Michael R. Welton




Labor history is a thriving academic enterprise in Canada; the study of workers' education is not. Nonetheless, adult educational historians are turning some attention to recovering the educational dimensions of workers' culture and politics (Welton, 1986; 1987), and several prominent labor historians (Kealey & Palmer, 1982; Palmer, 1983) have, in focusing on workers' attempts to create an oppositional culture, opened up important questions. How do workers in particular times and places come to understand themselves, their work, their social institutions, competing ideologies? How do they acquire a set of competencies? How do they not only adapt to, but act transformingly in, societies presenting formidable barriers to autonomous workers' education? When we examine processes of industrial conflict and change through the learning lens, we can see that the battles are always intellectual and practical. Particular forms of social and political action proceed from an idea that alternatives to capitalism are necessary and possible. Before persons can change their behavior and their society, they must first be enlightened as to that possibility. Collective enlightenment (the transformation of collective self-understanding and identity) is the learning catalyst, empowering actors to engage in, within limits, trans formative action in the world. The struggles of workers in the turbulent decades under scrutiny can be viewed as a contest between supporters of conflicting visions of what constitutes valid enlightenment, empowerment, and transformative action. Thus, given the importance of ideas in generating action, and the importance of education in the creation and promotion of these ideas, education must always be considered in attempts to understand the larger processes of social conflict and change (Fay, 1987; Maciejko, 1986; Simon, 1984). To understand and perhaps explain the wonderful complexities of workers' education, we need to situate workers' education in multiple contexts and discursive fields, examine the sites workers create for reflection (the organization of enlightenment), the critical themes they examine, and the outcomes of learning processes (the organization of action).

            We are all aware of the notorious difficulties in delineating the boundaries of workers' education. For my purposes, the boundaries of workers' education ought to be drawn such that we can study both the "schools of labour" and "labour's schools." Simply defined, the schools of labor are the socially organized work places, embedded in networks of economic, social, and political control. Important technical, social, political and ideological experiential learning is occurring in the work place (Marx called the work place the "harsh but hardening school of labour"), and perhaps the strike is the most important learning occasion directly linked to the work site. Labor's schools are those spaces workers themselves, their leaders or sympathetic pedagogues open up for reflection on the meaning of their work and culture. Labor's schools take many forms: (a) "Educational moments" woven into particular social practices such as the assembly meeting (the Knights of Labour saw these as "schools of instruction") or political party activity; (b) specific educational forms created by the workers themselves (journals, newspapers, forums, etc.); and (c) educational forms provided for workers by agencies and institutions outside the workers' own organizations (WEA, University Extension programs).

In this exploratory paper, I am particularly interested in what I take to be a rather fascinating puzzle. In our ordinary language use in the field of adult education, we do, indeed, distinguish adult from workers' education (and wonder about some of the issues at the interface), and often talk about the emergence of "adult education" (Stewart, 1987) in, say, the 1920s. There are several ways of understanding this. While we all admit that adult learning is present at all times and places, we must reject the idea that "adult education" has an essence that only need be represented in appropriate, value-neutral scientific language. Adult education, however, repeatedly resists paradigmatic control, slipping and sliding out of our professional and scientific grasp. Like the predator in Schwarzenegger's film, The Predator, it blends with the environment at times and then, when threatened, becomes visible, embodied. The field of adult education is something like this creature. Adult education is made visible, given a body, only when it is constituted by a "discursive field" (ideas, texts, theories, use of language). But this constituting process is not a unitary, totalizing act. Competing discourses jostle and struggle with one another over the control of the constituting process. In unsettling times of historical transition (Canada from the late 19th to early 20th century was shifting to a monopoly form of capitalist production and relations) oppositional forms of adult learning erupt in a multiplicity of sites precipitating the struggle to constitute "adult education."

            Kathleen Rockhill's work on the professional construction of adult education practice in the U.S. suggests that "adult education" as a professional practice was constructed quite consciously to exclude socialism (viewed as dangerous knowledge), and she details the set of ideological constructs used to perform this task (Rockhill, 1985). The professional "discursive field" wins out in the U.s. However, this only subjugates alternative knowledge forms, casting them outside the arbitrarily delineated field. Still, they hover at the edges of the field, waiting for their time.

