Thursday, 12 September 2013
THE WEA - MORE RELEVANT NOW THAN EVER AND STILL FUN
Image from here
WEA tutors and those who wanted to enrol on one or more of a myriad of adult educational courses met last week at the Friends Meeting House in Lincoln.
My courses in creative writing and crime and mystery literature begin next week in Gainsborough and Boston and I can't wait. Summer has been long, glorious and fun, but the joy doesn't end with the holidays when you work for the WEA. It is a delightful organisation with a long and prestigious history in educating people who may be unable to access learning elsewhere - or cannot afford to do so.
An educational charity founded in 1903, it aimed to bring learning and some form of equality to the poor working classes at a time when not everyone went to school. Children left education early to become breadwinners in disadvantaged households who didn't see the value in schooling when going down mines, working on railways or in factories, at least put money on the table at the time it was much needed.
Today, as students can still be in a learning environment into adulthood, the WEA is not only just as relevant to the cause of educational equality as it ever was, but more so as cuts bite into the social fabric of modern society and further and higher educational institutions become businesses with high fees limited to students who can afford to study or can afford to get into debt.
Former chair of the Trustees of the WEA, (Workers' Educational Association) Richard Taylor, has written an in depth piece about the modern role of the charity HERE and it is well worth a read.
He says : "As our society becomes more unequal so it is also apparent that the WEA's social purpose ethos is more relevant and important than ever. There are now increasing numbers of people trapped in cycles of deprivation. Government cuts to local authorities, the voluntary sector and social services are severely exacerbating these problems. The WEA provides a valuable and very varied programme of targeted work with some of these communities.
"Lastly, it is increasingly important for the WEA to preserve and advocate the voluntarist ethic. Education is being increasingly bureaucratised and structured (and in recent years imbued with neoliberal ideology and practice). The WEA's voluntarism bucks the trend and sets an example for others to follow.
"As much as at any time in its history, the WEA has a central, vital role to play. Its educational provision and ethos are unique; and it has potentially an important role to play in buttressing and developing a truly democratic society."
In short, the WEA teaches people to embrace and enjoy learning, to think and analyse for themselves, and to take up as many opportunities as they can to further their interests or ambitions. Certainly my adult students come to courses because they enjoy it, they like to think and analyse, it gives them new skills and helps to develop existing ones, and they leave feeling more empowered, and I hope enthused, by what they have learned and the journey we take each session over our 10 weeks per term.
Anyone who wants more information about the local courses put on by the Lincolnshire WEA can find the brochure at this link. More news about the WEA generally can be found HERE