UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The right to adult education or adults' right to education? : a framework for a fair and just post-compulsory education Pulvermacher, Andrew


For adults, education ought not be conceived of as a system of common beginnings, common waypoints, and common ends. In this thesis, I engage in ideal theorizing to defend a fair and just conception of education in a pluralistic democracy, inclusive and supportive of adults’ own widely varied and equally worthwhile reasons for participation. In chapter one, I analyse current frameworks of lifelong learning and adult education, determining that both are premised on insufficient aims for a fair and just system of post-compulsory education. They engage in ideological circularity, viewing education as providing chances at success and promoting distribution of it according to adults’ supposed deservingness of additional chances and the assumed concomitant external, labour-market rewards. In chapter two, I show how conceptual analysis at the intersection of political philosophy and philosophy of education can help conceive of Rawlsian principles of justice that ought to scaffold a system of public post-compulsory education for adults. I determine that when we recognize adults’ substantive status as full and equal citizens, we arrive at two principles that support a framework of educational justice as fairness. In chapters three and four, I substantivize these principles, determining that the kind of equality this framework underscores is not defined by supposedly measurable outcomes of equal social position, but by the matter of an education compelled by the equal liberty assured by citizens’ equal political status in society. Therefore, first, I propose the conception of relational autonomy required to substantiate citizens’ equal liberty in a pluralistic society. Second, I show that in a pluralistic democratic society, equal liberty arises from a social ethos in which citizens support each other’s mutual recognition, self-respect, and dignity in a society of equals. Without the liberty to shape and reshape who we are, we cannot be said to be free, and it is through citizens’ shared interests in ensuring this liberty for each other that we establish a sense of belonging in a shared and pluralistic civic community. Finally, in chapter five, I discuss the potential distributive implications of this framework for state-level policy, post-compulsory educational institution-level policy, and just relational practices for teaching adults.

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