Equity, Social Justice and Adult Education and Learning Policy
8-10 June 2017
University of Verona, Polo Zanotto, Viale Università, 2, 37129 Verona VR
Social and economic crises are experienced collectively at both national and international levels, not least in those countries and world regions with growth models anchored in neoliberal principles (e.g. privatization, free trade, deregulation and fiscal austerity). In Europe, state and regional responses to the last global financial crisis point to a renewed reliance on adult skills as the panacea. In the meantime, the exacerbation of religious conflicts, extremisms and warfare worldwide has pushed an ever-increasing number of citizens to escape poor economic conditions, political crisis and war to seek alternative life prospects in Europe and elsewhere. Under these circumstances, both research and public knowledge have highlighted the long-term evolution of inequalities, a concentration of wealth, the limits of social solidarity, and the fragility of social cohesion. These challenge existing growth models, and call for ontological shifts in public policy to reconcile economic growth, equity and social justice.
The aim of the 2017 ESREA Policy Studies conference is to explore equity and social justice concerns in relation to adult education and learning policies. How far – given cultural, ethno-racial, linguistic, religious and sexual diversity – do these support or hamper the conditions for a fair redistribution of resources and the full recognition of rights?
Borrowing a metaphor from Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible cities (1974), the landscape of adult education and learning can be seen as comprising multiple configurations of space and time: visible cities that operate in the full glare of policies and dominant knowledge; clandestine and invisible places that move in urban and suburban areas, at the edge and in the interstices of dominant regimes of justification and recognition; and submerged worlds awaiting an archaeology of practices. Taken together, these configurations of space and time incorporate the principles, criteria and (different and sometime competing) discourses of equity and social justice. In a continuing game, visible cities put invisible places and submerged worlds into the shadows, thus marginalizing certain configurations of space and time, and their organizing principles – or leading them to be entirely forgotten.
In these circumstances it is of critical importance to study what models of equity and social justice are embedded in adult education and learning policy at local, national and international levels, in Europe and beyond. Likewise it is important to recognise the utopian nature of universal equity and social justice. All of which urges us to bring about a political “utopia in everyday life.” This conception, introduced by the Italian-born adult educator Ettore Gelpi, suggests paying equal attention to all those utopias that contribute to altering orthodox socio-economic and power relations through the day-to-day activity of social actors who operate in visible cities, invisible places and submerged worlds.