Discursive practices are, of course, related in complex ways to non discursive practices (social systems, class and gender divisions, economic needs, institutions). Particular discursive practices are intimately bound up with social power and control. Knowledge/power, Foucault has taught us, cannot be thought apart (Foucault, 1980). This insight demands that we pay attention to the way adult education discourse sets the limits on what counts as authentic educational practice, and perhaps more important, social and political action. Adult educational discourses might be read as a very important way that our society organizes its power relations.

My strategy in this paper (which examines the "Indian Summer of Working Class Culture, 1896-1922") is, first, to characterize the political economy and the labor movement's sense of collective identity, and then to examine the educational thought and initiatives occurring within the workers' movement and those agencies outside the movement itself. As noted, this paper focuses on the competing discursive fields vying for hegemony and control of the field. My conclusion is that some adult educators have, as one of their jobs, the quelling of the insurrections of subjugated knowledges. Others, it seems, have the task of participating in the insurrection itself.




From the late 19th century until the end of World War I (spanning the Laurier-Borden years), Canada was a nation being transformed. As the monopoly form of capitalism emerged--a ragged process of uneven economic development and labor market segmentation--new mines, mills, factories, and railway camps dotted the country. Three million new Canadians poured into the country to work in the new industries and produce the "prairie gold" as the Canadian west opened up for agricultural development and settlement. To Canadianize the immigrant became, for some educators, the "one great commanding problem" of the time (Anderson, 1918; Fitzpatrick, 1923; Woodsworth, 1909). People flooded into the cities altering the balance between city and rural dweller. Canadians were now confronted with another "learning challenge"--how to learn to cope with urban life (perhaps the central concern of social thinkers in Canada during this period) and how to preserve the rural way of life. Industrialization, immigration, urbanization--these were the critical societal learning challenges for beleaguered Canadians.

Historians have characterized the relationship between capital and labor in this period as especially conflictual and turbulent (Brown & Cook, 1974; Jamieson, 1968; Palmer, 1983). Work place restructuring and transformation confronted Canadian workers with a diverse set of problems. In south-central Ontario, for instance, skilled workers resisted the introduction of Taylorist technological changes (Heron & Storey, 1986; Palmer, 1983). More characteristic, however, were the strikes initiated by "less skilled" workers in the coal fields of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and B.C., the west coast fishing industry, and the Quebec textile industry. Strikes in these industries were often violently repressed. Workers learned some hard lessons about the capitalist state as they contended with the likes of B.C. coal baron James Dunsmuir who vehemently declared that he hated unions because they wanted to manage "his mines." Perhaps one of the most evocative metaphors for this period can be drawn from Cape Breton. Protesting their wretched conditions in community and work site, over three thousand striking UMWA miners planned a giant parade in Glace Bay, July 1909. After listening to some speeches at the parade grounds, they marched, led by their leaders. Things went smoothly until they reached Cadegan's Bank, which separates the towns of Glace Bay and Dominion. As they crossed the bridge, the leaders were shocked to find a machine gun mounted on the steps of the Roman Catholic Church of Immaculate Conception, the army poised nearby, ready to fire (Mellor, 1983).

Canadian workers did, indeed, reflect on the critical themes that swashbuckling corporate capitalism was placing on the "curriculum." A multiplicity of labor's schools ("pure and simple" international craft unionism, laborism, Christian socialism, syndicalism, revolutionary Marxism) competed for an audience fragmented by region, nature of the industry, ethnicity, and gender. But for a brief historic moment in Canadian working-class history, the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, an eclectic radicalism infused with new social principles--the exuberance of wartime radicalism, international working class advance--created a climate in which proletarian victory seemed possible (Palmer, 1983). Education, we have said, must always be considered in attempts to understand the larger process of social conflict and change. We now provide a synoptic look at workers' education in Winnipeg from 1912 to 1921, with a side glance to Cape Breton, before turning to an analysis of conflicting discursive fields within "adult education" during this period.

