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Vocational Education beyond Skill Formation

VET between Civic, Industrial and Market Tensions


Edited By Fernando Marhuenda-Fluixá

Vocational education and training has played an important role in the struggles between Work and Capital along history and today; there are examples of such tensions worldwide. The first section of this book provides illustrations of different countries from the 18th to the early 20th century. The authors explain and exemplify the education of the workforce and its political engagement, contributing to the formation of the working class. The chapters provide relevant approaches to how young apprentices and adult workers developed a class consciousness through vocational education. The second section illustrates practices of resistance and transformation within policies and practices of vocational education nowadays in Central and Southern Europe and South America, addressing the needs of people with disabilities and dispossessed populations. The final section analyses how theories and policies intertwine resulting in the idiosyncrasy of vocational education practices across the world, through tensions between logics and institutional actors. The book addresses the political dimensions of Vocational Education and problematizes its mere consideration as an instrumental tool in skill formation.

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Citizenship, Workers Education and Radical Activism in Early 20th Century United States (Kenneth Teitelbaum)


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Citizenship, Workers’ Education and Radical Activism in Early 20th Century United States1

1.  Introduction

If vocational education can be taken to involve “preparing people to perform successfully in the workplace” (Bailey 2010b, p. 928), then it surely is the case that its roots can be traced back thousands of years, involving apprenticeships of various kinds. By the mid-19th century, however, more formal educational programming seemed necessary in the United States to prepare workers for the challenges of the new industrial order. Starting with the manual training movement, which was influenced by the work of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi in Switzerland and Victor Della Vos in Russia, for well over a century educators, politicians and business leaders in the United States have debated the nature of vocational education and its place in the curriculum (Kliebard 1999, 2004). Put simply, to what extent should education for success in the workplace focus narrowly on the understandings and skills that prepare workers to adapt (adjust, fit in) most readily to the expectations (skills, understandings and dispositions) of their occupation? To what extent should current and prospective workers be provided with a more well-rounded education that includes critical thinking about their work and workplace and preparation to live meaningful, fulfilling lives as active (knowledgeable and skilled) participants in the larger (democratic) society? Indeed, should interests in citizenship and liberal education directly bear on what comprises vocational (or work, trade, or industrial) education, and if...

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