The Pursuit of Knowledge Under Difficulties: From Self-Improvement to Adult Education in America, 1750-1990

This book traces the history of adult education in America from its roots in the popular tradition of self-improvement, to present day education outside a college or university setting. The author persuasively links developments in the realm of popular self-improvement to cultural and social forces, and explores the reasons why ordinary citizens turned to the cultivation of knowledge. He aims to unravel the knotted connections between education and society, by focusing on the voluntary pursuit of knowledge on the part of those who were both older and more likely to be gainfully employed than the school-age popoulation. By emphasising the importance of audiences, he sheds new light on the reasons for the shift from ideal of culture (as defined by Matthew Arnold) to such typical twentieth-century motifs as vocational education and public service.