What sites did the resilient Winnipeg workers create for the "organization of enlightenment?" What critical themes did they examine? What were the learning outcomes? The most eclectic of the workers' educational projects in Winnipeg was the People's Forum. Originating with social gospel/social work activities in the city's legendary north end in 1910, the originators of the Forum included people who, during the War years, would become convinced of the need to create a fundamentally different society--a cooperative commonwealth. Labor's pedagogues included the Christian socialist pacifist J. S. Woodsworth, Francis Beynon, a radical feminist fired from the Grain Growers' Guide for antiwar and anticapitalist activities, and A. V. Thomas, her brother-in-law, also fired from the conservative Manitoba Free Press.

Operating independently of the Winnipeg school system until 1914, the People's Forum held regular Sunday meetings in local theatres until it floundered in 1917, largely because of the commitment of many of its leaders to radical political activities. Throughout the turbulent years from 1912 to 1917, The Voice, a workers' paper which criticized capitalist abuses from an essentially Christian ethical position, carried weekly reports of events at the People's Forum in Winnipeg, and in a host of others in surrounding communities. The workers' press announced lectures and meetings and often carried verbatim lecture texts. The People's Forum, evidence suggests, encouraged participatory engagement, discussion always following lectures. The workers' press did not provide equal coverage of the lectures of other educational forums--the YMCA and the University of Manitoba.

Judging from the reports in The Voice, the Forum debated a wide range of critical themes. Speakers called for increased political involvement because "our system of government . . . places great power in the hands of a few men," and numerous speakers addressed the issue of militarism, the need for social reconstruction and the need to teach children in their own language (McWilliams, 1914, n.p.). The latter theme signals the presence of an active ethnic presence in Winnipeg's north end. The antimilitarist theme offended some school board members, and forced the Forum committee into some compromises. But a number of forums, featuring men like the controversial methodist social gospeler Salem Bland of Wesley Theological College (Winnipeg was the leading center of the social gospel in Canada), continued to indict the War.

By the autumn of 1917, the leadership of the Forum had dispersed, but workers' educational activities continued unabated. Rejecting the People's Forum's affiliation with the public school system and "bourgeois reformism," the Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council (WTLC) announced in September 1917 a series of Sunday afternoon lectures, featuring socialist and progressive speakers, to be held at the Labour Temple in the 1917-1918 winter session. This lecture series lasted only one season. But in 1918 the nondenominational Labour Church had begun, and included a program of Sunday afternoon lectures, featuring the "radical wing" of the People's Forum 0. S. Woodsworth, Fred Dixon, Salem Bland, & William Ivens, the Labour Church's instigator). The People's Forum and the Labour Church, bridged by the WTLC lecture series, formed a continuum of educational activity. Together, Maciejko (1986)

wrote, they formed a "consistent and concerted program of workers' education initiated by the radicals and sustained by popular support" (p. 9). By the end of 1918, it seems safe to conclude, Winnipeg workers had been enlightened to the point where they believed that alternatives to capitalism were necessary and possible.

As working-class militancy quickened in 1918 and 1919, provoking great fear among the middle and upper classes (the notorious "Red Scare"), the educational campaign among workers intensified. Organized in March 1919 after the epochal Western Labour Conference, the One Big Union (OBU) sought to unify all workers in a single union which could achieve its purposes, economic or political, through general strikes. It would embody proletarian solidarity. The revolutionary syndicalism, though alienating highly skilled craft unions, caught the imagination of many Canadian workers for a flickering historical moment (McCormack, 1977). The linkage between the OBU and the Labour Church was strengthened when more conservative unionists took over the WTLC and the Western Labour News. Ivens, who would be jailed in the aftermath of the Winnipeg General Strike, left the News and joined the staff of the OBU Bulletin, and the latter weekly became the vehicle for informing people of Labour Church activities.

Perhaps the most significant development in Winnipeg in September 1919 was the Labour Church and OBU's call for the formation of a Labour College for Winnipeg after the bitter defeat of the General Strike of May and June. A parallel initiative, several years later, occurred in Nova Scotia-­particularly amongst the radical coal miners, who were very interested in workers' education. The workers wanted a permanent provincial Labour College that would draw on the expertise of teachers and college professors (MacDonald, 1986). Nova Scotia workers would not get what they wanted, and would have to wait until St. Francis Xavier University provided educational services for workers in the late 1920s and 1930s. But St. Francis had its own agenda, and one major item was to quell the insurrection of communist knowledge and political action in industrial Cape Breton (Coady, 1939).

