Radical Adult Education Where You’d Least Expect It: ABCA 1941-45

You can listen to Colin’s excellent talk by clicking here

Here is a selection of interviews conducted with people who served in the ABCA 1941-45 from the University of Sussex Archives

Saturday 14th September 2019
Radical Adult Education Where You’d Least Expect It: ABCA 1941-45   Speaker: Colin Waugh
The Army Bureau of Current Affairs is mainly known for its alleged contribution to the 1945 Labour landslide. However it was also an extremely radical experiment in adult education. Constructed by the ‘radical general’ Ronald Adam & his civilian adviser W. E. Williams, the originator of Pelican Books & later of the Arts Council, & based on a critique of the tutorial class method that had become traditional in the WEA, it set out to engage the highest possible proportion of the army’s three million conscripts in lively discussion, both of how the war was being conducted & of current affairs more generally. To do this it trained many thousands of junior officers in how to conduct genuinely open discussions, as well as producing stimulus material in the form of booklets & maps that still look modern today. Extensive use was also made of drama & film. All this was done in the teeth of opposition from senior politicians & sections of the army high command. At the end of the war, attempts were made to extend approaches developed within ABCA to civilian adult & further education.

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