Patrick Keane


Some current perceptions of education for occupational groups start with a basic level emphasizing the remediation of skill and/or knowledge deficiencies and then progress to higher levels involving both occupational and personal growth (Scanlan, 1985). However, the latter goal of personal enhancement, unrelated to one's occupation, seems to attract only token recognition, particularly for blue collar workers. Indeed, workers' education or labor education has been defined as "the attempt to meet workers' educational needs as they arise from participation in unions" (Rogin, 1970, p.301). Since the majority of workers are not unionized, and even union members have educational needs not circumscribed by such membership, one is tempted to consider "union education" as a more appropriate label for such activities. The academic field of labor studies has likewise been dominated by the preparation of union leaders, although here broader ideological, remedial, and cultural issues have also found a place in the programs. The advent of white collar unions in professionalizing occupations has similarly clouded the perception of who is a "worker." Other educational labels such as "vocational," "professional," "adult," and "continuing" serve alternately to demarcate and to obfuscate an enterprise interpreted by some as peripheral, and by others as central in our modern learning society. One is, therefore, tempted to look to preindustrial and early industrial society, to search for interpretations uncomplicated by the multiplicity of educational provision in our fast-changing pluralistic societies. Specifically, we will consider some interpretations spanning the period from classical Greece to the early 19th century, using later interpretations from Britain and North America. These may serve to identify some lost opportunities or merely to identify interpretations constrained by time and space. Santayana contended that by ignoring the past we are condemned to repeat it. If many workers continue to define their world with little recourse to "workers' education," then perhaps we have not learned from the past.

While the classical Greeks may have been exemplars of democracy, Plato and Aristotle distinguished between a liberal education intended for a governing class, and a vocational education or training intended for tradespeople or slaves (Barker, 1952; Guthrie, 1956). While a class system was to be based on merit, the influence of heredity was recognized in Plato's Republic. The rulers were born with gold in their composition, their auxiliaries with silver, and the artisans with brass and iron. Plato went beyond current Athenian practice in according responsibility for education to the state and proposing equal access for women. Some class mobility was assumed, but beyond some mention in the Laws, little attention was devoted to what we may interpret as workers' education. Plato wrote, "that other sort of training, which aims at the acquisition of wealth or bodily strength, or mere cleverness apart from intelligence and justice, is mean and illiberal, and is not worthy to be called education at all" (England, 1921, I, p. 644). The focus was on an ideal of liberal education for a governing class assumed to have all the intelligence of the community. Similarly, Aristotle in his Politics, distinguished between a liberal education suited to free citizens and an education suited to those destined for mechanical occupations (Barker, 1952). While the rulers were to provide their auxiliaries aged 20 to 35 with an education in mathematics, astronomy, and logic preparatory to the study of philosophy, the workers were judged incapable of intellectual stimulation and uninterested in the pursuit of knowledge. Both free craftworkers (whom Aristotle would have deprived of citizenship) and slaves were thus to receive only a limited technical or vocational education, intended to render them efficient producers. Such education was suited both to assumptions of their mental capacity and to the belief that "Any employment which is pursued for the sake of gain. . . keeps men's minds too much and too meanly occupied" (Barker, 1952, p. 334 [Greek text VIII 1337 b. ss 5]). Greek thought thus emphasized an antithesis between culture and utility which implied a contempt for manual work and for the education of those who performed it. Conversely, both Greece and Rome developed intense pride in their public and private construction projects, and craft guilds became integral units of Roman civic administration (Jones, 1964).

