Background of the California Adult Education Oral History Project


Adult education in California has a proud history of helping its citizens to meet the challenges of life in a huge, complex, multicultural state. Through the years, California adult educators have provided leadership to the nation in the development of innovative instructional practices and creative educational solutions.

The California Adult Education Oral History Project began in 1992 as a companion to a print history of adult education commissioned by the California Department of Education. The print history was published in 1995 as Meeting the Challenge: A History of Adult Education from the Beginnings to the 1990s . The oral history project started with five leaders whose careers began in the 1950's and 1960's and who witnessed and influenced important events in the development of the nation's largest adult education program. Seven interviews were added in 1994 – 95, six in 1995 – 96, four in 1998 – 99, five in 2001, and two in 2005.

The careers of the twenty-nine interviewees, twenty men and nine women, span seventy years of adult education in California. The participants represent the varying professional roles, organizations, and geography that comprise our state's diverse adult education programs. Included are teachers, administrators, program coordinators, federal project directors, and leaders of professional organizations. Even the unique perspectives of a board member and a student are included. The interviewees worked in a variety of settings--large, medium, and small public school adult programs in all parts of the state, and four community colleges. The rich ethnic diversity of California is represented.

The 2001 group featured the viewpoints on California adult education of two leaders from the U.S. Department of Education. The 2005 group featured two successful adult education students who reached their goals as a result of adult education and includes interviews with their mentors.

The original interviews were done on sound cassettes, all of which have been transcribed and indexed. PDF files of the transcripts are available on this Web site, as are combined subject and name indexes. The original cassette tapes and transcripts are deposited at the Oral History Archives, California State University, Fullerton, and copies may be purchased from CSU Fullerton. The tapes were transferred to reel to reel format or DVD format and deposited with transcripts in the California State Archives. Copies of the cassette tapes and transcripts are also in the California Adult Education Archives at the Sacramento County Office of Education, Outreach and Technical Assistance Network.

List of Oral History Interviewees

There are three sponsors of the California Adult Education Oral History Project:

  • The California Department of Education, Adult Education Office;
  • The Center for Oral and Public History, California State University, Fullerton; and
  • The California State Archives.