Race, Class, and Gender in Learning
There is no simple definition or answer when one asks the question, “What is the purpose of education in adult learning.” To justly answer or define this question one most first ask one definitive question that will provide three important variables. Ultimately, we must ask “Who is asking this question?” simply, what is this person’s background, are they a WASP or a minority? What is their social class? Are they male or female? The answers to these questions will provide a contextual framework and starting point in which can genuinely begin to answer our original question, “What is the purpose of education in adult learning?” The values and norms developed in institutions such as education are authored by the dominant culture. In American society, White Anglo Saxon Protestants (WASPS) are the authors of the dominant culture. Unfortunately, there are major disparities between White European Americans and other minorities. These inequalities are prevalent in every American institution, including education. Blacks and other people of color are underrepresented in all types of adult education (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007). Traditionally, statistics show that minorities do not participate in adult education. Some researchers cite racism as a barrier to adult education. Adult educators have examined how the invisibility/norm of Whiteness has affected adult education, curriculum, theories, evaluation criteria, and instructional practices (Manglitz, 2003). Researchers found that racism in adult education was not intentional; many adult educators were unaware of the extent to which theories and research reinforce White racist attitudes and assumptions, thus sustaining the perpetuation of inequalities ( Colin & Preciphs, 1991). Some researchers have contended that socioeconomic status not race is the major barrier in adult education. Socioeconomic status is America is highly stratified; only a...
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