The OBU, itself, was also active in organizing classes and lectures. Of all the classes conducted by the OBU, those in economics were the most popular. From the beginning, the educational classes of the OBU were considered to be preliminary to the establishment of a Labour College in Winnipeg. With this dream in mind, Winnipeg workers wrote to the firebrand Scottish radical John Mclean of the Glasgow Labour College, and also to the Rand School of Social Science. The international labor movement--at least its more militant wing--clearly thought they needed a permanent school to nurture their brand of oppositional consciousness. But a Canadian Labour College would not materialize until the 1960s, and then only under the watchful eye of reformist trade union bureaucrats running the Canadian Labour Congress.

Workers' education, however, was not confined to the Forum, the Labour Church, and the OBU. Radical political parties--an integral if fractious part of the configuration of labor's schools--were also involved in the movement in Winnipeg. The Socialist Party of Canada (SPC), tracing its origins to Winnipeg in 1890, but having its deepest roots amongst the hard rock miners of B.C.'s mountains, rigorously and dogmatically schooled its resolute vanguard in Marxist axioms. Animated by a chiliastic vision of capitalism's inevitable end, the SPC saw the education of the proletariat as its ultimate political function. Reform for Speers was "powder sprinkled over the festering sores of that organism called human society" (McCormack, 1977,. p.54). They were convinced that workers needed only to learn Marx's, analysis of capitalism and they would become revolutionaries. By 1910 the SPC was conducting study classes in economics (the curriculum focused on the need to abolish the wage system), and in Canadian history and English for immigrants. Like the Forum meetings, SPC classes were noted for audience participation. Undeniably, however, the sectarianism and impossibilism of the SPC (it eschewed, in principle if not always in practice, working with trade unions) was unattractive to many British-born Winnipeg members of the radical movement. Still, there can be no doubt that SPC leaders' analysis of a class-polarized society resonated deeply amongst many workers in the tense years at the end of World War I.

Other small but not insignificant socialist parties like the Social Democratic Party (SDP)--which split from the SPC in 1911--also arranged some evening classes during the 1912-1913 session. The SDP's brand of socialism, its tone and tactics, was more palatable to the broad-based Winnipeg left. The SDP juggled its Marxist principles and its commitment to work unceasingly for reforms, an approach that brought it considerable support, including that of eastern European immigrants. But its adult educational work was accomplished primarily through the People's Forum, and some of its members worked with the youth wing. Other parties--the Dominion Labour Party and the Independent Labour party--engaged only sporadically in regular educational programs under their direct auspices. Their members were, however, involved in the educational programs of the People's Forum, OBU, and Labour Church, testifying to the importance placed on adult education by those actively seeking to restructure society in accordance with some variation of socialist principles.

What emerges from this synopsis of the educational activities of radical workers in Winnipeg, says Maciejko (1986), is not a "picture of random or purposeless activity, but a pattern with direction and consistency" (p. 13). According to Allen Mills (1984), J. S. Woods worth believed that: "The making of socialists . . . was an intellectual activity, requiring for its success a constant appeal to the spoken and written word. Socialism would arrive . . . through voluntary action that derived from the power of clear, methodological, and rational argument itself" (p. 105). Many radical workers shared Woodworth's faith in the power of intellectual activity as integral to the "organization of action." There was widespread recognition that education was essential to the change process itself. Even H. G. Fester, chair of the Ontario section of the WEA and committed to the WEA's program of "organized classes," recognized that radical organizations deserved a place in the "scheme of workers' education." Though labeling the radicals' educational work as "purely propagandist," Fester (1924) admitted that their numerous publications and educational activities had awakened some minds out of lethargy. From this knowledge of the power of ideas in the political battle came the proposal to place on the entrance of the OBU's Plebs Hall the inscription: "Read, Study, and Investigate, for in the application of the meaning of these words, we conquer" (Central Labour Council, 1920, n.p.).