Such attitudes were long to influence Western notions of workers' education as a circumscribed form of training for a subordinate social class. There were indeed some early attempts to give a new dignity to labor and to associate it with an education which recognized the humanity of those who performed it. St. Benedict of Nursia instituted a 6th-century monastic rule which combined labor and learning (McCann, 1952), while in 1516 Sir Thomas More's Utopia (Book IT) idealized the same combination. Jean Jacques Rousseau, in 1762, devoted exhaustive attention to a well-rounded and demanding education for his prospective carpenter, Emile (Ballinger, 1965; Boyd, 1962). However, as long as social, economic, or political conditions determined that workers' education was to be interpreted from the standpoints of employers, consumers, or governments, its nature was to remain circumscribed by essentially utilitarian considerations. The importance of such education was apparent in the embracing legislation of Elizabethan England (Statute of Apprentices, 1563) which prescribed a mandatory period of at least seven years apprenticeship for entry to all the skilled trades then in existence. Intended to insure competence and provide career monopolies in fields as diverse as medicine and shipbuilding, the legislation served also as a measure of social stability by supplementing skill training with moral and religious supervision. Although often circumvented, the apprenticeship system expanded and was introduced into the North American colonies. Thus, William Penn's Frame of Government provided for all to be "taught some useful trade or skill, to the end none may be idle, but the poor may work to live, and the rich, if they become poor, may not want" (Morris, 1946, p. 4). The alternative to an educated worker was thus seen as an idle, unemployed, and probably dangerous one, hence the many aphorisms on utility in 18th-century almanacs. The value of educated workers was evident in the competing British and colonial policies toward their migration, and in the colonies' success in their aggressive recruitment. Thus, in 1768 the army commander, Major General Thomas Gage, lamented that while many of them "embark for America [we] can't discover where they land" (Morris, 1946, p. 24).

The educational component of apprenticeship was very uneven, with many early agreements stressing practical, on-the-job instruction, rather than literacy or numeracy. However, such practical instruction was supplemented by formal schooling in medicine as early as Hellenistic Greece (Marrou, 1982), in law in 3rd century A.D. Rome (Marrou, 1982), and in architecture and engineering in 4th century A.D. Rome (Barlow, 1967). Indeed, in the later Roman Empire, "surveyors (geometra), engineers (mechanici) and architects were also professional men belonging to the upper ranks of society" (Jones, 1964, p. 1013). When the Emperor Constantine offered scholarships to prospective architects, "he stipulated that candidates should be of about 18 years of age and should already have received a liberal education" (Jones, 1964, p. 1013). This enhanced interpretation of educational needs applied only to a select number of professionalizing occupations which were deemed to require a theoretical knowledge base beyond that provided in the apprenticeship system. Even apprenticeship to other highly skilled trades was long to be regarded as a privilege limited to parents possessing a certain amount of property and able to pay a substantial premium for the education imparted. However, in balancing the preservation of the status quo with the needs of their economies, "the colonies differed from the mother country in their refusal to impose property qualifications" for apprenticeship training (Morris, 1946, p. 22). They seem to have differed also in showing a greater readiness to identify some general education in that training. Thus, John Maisters of York County, Maine was fortunate that his 1674 apprenticeship agreement provided that:

The said maister his sd apprentice shall teach and instruct in the trade of a carpenter, to the best of his skill, according to what his apprentice is capable of, and alsoe doe promiss to teach him to write and siffer if hee bee capable [spellings sic]. (Morris, 1946, p. 366)

