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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An examination of the concept of community development as discerned through selected literature in the adult education movement in Canada and the United States, 1919-1960 Pyrch, Timothy


This study examines the origins and the evolution of the community development concept in the Canadian and American adult education movement as discerned through selected literature in the period 1919-60. The concept is defined as the combination of adult learning and social action aiming to educate the citizens for collective co-operative enterprises in local control of local affairs. The study was undertaken in order to explain a fundamental concept in the movement. The historical method of investigation is employed. The community development concept in the adult education movement is identified, described, and analysed chronologically, and the main areas of thought and debate that produced the concept are explained thematically. The evidence used in this study was obtained from a systematic study of the adult education literature relying in large part on Canadian and American adult education journals. This was a single archive study in that all sources used are housed in University of British Columbia libraries. Another limitation was the total reliance on the written word. It was learned that the origins of the concept lie in the early years of the movement when adult educators searched for a guide for general social improvement in Canada and the United States. The concept was a product of four themes or subjects of thought—adult education for social improvement, the nature of community, the value of socio-economic co-operation, and the relationship between education and social action. The concept evolved from a general notion in the thirties into a specific method of adult education in the late fifties. It was a recurring theme because many adult educators perceived voluntary co-operative action as the democratic way to get people involved in participating in social change processes during the rapid and broad socio-economic changes that typified the period under review. The concept was controversial particularly in the thirties and in the fifties. An emphasis on the collective versus the individual and a stress on the active involvement in social change versus the neutrality in social change created incompatible divisions in the movement. This study concludes that the issues associated with the community development concept in the adult education movement will recur because the values involved are fundamental in the search for an improved quality of life through adult education.

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