But the workers' movement, in Winnipeg and elsewhere in Canada, did not conquer Canadian society. In May/June 1919, approximately 25,000 men and women struck in sympathy with the embattled workers of the city's building and metal trades; in other cities of Canada, workers staged massive support strikes. These political actions, which had social and political learning outcomes, testify, one might suggest, to the success of the teachings of labor's schools. Yet the strike was crushed, leaders associated with the OBU and several others were jailed (the OBU collapsed in 1920), the fragility of utopian hopes was revealed, and the basic reformism of the labor movement was exposed. Labor radicalism called forth its dialectical opposite, reaction from the dominant order: The Citizens' Committee of 1000 moved to suppress the strikers, special police raided labor halls and strike leaders' homes, and "foreign Bolsheviks" were jailed. Viewed through the workers' learning lens, we could hypothesize that the Winnipeg General Strike taught the workers how dangerous their knowledge was, the enormous difficulty of achieving a collective identity, and the fierce resistance to transformative action regarding basic power relations in the society. The General Strike of 1919 led, like the collapse of the Knights of Labour in an earlier decade, into a new period of profound disillusion within working-class experience (Palmer, 1983). The Indian summer had ended, fading into the winter night of the 1920s.




Our picture of the adult educational discursive field in the first two decades of the 20th century is not yet complete. Writing two years after the Winnipeg General Strike, Father Jimmy Tompkins (1921)--himself desperately searching for ways to rouse rural Nova Scotians out of their "dismal apathy"--captured something of the sentiment present amongst thoughtful university educators when he declared in his pamphlet, Knowledge for the People:

Old ways of thinking have been broken up and a new spirit today can no more be doubted than we were permitted to doubt, during the years between 1914 and 1917, that we were at war. Nowhere is this new spirit more in evidence than in the field of Education. No other idea has so gripped the people of the whole world as the desire for more knowledge, better intellectual training, and better organized effort in their various callings. It has gripped them en masse, and without regard to condition, class or circumstances. Men and women everywhere are clamouring for the equal opportunity that education and intellectual training give. (p. 3)

Significantly, Tompkins pointed approvingly to developments within the global University Extension movement and the Workers' Educational Association (WEA); he did not mention any of the forms of adult education present within the workers' movement itself. What Tompkins' veils in his ringing proclamation, framed within a liberal progressive discourse, is precisely how the universities and other emergent adult education forms (like Frontier College) understood the social crisis and what constituted legitimate educational practice. If labor radicalism--the outcome of informal and nonformal social and political learning processes--confronted the coercive apparatus of the state, these same workers also faced an ideological opposition that would, directly or indirectly, contest their educational practice.

The Canadian University Extension movement emerged in the first two decades of the 20th century. It, too, recognized the potential of adult education in resolving the social conflict. Although Queen's University organized some tutorial classes in 1889, the University of Alberta Extension Department, created in 1912, was really the first in the field. The University of Toronto organized its Extension Department in 1920. It provides a useful focal point, since it sponsored the first WEA tutorial classes for workers and is considered Canada's most prestigious center of higher learning.

In a three-page document simply entitled "University Extension," written in 1922, the University of Toronto presented its understanding of the I nature and purpose of adult education. This seemingly innocuous document provides crucial insights into the way the university, as the socially and historically designated space for legitimate knowledge production and dissemination, was constructing adult education. From the opening line, this text is pervaded by a profound sense of danger and crisis. "At this moment," the anonymous author(s) declared, there is a "crisis in the whole world of education." How was the crisis perceived? Public schools and the technical training provided by universities had left out the "most important part" of education. Neither had developed the "power of thinking" or "useful criticism," but more significantly, neither had built up a "thoughtful, comprehending human spirit" (n.p.). The latter task was most urgent.

The crisis in education, for the text's author(s), only reflected a much deeper crisis--that of a class-polarized society. The author(s) contended that what now existed in Canada were two more or less unrelated standards of thinking and speaking. Canada was a severed society, speaking two warring ideological languages. "There is an immense danger to a country in the existence of two languages, the language of the cultivated and the language of the street, neither of which is really comprehensible to the other" (n.p.). The choice of the street/ cultivated metaphor is significant. The languages of social transformation--products of workers' own learning and experience--are consigned to the street, the realm of the undisciplined, the untrained, the untutored, and the rebellious. Indeed, one catches in the text's identification of adult education with "formalized" instruction by "trained" tutors (adult education began with the offering of university courses) the notion that only knowledge cultivated by the professor/gardener is legitimate. For the author(s) contend that "if it could be brought about that more or less the same proportion of every class could be found in the ranks of thoughtful cultivated people, an immense stride would have been made in the abolition of class differences" (n.p.).

