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Adult Education During The Industrial Revolution History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

The purpose of this paper is to highlight five influential factors that contributed to the development of adult education in the United States during the Industrial Revolution. Discussion will begin with the American Model of University Extension including the concepts developed by William Harper and Charles Van Hise, and the role they played in the development of extension education. Next in discussion will be women’s rights highlighting a few female role models and their contribution to the push for women’s freedoms and education. Education for work, details the demand for education as America shifted from the Antebellum era into the fast pace era of the Industrial age, followed by a discussion on how the U.S. Department of Agriculture campaigned to improve agriculture in the south. This paper will conclude with African American Adults and how after becoming freed slaves they began the journey of education.

American Model of University Extension

According to Stubblefield and Keane (1994), in 1887 Herbert Baxter Adams, professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, gave a speech at the convention of the American Library Association that inspired the creation of the American lecture programs. The American lecture programs were modeled after the English University extension program. Moreover in 1891, the American Society for the Extension of University Teaching held a conference to promote extension activities which led to the private and state universities involvement in extension. Furthermore, in 1885 the University of Wisconsin developed the farmers’ institute. In 1892 William Rainey Harper, the president of the University of Chicago, implemented correspondence classes and off-campus courses to further the development of extension education. In addition, in the beginning of the twentieth century, academic scholars worked to promote extension services with the belief that knowledge was essential to progress. In 1915, Charles Van Hise, president of the University of Wisconsin, created the concept of combining culture, vocation and research information to be the major focus of the extension services. Further, he believed it was the duty of the extension services to inform and educate everyone in the country (Stubblefield and Keane, 1994).

Women’s Rights

The Industrial Revolution was the beginning for women’s independence which changed the lives of women when factories began to hire women. Women were often paid less than men but were expected to perform the same type of work (Tilly, 1994). The reasons factory owners preferred women to men workers was because of the pay and labor. Valenze (1995) stated, “Factory owners preference for female labor was based not only on its cheapness: many women assumed the yoke of hard labor in the factories without complaint, and this fostered the widespread opinion that female workers were more docile, and therefore less likely to cause trouble than men.” Because of women fighting for rights and receiving them, in 1893 there was a week-long celebration of the World Congress of Representative Women at the Chicago World Fair which attracted almost 150,000 people (Stubblefield and Keane, 1994). Some women contributed to improving situations for the working class. Role models such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Elizabeth Blackwell, who were all well-known for their involvement in the women’s rights movement, opened the doors of opportunity in education and occupation for women of today. Without their perseverance women could still possibly be extremely limited in career opportunities and unable to do the things that they take pleasure in and benefit from.

Education for Work

Transitions from the Antebellum Era to the Industrial era brought on new challenges in more ways than economics, technology, and farming; the need for educational changes was taken place as well. During the Industrial era manufacturing was at a high with new innovations such as textile plants, therefore vocational education was on the rise. Vocational education was a shift from a reliance on natural resources to a reliance on human resources and the skilled workforce (Stubblefield and Keane, 1994). In 1917 the Hughes Act backed the idea that industrial education should be taught in public schools along with home economics and several courses geared towards the changing era. An increase in student participation in the classroom rose from 86 % in 1919 to 92% within five years. Adults also sought out training through private trade schools and apprenticeships studies. Adults who were unable to attend were often offered education via correspondence study. The largest and most well known correspondence school was located in Scranton Pennsylvania which enrolled over two million students between 1892 and 1920 (Stubblefield and Keane, 1994). Despite the setback of some schools trying to exploit their students to gain a buck, employers who had established apprenticeship programs also taught their students the value, integrity and or hard work.


The Department of Agriculture provided an institute method of teaching by offering lectures and farming classes to the local farmers. While the institute method of teaching covered a lot of material there was no sure way to determine if the knowledge received from the farmers was actually going to be implemented in their every day farming techniques (Stubblefield and Keane, 1994). Not only was it rooted in the survival of the population, agriculture was also an essential source of raw materials for the textile business. In 1887, the federal government made the experiment station a national institution through the Hatch Act, which granted each state $15,000 per year to assist in the aid of agricultural education. By 1900, the adult farming school was accepted as part of the education of rural adults. In 1902, Seaman Knapp, a special agent for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), was in charge of the campaign to improve agriculture in the south and he set up a local farmer for success by using his farm as a demonstration point on the effects of agricultural education has on farming (Stubblefield and Keane, 1994). In doing so he eased the minds of the hesitant farmers and opened their eyes to new farming methods which reassured them that innovation was a positive thing. In 1904, Knapp accepted African Americans as demonstrators and cooperators of farming, and in 1906, he teamed up with the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama (Stubblefield and Keane, 1994). Wool and cotton production for the making of cloth increased each year, as well as the yield of food crops. Marketing and production provided enough food to continue an adequate work force.

African American Adults

Post Civil War left the country in disarray and a lot of uncertainty when it came to the issue of slaves making the transition over to freedom. There was not a plan for changeover which left a lot of free blacks without jobs and an education. In 1865, the Freedmen’s Bureau began a reshaping by General Howard to better suit the educational needs of freed slaves. The bureau selected several groups and societies to begin educational development; the American Missionary Association focused on assisting blacks in their transition from slaves to free people. The Missionary established schools that were dedicated solely to the educational development of blacks where they also began training blacks to be educators themselves. The intent was to produce enough qualified teachers who would educate other freed blacks. The end state was to hopefully encourage blacks to pursue careers to be lawyers, teachers, doctors, or preachers (The American Missionary Association, n.d.). Even though the Freedmen’s Bureau was disbanded in 1872 and blacks were on their own so to speak, the education that blacks received for that seven year span was instrumental in the continued drive for higher education.

Just as the rest of the country was adapting to the new industrial methods, farmers overcame the corporate domination with the help of the Grange and Farmers Alliances. Women took a stand for what they believed was right, and freed slaves were receiving an education to help in their transition. The purpose of this paper was to highlight five influential factors that contributed to the development of adult education in the United States during the Industrial Revolution. They were the American Model of University women’s rights, education for work, agriculture and African American Adults.

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