Age 50: The Great Society and Adult Education

On August 20, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed Public Law 88-452. The omnibus act is cited as the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. The law created the Office of Economic Opportunity aimed at attacking the roots of American poverty by providing job training, small business loans, Head Start, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and an Adult Basic Education Program.

The section, in the law, established the program sought to remedy inequities of educational disadvantage by offering persons 18 years of age and older (revised to 16 years of age and older in 1970) the opportunity to develop reading, writing, language, and arithmetic skills to enable them to obtain or retain employment and otherwise participate more fully as productive and responsible citizens. The Office of Economic Opportunity provided funds to the U.S. Office of Education to administer the Program until the Adult Education Act of 1966 placed the Program entirely in the U.S. Office of Education (U.S. Department of Education in 1979).

During these 50 years the nature and extent of Federal attention to the needs of adult learners have varied, the Government, from its earliest days, has provided funds to establish, encourage, and expand programs to assist adults in overcoming those educational deficiencies that would hinder their productivity and responsible participation in the life and growth of the nation.

Happy 50th Birthday Adult Education….those 50 years have been a time when people conducted impactful work. From the White House to Congress to Federal officials, to adult educators, to the state and local learning environments, lives have been changed through a common passion for adult education and the adult learner.