         Even early trade schools did not necessarily identify any general education in their curriculum. Thus, Bishop Laval opened such schools in Quebec City and nearby St. Joachim in 1668. Their program was identified as cabinetmaking, carpentry, masonry, roofing, shoemaking, tailoring, and "sculpture and painting was both a trade and an art" (Phillips, 1957, p. 20). Instruction in agriculture was given also to boys on a model farm at nearby Cap Tourmente, while girls were enabled to learn domestic spinning, weaving, and household skills. Similarly, in 1757 the Moravian Church established a trade school in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. In it, instruction in the 3Rs supplemented a curriculum of blacksmithing, gunsmithing, locksmithing, weaving, carpentry, and masonry. Its educational philosophy was reflected in its assignment of church members, "automatically and dogmatically" to learn these trades (Bridenbaugh, 1964, p. 131). Stronger ties with traditional education were reflected in the endowment funds of some English grammar schools. Here students had the option of applying for either college tuition scholarships or apprenticeship fees on completion of their schooling (Carlisle, 1818, I). This educational model emphasized the scope of opportunities available to a favored few who entered the work force. It also highlighted the inadequacies of the often nominal instruction given to male and female, pauper or orphaned apprentices in British industrial towns, Southern tobacco centers, or Upper Canadian frontier districts. One study has, concluded that "south of Philadelphia, less stress was placed on general education for apprentices" (Morris, 1946, p. 381). There were, however, the growing opportunities provided by evening lectures and evening schools, which served the double function of not interfering with the working day and not highlighting the educational limitations of many employers. Thus, in 18th century Britain, a host of new ventures was launched to popularize the new scientific knowledge. These included not only short courses of public lectures but "evening classes for mechanics and craftsmen," in such cities as Salford, Newcastle, and London (Hans, 1951, p. 158). In London in 1789 Peter Nicholson, an architect, "established an evening school for carpenters and mechanics, where he taught applied mathematics and published textbooks for carpenters and builders" (Hans, 1951, p. 158). Similarly, in late 18th century Halifax, Nova Scotia, apprentices were encouraged to enroll in evening schools offering instruction in "reading, writing, arithmetic, architecture, bookkeeping, dialing, gauging, mathematics and navigation." By 1805 this selection had increased to include also "geography with the use of globes, geometry, trigonometry, altimetry, longimetry, mensuration, surveying on a modern and highly improved plan. . . gnomics, natural philosophy, astronomy, elocution, composition, etc." (Keane, 1975, p. 258). In the United States, research suggests that the early growth of evening schools was largely attributable to educational needs and interests which could not be met within the apprenticeship system (Seybolt, 1971). Here, particularly in the north, colonial indentures came to specify attendance at evening school, and to identify whether the employer or parent was responsible for payment of the school fees.

While colonial workers were able to profit socially and economically from a relative scarcity of skilled labor, British workers were more susceptible to long-standing, upper-class inhibitions about educating "the lower orders." Attitudes, of course, differed widely, as between the aristocratic seigniorial class of Quebec, the merchant class of cosmopolitan and prosperous Philadelphia, or the gentry of the southern planting colonies. Constraints were readily apparent in such matters as gender or race. Thus, in both North America and Britain, such trades as weaving or spinning were open to women, in addition to the traditional sewing, knitting, and housewifery. Less traditional female occupations were often the result of widows inheriting their husband's business or, as with Benjamin Franklin, an absent husband's trade being plied temporarily by a wife. Indians and blacks seem to have been often apprenticed in New England and New York, with the knowledge gained serving as a "transitional stage to complete emancipation" for the latter. In the South, both slaves and free blacks might be apprenticed, with the system being judged "an important factor in the economic life of the free Negro in the antebellum South" (Morris, 1946, p. 388). The particular scrutiny of the education and training provided for those most disadvantaged workers emphasized that economic considerations played only one part in determining the scope of such education. On either side of the Atlantic, views of workers and their education tended to be influenced substantially by preindustrial concepts of "rank" or "estate" of education being appropriate to one's "station in life" (Hobsbawn, 1984, Ch.2). Thus, tories in London or New York would doubtless have commiserated with Dr. Thomas Cadwalader, when in 1744 he told Dr. Alexander Hamilton that the New Jersey House of Assembly was full of "mechanics and ignorant wretches, obstinate to the last degree" (Bridenbaugh, 1964, p. 155). The American Board of Customs Commissioners similarly complained in 1768 of town meetings at which "the lowest mechanics discuss upon the most important points of government, with the utmost freedom" (Morris, 1946, p. 52). The views of skilled workers who joined the Baltimore Whig Club led a critic in 1777 to ask "how a man who was only fit to patch a shoe could have the temerity to attempt to patch the state" (Morris, 1946, p. 53). That some interpreted the education of workers as suiting them only "to patch a shoe" reflected the centuries-old distinction between liberal education and vocational education. It also ignored the fact that many workers had identified and met educational needs beyond those interpreted by their employers. Such aspirations were influenced by the opportunities for upward mobility. Beyond those who sought the security of independent farming, the ranks descended from skilled free artisans hoping to become small employers, to the unskilled free workers and, in America, the skilled and unskilled indentured workers, and the skilled and unskilled slaves. Attributions of ignorance, obstinacy, and temerity were particularly resented by the economically privileged but socially underprivileged skilled workers, generically termed "mechanics."