            It is imperative that the university extend its "higher culture" to those classes previously neglected. Because the "whole basis of national unity rests upon the theory of the nation being an aggregation of persons who, on the whole, think alike, and it is very difficult for two sets of people to think alike who speak more or less different languages and think in different categories," a "large expansion" of adult education is called for. Incorporating the workers into this higher culture is intimately bound up with the extension metaphor: to extend means to control. The fundamental motivation for extending adult education is not, as suggested by Tompkins (1921) and "University Extension" (1922), to provide what the workers want (they demand, we just respond), but to promote social harmony between capital and labor. This is to be accomplished through the idealist project of creating a standardized, uniform, monologic culture. But this monologic voice can only speak its values by repressing workers' polyphonous voices. Adult education, as constructed by University Extension, had given itself an impossible task (like that of public schooling in mid-19th century Canada) of equalizing the classes without abolishing class domination.

Why was the WEA successfully established in Toronto at the end of World War I? To be sure, some workingmen had asked the University of Toronto to cooperate in establishing an organization similar to the British WEA. But working-class people were not the main impetus behind the founding of the WEA in Toronto. All of the key players--W. L. Grant, principal of Upper Canada College; Professors R. M. McIver and W. S. Milner; and Arthur Glazebrook, an exchange broker--believed that the foundations of democracy were under siege in a crassly materialistic age. Clearly alarmed by the Russian Revolution, the Winnipeg General Strike, and the OBU, and startled by the enormously increased strike activity, rapid growth of trade unionism, and expansion of labor political action in Ontario, these middle­class academics "sought to use the Association as a means to curb the spread of radicalism" (Radforth & Sangster, 1987, p. 75).

In an essay, "The Education of the Workingman," published in the prestigious Queen's Quarterly in 1919, W. L. Grant spoke gravely of the "flood of ideas" sweeping over the "civilized world." Nineteenth century laissez-faire individualism had collapsed and only the "cash nexus" seemed to be holding the society together. How could democracy endure? The working class wanted, in his view, a "new concordat between Capital and Labour and the State" (p. 160). They wanted to be owners alike in industry and politics. But only those who were "educated" were fit to take part in guiding the destinies of the state. Uneducated working people and citizens, Grant believed, leapt uncritically at every new idea. "Ideas without education" were "very dangerous fodder. Ideas without education mean the triumph of the half-baked; and the results of the triumph of the half-baked are manifest to the world in Russia today" (p. 160). Education, as construed by Grant, had to subjugate alternative knowledge forms produced in learning sites outside the control of those with disciplined and cultivated minds. If the "broad sunlight of education" were to be spread over the workers' miasma "of incoherent ideas," then adult education had to be organized. And the university would be the center, "the splendid fertilizing nucleus." Grant's constitution of adult education is neither innocent nor value-free. The call for "organized" (formal) adult education under the disciplinary eye of the trained tutor must, necessarily, exclude and delegitimate "unorganized" (nonformal/informal) learning. This tactic on the conceptual level is integral to the political struggle to ensure that the "perverted vision" of Bolshevism (now a symbol for dangerous learning) does not "widen itself to take in the whole country." Grant celebrated the British WEA--its historic links with Oxford--precisely because of its moderation. "The WEA," Grant opined, "is thus the educational side of the Labour Movement; a great school of Political Science for the working classes. . ." (p. 164). But the WEA, in Canada as in Britain, was only one of labor's schools, a good antidote to class struggle (Fieldhouse, 1987).

All the educators who supported the WEA insisted that the teaching be done by university professors. "It is the University, after all," declared Glazebrook (1921), "that contains the treasury of knowledge and the training in method that are required." This would be a matter of some controversy. Writing to Grant on October 13, 1921, classics professor, W. S. Milner, thought that the "success of the WEA as an educational ideal was seriously imperilled." The controversy, one of numerous to dog the WEA's path until its demise in the late 1940s, was over union activist James Ballantyne's desire to teach a course in Marxian economics. Though not denying the right of the university to deal with Marx, 'Milner thought it both unwise and absurd to exercise this right. How could the university support a teacher from the workers' own ranks? Despairing and disconsolate, Milner took his stand for the "culture of mind and spirit." The "unhappy truth," as he saw it, was that the WEA had "fallen into the hands of Labour that is more anxious for power than for culture, and that the spiritual force of the movement is on the ebb."

