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Patch Blog: Why I Fight for Adult Community Education

Luis Lopez is president of Los Angeles' East Area Planning Commission and candidate for the 51st Assembly District, representing Northeast L.A. For more information, visit lopezforassembly.com

More than 50 years later, you can still feel the uncertainty of those times in my father’s voice as he recalls it. He came to Los Angeles speaking only Spanish, by way of the peach orchards of northern California. The city was an immense puzzle to a 22-year-old Mexican immigrant. The richest country in the world, he found, could accept the labor of immigrants with a greedy hand and a stingy heart.

That is, until he made his way to an adult community school. There, in the East L.A. neighborhood where he settled and where he soon met the woman who would become my mother, the face this nation showed my dad began to change. And that is why the current threat to eliminate—not to cut, but to eliminate—adult community education in Los Angeles hits so close to home. It is a betrayal of our history, and our long-term investment. It is wrong. And together we must turn it back.

In 1959, my father found his way into a nighttime and weekend program for English learners in a public high school. The teachers showed him patience. They showed him respect. And they showed him the primers used to educate the first and second graders of that era, when Dick and Jane and Spot were vehicles for the rules and cadence of a new and complex language.

My dad made the most of the program. He stayed in for as long as he could before a new job carried him too far from school to return. It was a few years before he accomplished a major rite of passage for immigrant men of his era: buying his first American car. He courted and married my mother, a fellow immigrant from Mexico. He rented his first home in unincorporated East L.A., to which, years later, they brought me home from the hospital.

But the learning that occurred in that school, in the few hours away from toil that my father knew in those years, started a ripple through his life and my own. It was there that my father attained a basic familiarity with English that helped him land jobs in tool and die machine shops, taking orders in English and completing complicated metal millwork. It’s also where he absorbed a lesson he passed on to me: That going back to school is a point of pride, and that people are poised to help us gain the training we need if only we ask and seek them out.

On that second lesson, no one—not our school district, not our state, not our country—should ever undermine that faith in the availability of basic education. We cannot reward today’s seekers of training with padlocked doors unless we are prepared to pay the higher toll for dreams denied: social dependency, shelters, law enforcement, and incarceration. Adult community education is simply part of the social contract we cannot afford to renege on.

And I challenge my peers, who reaped the benefits of our immigrant parents, who are the keepers of our families’ stories: Will we stand for closing off another pathway of opportunity that made our lives possible? Or will we stand up for reopening that path so that the adult students of today and tomorrow can pursue it?

I know where I stand. That’s why I join in protests Tuesday demanding restoration of LAUSD funds for adult community education in Los Angeles. And it’s why I will not give up until we renew our city’s and our state’s commitment to funding and delivering quality public education for all.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

DavidH February 14, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Thank you for standing up for adult education Mr. Lopez!
Susan R February 15, 2012 at 03:51 PM
We desparately need adult educatoin. With LAUSD having a 50% drop out rate we need a place for adults to return to school to finsih their education.
Monty Washington February 15, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Susan, so if they can't educate kids, we should also have them try to educate adults? How about we work on the educating kids part first. It's great that your father made use of the school to educate himself and integrate into American society- another success story- but why is it that to some, the ONLY place learning happens is in a classroom? Many people learn English without a classroom- my mother and my wife among them. I'm sure your father's desire to find a place for himself meant even if there were no adult school, he would have found a charitable organization offering classes, or would have self taught, and still become a successful and productive member of our American society. If it truly is the place of the public education system to educate adults, why is that happening at the local school district level, instead of at the community college level? Isn't educating adults what they're for?
Stephanie Widmer February 15, 2012 at 09:01 PM
What a beautiful article! Thank you for sharing!
Susan R February 16, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Just for clarificaton Monty is talking about Luis Lopez's father. Community colleges do not help adults get their high school diploma's. Many Occupational Center's do. Yes, it is better to educate the kids in school so they do not have to go to an adult high school. But that is not happening. So, high school drop outs need a place to finish their high school diploma or get their GED.
Bill H February 19, 2012 at 11:02 PM
The thing is that educating the parents goes a long way in instilling their kids with the value of education, good study habits and is very effective at curbing early dropout rates. The adult schools have satellite sites all throughout the community for ease of access for those with limited transportation options, especially the mothers of K-12 students. Many of those classes are situated directly inside elementary and middle schools, welcomed with open arms by their principals, who know the direct positive effects their presence will have on the success of the children. Community colleges do not have the history, the same orientation towards the children of the students, nor do they have the extensive number of accessible sites as LA's adult school system. Also, importantly, adult schools provide these services to the community at a fraction of the cost that community colleges could.
Julie Carson February 21, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Adult schools have a long history here - they were first started (in the mid 1800's in California; in 1887 in Los Angeles) so immigrants could learn the language and assimilate into their new country. Also - years ago K-12 & Community colleges were part of the same district. When the CC split off into their own district, some of them took the adult education portion with them (like Pasadena, Glendale, San Diego & San Francisco - it's called "non-credit" there), but most adult education services (language acquisition, basic skills, GED/High School Diploma, career tech ed) stayed with the K-12 districts, as it is here in Los Angeles. We have an obligation to maintain these educational services for adults.
Monty Washington February 22, 2012 at 11:45 AM
So there are districts where this is done by community colleges. Given LAUSD's manifold problems, it seems a better model than to keep it within LAUSD. That's my main point. And yes, thank you for clarifying for me Susan, I was indeed referring to the original post.
Robert D. Skeels February 23, 2012 at 06:42 AM
Glad to see right-wing reactionaries here bashing our local school district and demonstrating they know nothing of pedagogy. Adult education returns far more to the community than it costs, but those with glib and uninformed commentary above wouldn't be astute enough to look into that.
Monty Washington February 23, 2012 at 08:08 AM
Nothing like ad hominem, knee-jerk reactions to bolster your side of the argument. No, as a teacher, I'd know nothing about pedagogy. If you read the comments, I never said I was completely against adult education, I simply questioned it's being wise to be under LAUSD, and thought it a worthy exercise to consider other options. I didn't mean to be confusing with complexity and nuance, and my not mindlessly towing the party line. Some of us believe that exploring the possibilities is itself an exercise in pedagogy, whereas being nailed to a secular theology is limiting, but some enjoy that sort of thing.
Susan R March 09, 2012 at 04:28 PM
They have been trying for years and years to educate kids. When do they stop trying and start doing? Any good company or organization would stop and look at what is working and what is not and re-evaluate what they are doing. Right now the unions are stopping that from happening. They want the status quo. There are lots of procedures that are out of date. Yet the school administrations and paper pushers are unwilling to change.
Euphronia Awakuni March 17, 2012 at 05:14 AM
Adult education touches all of us. Everyone in Los Angeles is the descendent of relative, friend, co-worker or employer of someone who has taken adult education classes. The people who benefit from adult education are a big part of our community. If 247,000 students, whose needs cannot be met at community colleges, don't receive the education they need, it will severely negatively affect our whole city.. Thank you Mr. Lopez for posting this. I think many people have stories like yours.
Monty Washington June 07, 2012 at 11:17 AM
"Everyone in Los Angeles is the descendent of relative, friend, co-worker or employer of someone who has taken adult education classes." Euphronia, if you're to live up to the meaning of your name, you should realize that with such a broad brush, you could replace "someone who has taken adult education classes" with "murderer" and it would still be correct. It's not an argument, it's a feel good, but meaningless statement. No one is arguing that adult education isn't a good, just that the way LAUSD is doing it might not be worth it, and that there might be better paths.

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