            Such social distinctions influenced the separate development of medical, legal, and theological education, even under a continuing apprenticeship tradition in colonial North America (Chroust, 1965; Shewmaker, 1921; Shryock, 1960). However, even lower-ranking workers on both sides of the Atlantic had demonstrated an interest in an education not circumscribed by its economic utility. Much of this was gained informally in coffee houses and clubs, or derived from newspapers and books by a relatively affluent elite of skilled-trades people and mechanics. They were better able to identify common interests than the mass of the illiterate and unskilled laboring poor. Indeed, this small elite were often as anxious to interpret their rank in relation to the unskilled workers as to their employers. A confidence in their own abilities saw a group of London weavers establish the Spitalfields Mathematical Society as early as 1717 (Cawthorne, 1929). Based on the principle of "friends educating each other," they established a collection of apparatus and decided to embark on a study of the new scientific discoveries, for which established educational institutions were making little if any provision. Ten years later, Benjamin Franklin initiated a comparable venture in Philadelphia, with his Junto (Labaree et al., 1964). This time, a group, largely of skilled workers, undertook to define and implement their own educational program, ranging over the fields of morals, politics, and natural philosophy. Both groups and many others who followed their lead in North America and Britain testified to a commitment to a broader interpretation of workers' education than their social superiors considered appropriate.

By the early 19th century the twin impact of science and democracy highlighted the constraints of earlier interpretations of workers' education. Britain's early Industrial Revolution had created opportunities for innovation and advancement that all but overwhelmed the traditional apprenticeship system, while creating social and political tensions that invited reform or revolution. In revolutionary America it had become fashionable to idealize the "virtuous mechanic," and indeed the Declaration of Independence included the signatures of Benjamin Franklin, printer; George Walton, carpenter; and Roger Sherman, cordwainer. Nevertheless, Thomas Jefferson was to describe "artificers as the panders of vice, and the instruments by which the liberties of the country are generally overturned" (Rayback, 1959, p. 64). Even in Jacksonian America, labor leaders baulked at continuing references to "the 'swinish multitude,' 'the lower classes,' 'the mob,' and 'all the baser epithets'" (Pessen, 1967 p. 115). Workers, whether British or North American, grew increasingly resentful of the imputations of ignorance, and tended to accord education a definite role in their plans for social, economic, and political reform. Self-help to transform the conditions of life and learning was apparent among new settlers in Upper Canada in 1800. At Niagara they had resolved to contribute $4 annually, "sensible how much we are at a loss in this new and remote country for every kind of useful knowledge, and convinced that nothing would be of more use to diffuse knowledge among us and our offspring than a library. . ." (Hardy, 1912, p. 27). Self-help was equally apparent among British weavers in Lancashire and Yorkshire, of whom E. P. Thompson (1968) concluded that:

There was certainly a leaven. . . of self educated and articulate men of considerable attainments. Every weaving district had its weaver poets, biologists, mathematicians, musicians, geologists, botanists. . . weavers in isolated villages who taught themselves geometry by chalking on their flagstones, and who were eager to discuss the differential calculus. . . a book could actually be propped on the loom and read at work. (p. 322)

