I have been enough of a nuisance to my MP and the minister for universities to get a real reply to one of my letters on adult education instead of a stock answer. For that I am proud, it is just that the response was a continued defence of the indefensible. Oh well...
One of the later paragraphs was interesting.
Although we are clear that it is right, as far as public funding is concerned, for the Government to prioritise 'formal' education to enable people to increase their skills and gain better jobs, with first time students coming first for public funding, informal adult learning also has a vital role in shaping our country.
In other words, the government has abandoned the idea of a universal adult education service. Instead they are only prepared to fund a first chance education system "to enable people to increase their skills and get better jobs" - not to develop as human beings, not for social and therapeutic needs, not to empower themselves and their communities, not to tackle the inequalities of an increasingly rigid class system; just to get a better job. What a limited vision of something so potentially limitless.
The mention of informal learning is important. There must be some anxiety at the loss of one million four hundred thousand students from adult education in a little over two years. Phew! It is OK, the proles are learning from the TV and the Internet so we don't have to fund it. And just in case let's have a consultation so we can shape it. Cheeky gits. If you ain't going to fund it you have no right to try and control it. It is time to reinvent the auto-didact and self-help tradition. Whilst the freedom that brings from increasingly stifling bureaucracy is liberating, I worry that, however worthy institutions like the U3A are, they are also socially exclusive.
I find it all very depressing that a system that has been developed over generations is being dismantled, but I don't know for whom to weep most; adult education or the Labour Party.