The WEA was, in fact, contested terrain throughout its history (Radforth & Sangster, 1987; Welton, 1986). Conflicting visions of adult education--its purpose and process--would be articulated by multiple voices. In the early years of the Association, a number of working men (like the Irishman Alf MacGowan of the International Typographical Union) believed that workers with more knowledge could help to improve the existing political and social system. They hoped it would be improved through a workers' educational movement that increased workers' understanding of political and social issues. These worker activists shared the academics' faith that truth could be examined in an unbiased way--the grand vision of the British WEA tutorial movement (Fieldhouse, 1985).

All agreed, too, that a technical education was not enough, and that workers needed access to a broader knowledge. Significantly, however, other workers emphasized the need for social justice and attacked the limitations of education in a class society and insisted on the social and collective purpose of the WEA. The redoubtable Winnipeg labor movement (a committee composed of J. S. Woods worth, A. W. Putee, Fred Dixon, A. A. Heaps, & Salem Bland) shared this latter conviction. In 1915 they had met with University of Manitoba Professor J. A. Dale to discuss the formation of a chapter of the WEA. From the start they were suspicious. The University of Manitoba, the committee claimed, was for the rich and provided only "scraps of knowledge" for workers. After the meeting the Winnipeg Trades and Labour Congress (TLC) decided not to support the WEA because they had to deal with professors who were in the grip of capitalist ideology. The WEA was unable to establish itself in Winnipeg until 1938. This mutual suspicion between the labor movement and the universities is one of the important subtexts in the history of Canadian, as well as global, workers' education.

In discussing this disparity of views, Radforth and Sangster (1987) observe:

Common language such as "education for citizenship" masked some very significant differences between the aims of the educationalists and those of the labor activists. The class differences of the two groups do much to explain the divergent meanings behind their words. On the one hand, the educationalists saw the WEA as, in part, an experiment in social control. They sought to use their positions as academics and intellectuals to maintain existing power relations in society. On the other hand, the labor activists hoped to further the cause of labor and to help redress the imbalance of power in society. These fundamental differences existed within the Association from the start. Inevitably, as time progressed, the underlying tensions would surface. (p. 78)

In 1922 the Canadian Forum noted that throughout Canada workers were "suspicious" of both the WEA and Frontier College. What was at the root of worker suspicion of Frontier College? Alfred Fitzpatrick, a disillusioned Presbyterian minister, organized the Reading Camp Association in 1899 (it would become Frontier College in 1919). For Fitzpatrick, the laissez-faire state of the late 19th and early 20th centuries had neglected the men working in isolated and wretched railway, lumbering, and mining camps (the "bunkhouse men"). Through silence and lack of intervention, the Canadian state legitimated the exploitation of the campmen's labor and their maintenance as uneducated wage-slaves. Nor did the trade unions pay any attention to these men. Continually calling on the state to intervene in deploying resources for neglected adult learners (his dominant metaphor), Fitzpatrick would be repeatedly rebuffed, despite his powerful moral argument that the state derived its funds from frontier industries.

In this text, The University in Overalls, Fitzpatrick (1923) described the origins of Frontier College as an educational mission to the bunkhouse men. Fitzpatrick's adult educational discourse is an unique mix of radical and conservative elements. He was appalled at the elitism of Canadian universities and criticized them for their ivory-tower separation from the real world of the hand. "Classes," he declared, "must be held, not only in the schools and universities, but in the shops, on the works, in the camps and fields and settlements of the frontier" (p. ix). The University of Toronto could hardly find the resources to run a few tutorial classes! In an eloquent chapter, "Education and the Frontier Camps," Fitzpatrick argued that the urban-based middle class had appropriated the labor of those toiling and sweating in the mines and camps. Their wealth production, he said, had endowed the resources used by the middle and upper class in the cities. Fitzpatrick castigated the philanthropists who endowed the colleges and ignored the "living and housing conditions of their own workers in the camp and mills." The task of educationalists was nothing less than "to devise ways and means of taking the school and college to the frontier" (p. 42). The men of the camps needed justice, not charity.