In the Philadelphia Workingmen's Party of 1828, and others that followed it, free and universal education was demanded, including an improved curriculum, less reliance on rote learning, and better qualified and paid teachers (Jackson, 1942). While concerned mainly with the education of the next generation, some labor leaders went on to urge self-improvement among their members. Indeed, such New York labor leaders as George Henry Evans and Robert Dale Owen even placed education at the top of their reform agenda (Pessen, 1967). Such agendas were debated widely, as at the 1830 New York Working Men's Party Convention, which even attracted delegates from Ontario (Pessen, 1967). Owen agreed with Frances Wright, the vigorous champion of women's rights, that "until equality be planted in the mind, in the habits, in the manners, in the feelings, think not it ever can be in the conditions" (Pessen, 1967, p. 70). Education for self-fulfillment or empowerment marked a significant departure from the moral and vocational interpretations of the apprenticeship system. Skilled workers might continue to argue for better and stricter apprenticeships and indeed that system continued to prosper, formally and informally, in some trades (Mulligan, 1986). Nevertheless, their horizons had long since broadened beyond skill training, and as in Cincinnati, they were now also seeking "improvements in the arts and sciences" (Pessen, 1967, p. 22). However, even in the factory system eulogized by Harriet Martineau and others at the Lowell textile mills, the labor leader Seth Luther argued that their 13-hour day rendered it "impossible to attend to education among children, or even to improvement among adults" (Luther, 1836, p. 17). Such "improvement" was however an integral part of many workers' aspirations, even if its nature had yet to be determined with any precision.

It was partly in reaction to workers' interests that a major international education movement was launched under middle-class auspices. This was the mechanics' institute movement that originated in the early 19th century and found a congenial home in Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Its initial primary purpose was to graft onto the essentially practical instruction received by skilled workers a knowledge of the emerging sciences, so as to render the workers more efficient and inventive. London Mechanics' Institution, which was to serve as something of an international model, specified that "the object proposed is the instruction of the members in the principles of the arts they practice, and in the various branches of science and useful knowledge" (Place, 1823, p. 269). Beyond this explicit objective lay the heated controversies among early promoters. Radicals had sought a program exclusively determined by, and financed by, workers themselves, but had been outmaneuvered by others who accepted the proclaimed community of interests with employers. Implicit in the final objective was, therefore, an adherence to the prevailing middle-class ethic of frugality, temperance, disciplined hard work, and utility, rather than the support of an artisan culture recognizing diversity, conflict, and social pluralism. Even a utilitarian education for skilled workers was a compromise among the establishment. To some conservative fears that any systematic educational programs would prove seditious were added religious misgivings that a secular and scientific education lacked the moral context of apprenticeship training. Thus, in St. John, New Brunswick, one lecturer felt obligated to refute the charge that institutes were "degenerating into mere training schools for revolutionary democrats and proving [to be] the hotbeds of infidelity" (Galloway, 1844, p. 7). While the impact of these programs was to be as varied as local resources and constraints would allow, the fundamental interpretations of their promoters showed the continuing influence of Plato and Aristotle.

In this sense, the evening schools of the 18th century had anticipated the mechanics' institutes, although the pace and public awareness of scientific and technological change had since increased substantially. Workers in both Britain and North America had demonstrated a growing interest in the "marvels of science," although often for more discursive reasons than immediate practical application. Such reasons formed part of their evolving concern with social, economic, and political reform, in which education was already perceived as potentially supportive or potentially restrictive. Indeed, it has been argued that "American labor thought was so akin to English radicalism of the period, it would appear that the old notion of American uniqueness would have to be modified, at least for the Jacksonian era" (Pessen, 1967, p. 197). Thus, while the unskilled poor on both sides of the Atlantic responded hesitantly to the proffered literacy programs, the skilled workers and apprentices showed much initial enthusiasm for the more ambitious programs of the mechanics' institutes. The depth and breadth of long unmet needs and interests were reflected in their attraction to programs embracing a library, a museum, scientific demonstrations and experiments, lectures, and evening classes on subjects ranging from architecture to chemistry, bookkeeping to mathematics, and modern languages to technical drawing. The story was repeated from Glasgow, Scotland to Montreal, Quebec; from Boston, Massachusetts to San Francisco, California. However, some labor leaders resented the institutes' general exclusion of politics and economics from their programs, arguing that the education of workers should reflect their multiple roles in society, not simply that of being producers or employees. The radical editors of the London Mechanics' Magazine contended in 1823 that:

