In her novel Red Wolf, the Swedish crime writer Liza Marklund bumps off a character who lives in the far northern region of Norrbotten. Margit Axelsson, a one-time Maoist revolutionary in the 60s, now makes a living by teaching ceramics to adults in the remote town of Piteå.
Marklund portrays Swedish adult education, at least as carried out by the Arbetarnas bildningsförbund (AFB, or WEA), as an extension of Margit’s beliefs:
The Workers’ Educational Association had always believed that those who had received the fewest of society’s resources should be compensated through education, cultural activities, and opportunities. he regarded it as jjstice applied in the educational and cultural sphere.
Study groups were a lesson in democracy. They took as their starting point the belief that every inividual has the capacity and desire to develop themselves, to exert influence and take responsibility, that every ndividual is a resource.
And she saw how the members grew, youing and old alike. Whwen they learned to handle the clay and the glazes their self-confidence grew, their understanding of the opinions of others, and, with that, their ability to actively influence what went on in the society around them.
It all ends badly for Margit, but isn’t it interesting to see an author set out such a clear analysis of the wider effects of adult learning? I have no way of knowing whether the study circles of the Arbetarnas bildningsförbund really do have these effects, but I hope so.