POLITICAL ADULT EDUCATION: A STUDY OF COMMUNITY LEGAL EDUCATION IN ONE MAJOR CITY

LORRAINE C MARX-SINGER, Fordham University

Abstract

This study examined a form of political adult education called community legal education. These programs, designed to inform people about their legal rights and how to assert them, are conducted through government-funded legal services offices.^ Eight community legal education programs were studied in one large Northeastern city, using surveys, interviews, and participant-observation. Grounded theory methodology was used to generate categories and properties from the data and subsequently build theory.^ The significant findings were: project directors in six out of eight programs made unilateral decisions concerning CLE programs. (This generated the director category of authority conservation.) In five programs the legal staff that implemented CLE lacked pedagogic expertise; and expressed little interest in developing these skills, because these were not within their professional role expectations. (This generated the category of legal professionalism.) In seven programs, community representatives, although asked to participate in program planning, and on boards, felt confused about their roles (the property of role ambiguity within the category local control). In six programs, resource allocation for these educational projects was miniscule.^ Although two programs had developed institutionalized CLE, the major category to emerge from the study was the marginality of CLE in legal services offices.^ However, because large funding cuts in legal services have reduced abilities to meet the legal needs of clients, CLE is now regarded as a necessary alternative to individual representation. Although it currently occupies a secondary status in these programs, directors and staff members are interested in finding ways to expand its role and function.^ The findings of the study led to a number of recommendations for improving CLE practice. These included: hiring full-time, professional CLE coordinators for local offices and one central coordinator for each region; conducting community legal needs assessments; increasing community participation; recruiting and training members of the community as CLE staff; integrating CLE more effectively with traditional legal services practice; orienting legal services lawyers in adult education theory and practice, and involving the staff in CLE decision-making.^ General recommendations included: expanding CLE through developing local government and private funding sources, forming permanent links with local adult education programs and building a strong and diverse CLE constituency. ^

Subject Area

Education, Adult and Continuing

Recommended Citation

LORRAINE C MARX-SINGER, "POLITICAL ADULT EDUCATION: A STUDY OF COMMUNITY LEGAL EDUCATION IN ONE MAJOR CITY" (January 1, 1985). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8508122.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8508122

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