Men had better be without education than be educated by their rulers; for then education is but the mere breaking in of the steer to the yoke; the mere discipline of the hunting dog. (Robertson, pp. 99-102)

Some conservative reformers were likewise to criticize the narrow equation of workers' education with 'useful knowledge.' Thus, Dr. Thomas Arnold urged institute members:

Let us not delude ourselves into supposing that the diffusion of useful knowledge is genuine adult education. Neither science nor literature alone can instruct the judgement--only moral and religious knowledge can do this. (Arnold, 1845, p. 423)

Yet another mechanics' institute president, Charles Dickens, wrote scathingly of attempts to delimit workers' education in terms of their employment, rather than their broader personal interests in the wider world. He illustrated the point by reference to a fictional institute library with its:

painfully apologetic return of 62 offenders who had read Travels, Popular Biography, and mere Fiction descriptive of the aspirations of the hearts and souls of mere human creatures like themselves; and such an elaborate parade of 2 bright examples who had had down Euclid after the day's occupation and confinement; and 3 who had had down Metaphysics after ditto; and 1 who had had down Theology after ditto; and 4 who had worried Grammar, Political Economy, Botany and Logarithms all at once after ditto; that I suspected the boasted class to be one man, who had been hired to it. (Dickens, p. 123)

The notions that workers were entitled to an education calculated to "instruct the judgement" or recognize "the aspirations of (others) . . . like themselves" clearly conflicted with many contemporary interpretations. The latter emphasized the charitable sponsorship of an essentially limited commodity for an underprivileged group--something that the radicals, anticipating Paulo Freire, regarded as a form of domestication. Thus, the English socialist Thomas Hodgskin was to write in 1825 that workers enrolled in the mechanics' institutes:

may care nothing about the curious researches of the geologist, or the elaborate classifications of the botanist, but they will assuredly ascertain why they, of all classes of society, have been involved in poverty and distress. (p. 101)

For Jacksonian workers it has been suggested that such radicalism "was not congenial to opportunistic Americans" and that their goals were "not to achieve utopia or doctrinaire political goals but improvement in the economic position of skilled journeymen" (Pessen, 1967, pp. 33,51). The American Journal of Education noted in 1826 that already the British mechanics' institutes were leading "the wealthy and the highly educated to feel uneasy for their rank" (1826, January, Vol. 1, p. 6). However, despite the high hopes that had followed Independence, such unease was not lacking in the American scene. In both countries, the term "workers" was becoming unwieldy, being claimed by both masters/small employers and journeymen/ employees, in addition to their apprentices and the unskilled. Such mechanics' institutes as proclaimed their management and policy being determined by "mechanics," were usually a reflection of the interests of the small or large employers, coupled often with the support of middle-class professionals. Thus, the much eulogized David Bell, "mechanic president of the Buffalo Mechanics' Institute" in the 1840s was a major employer and a builder of locomotives and steamboats ("Our First Big Fair," 1899, n.p.). A comparable situation existed in Canada, with institute presidents such as the publisher, John Neilson, in Quebec City or John Redpath, a banker and industrialist, in Montreal. Despite prevailing ambitions to succeed in like manner to such self-made entrepreneurs, labor displayed early misgivings at having them interpret its educational needs. Thus, cordial relations between organized labor and a mechanics' institute might exist, as in New York, but a preference was also expressed by the former to have such ventures under its own control (Curoe, 1926). Conversely, as in York (Toronto) in 1830, at first the skilled worker largely ignored the new institute, preferring instead another pioneer foundation, a trade union. Workers in fact were coming to resent "Workers' education," the "education of mechanics," or other labels implying that the repositories of, interpreters of, and providers of, education were the middle classes. Thus, Timothy Claxton, the self-educated founder of Boston Mechanics' Institute in 1826, was an early critic of the dependence by working-class students on middle-class lecturers. For him, the principle of 'mutual-improvement' or of 'friends educating each other' was both possible and necessary to insure the viability and integrity of such ventures. He spoke of 'mutual improvement' as enabling students to "acquire a habit of doing their own studying and speaking, and consequently of calling into exercise the faculties of their own minds" (Claxton, 1839, p. 137).

