when sporting contacts with South Africa provided the key focus) and in 1989 (when the 1990 commemoration of the Treaty of Waitangi was the predominant issue) than in any other years. The high point in the organisation of programmes to raise public consciousness of gender inequities appears to have been reached in 1989, with a subsequent decrease in programmes in 1991. One interpretation of this is that, in the face of a conservative onslaught and economic pressures in the 1990s, the women's movement has been in retreat. Further research is however necessary to examine this thesis, as well as to examine in greater detail the economic, social, cultural and political changes and their impact on adult and community education. In this chapter we have also documented the key role played by a very wide range of voluntary organisations and community groups in promoting discussion and debate on public issues, in responding critically to agendas developed by powerful public and private interests, and in keeping alive alternative philosophies and agendas. In particular we have noted the small but important contributions made by voluntary adult education organisations such as the WEA to issues-oriented adult and community education. The roles played by state organisations, local authorities and educational institutions were far more limited and ambiguous than those of voluntary organisations, and in a further article we will examine more closely the roles of the various organisations, and in particular the roles of schools, colleges and universities in this field. We believe that too few adult and community educators - and too few educational institutions - take sufficiently seriously their roles in maintaining links with voluntary organisations, community groups and social movements and in raising public policy issues for discussion and debate. They all too readily acquiesce in responding to such issues and in performing ameliorative functions required of them by the state. As indicated above, we plan to examine this further in another publication. In the meantime if this chapter succeeds in documenting and raising questions about modern social movements and their links with adult and community education it will have served its purpose.