Fitzpatrick's educational vision is rooted in the social regenerative assumptions of late Victorian society (Cook, 1985). He argued that education was for all men and not for a privileged class alone. Appropriating Marx's notion of humanization through labor, but not his radical politics, Fitzpatrick--the early 20th century social gospeller--thought the solution to structurally rotted problems lay with the redemption of the individual through empathetic provision of basic adult education (literacy and citizenship training). This is a paternalistic and moralistic vision. Yet, Fitzpatrick stood outside the establishment with the voiceless and the mute, unlike the patrons of the Mechanics' Institutes and supporters of the Toronto WEA. His discourse was patronizing but spoken with a deeply humanistic accent. His social-gospel ideology moved him towards the neglected while simultaneously constraining his educational practice, repressing more overtly political education for social transformation and a nonconformist conception of citizenship.

But there can be no doubt that, like W. L. Grant and other early university supporters of the WEA, Fitzpatrick feared the "Bolsheviks." When strikes swept the camps in 1919, he contended that the laborer teachers' activities would determine whether the camps would produce "Lenins or Lincolns" (Cook, 1987, p. 47). Working under the banner, "Welfare- Instruction-Canadianizing- Leadership," the laborer-teachers' objectives were: (a) To educate the worker and give him a fighting chance, (b) to educate and citizenize [sic] the immigrant, and (c) to meet the

"Red agitator" on his own ground. Fitzpatrick emerged from the social dislocation and political ferment of the War more convinced than ever that the laborer-teacher could exercise a moral-redemptive influence on the "dangerous foreigners" (Avery, 1979).

Fitzpatrick seemed to believe that with a little education, a camp worker would cease his "evil" habits. He envisioned his Reading Camp instructors as models of "staunch Canadians," inculcating Anglo-Canadian and Protestant values. Thus, with some education and paternalistic guidance from the "right" sector of society (he recruited middle-class university students), not only would the campmen's lives be improved, but this achievement would help stabilize the social order. Fitzpatrick, in spite of his humanism, instrumentalized adult education in the interests of social harmony.

Linking Fitzpatrick's commitment to "Canadianize," the "red scare," and the labor movement, Donald A very speculates that organizations like Frontier College aggravated the immigrants' sense of their own cultural identification. Shunned or patronized by traditional nativist institutions, alienated immigrant workers turned to groups who sought to transform Canadian society through revolution--the IWW, OBU, and Canadian Communist Party (Avery, 1979).

Frontier College's educational radicalism and political conservatism represents a distinct form of adult educational discourse in the decades of discord. Fitzpatrick challenged the conventional educational wisdom of the day. Canadian universities were small, inward-looking institutions with rigid academic requirements, and the Extension movement (with the possible exception of the University of Alberta) was pathetic and forlorn. While more radical political voices would surely have contested Fitzpatrick's attempt to contain rebellious knowledge, they would have been sympathetic to his call that the workers be offered bread and not stones.




1. The struggles of workers in the turbulent decades of discord can be viewed as a contest between supporters of conflicting visions of what constitutes valid enlightenment, empowerment, and transformative action. A multiplicity of labor's schools offered their vision of the purpose of adult education in a society viewed as essentially conflictual. Outside labor's schools, adult educators offered their vision of adult education in a society viewed as essentially harmonious (though momentarily divided).

2. "Adult education" does not have an essence; competing discourses struggle with one another for hegemony. Adult education is always both normative and descriptive, and does not mean the same thing to everyone.

3. Particular discursive practices are intimately bound up with social power and control. Adult education discourse sets the limits of what counts as authentic educational practice. This theorem seems borne out in our analysis of how the legitimate and authoritative formal educational institutions (University Extension and WE A) attempted to constitute their particular discourse as normative. The success of this maneuver to establish discursive hegemony is bound up with the power relations of the society--the ability of the dominant order to block/manage, coercively and conceptually, the autonomous contestatory learning processes erupting in a multiplicity of learning sites (work place, community, trade union, political party, newspaper, etc.).

4. While a simplistic social control model of the WEA or University Extension is inadequate to grasp the complexities of workers' education, the extension metaphor signals a move on the part of the dominant order to manage and constrain knowledge and action that threatens social order.




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