As the first major attempt to redefine workers' education since the hallowed system of apprenticeship, the mechanics' institutes were to serve the unintended purpose of discovering the nature and scope of some workers' own interests, as well as the feasibility of meeting such interests. Despite varying degrees of public and private funding, these institutes were to depend increasingly on members' fees. This fact was to give members slightly more scope for the exercise of that autonomy and judgment now increasingly denied them amid the exploitation and alienation of the industrial work place. Typically, it involved conflict, with middle-class administrations condemning many workers for not participating in existing institute programs--in effect for not sharing in the dominant ideology of a community of interests which implied social and economic mobility for those who persevered in their assigned studies. Although American society seemed to offer workers more tangible material rewards than did British society, the workers' response to institute programs was remarkably similar on both sides of the Atlantic. The spectrum ranged from initial enthusiasm for "useful knowledge" to a more selective participation, and then to demands for liberal and recreational features. Whatever the response to the latter, there was a fairly unanimous rebuff to attempts to go even further and include controversial political and economic issues. The workers' response to institute programs may thus be interpreted as part of that broader response to seek "as much autonomy and control as possible over their work lives and their leisure-time worlds" (Stephenson & Asher, 1986, p. 1). Having tolerated the traditional constraints of apprenticeship only to witness the des killing that was accompanying the division of labor, adult workers were to seek an education that addressed questions beyond technical competence. Even by the 1830s their situation differed widely among trades and among geographic locations, with craft consciousness ebbing before the advent of class consciousness. Accordingly, their own interpretation of educational needs was at best fragmented and often purely reactive. Some wholeheartedly accepted the middle-class interpretation and managed to prosper socially and economically. Well-publicized role models indeed abounded from the late 18th century, and in the 19th century "some entrepreneurially-minded mechanics began emerging from the cocoon of artisan culture and entering the web of capitalist relations" (Leary, 1986, p. 39). However, success tended to render such self-made people intolerant of workers' critical interpretations of society. Thus, in 1836 the successful York (Toronto) printer, William Lyon Mackenzie, could reconcile his own radicalism and support of workers' education with condemnation of journeymen whom he charged, "foment divisions and animosities in society" (Forsey, 1960, p. 20). Journeymen, however, saw the "divisions and animosities" as already present in society, and if the education provided did not address such issues, then alternative means had to be sought.

            Those means were to be sought in an increasing variety of formal and informal learning situations, as the workers sought to formulate alternatives to the dominant social values of the early 19th century. To independent study for the dedicated individual student was added group interaction in places of work, domicile, worship, fellowship, and recreation (Laurie, 1979). Insofar as their prized skills remained marketable, the skilled workers remained in the forefront of this enterprise, and their rich associational life was long to mediate the full impact of prescriptive middle-class interpretations of education. Just as traditional apprenticeship was being replaced by a more impersonal market-oriented training, so were mechanics' institutes being jostled by trade unions, political reform associations, and an array of cults and utopias. Workers sought to protest emerging industrialism and its underlying interpretation of workers' education by sampling the 19th century's increasing diversity of causes and campaigns, of fads and fancies. Their search for a viable alternative was not to be realized in this period--one may question if it has been realized today.




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