Unseen roots and unfolding flowers? Prison learning, equality and the education of socially excluded groups



Galloway S (2021) Unseen roots and unfolding flowers? Prison learning, equality and the education of socially excluded groups. British Educational Research Journal, 47 (5), pp. 1416-1433.

The objective of this theoretical article is to critique the notion that adult education, in its current marketised formations, might serve the purpose of rehabilitating learners. To date there has been no detailed interrogation by educationalists of the desirability of rehabilitation as an overarching aim for prison education, or to consider the existing educational philosophies that notions of rehabilitation might cohere with. This article begins to address this gap by engaging with the idea of rehabilitation from a critical adult education perspective. The conceptual framework informing the analysis is critical adult education theory, drawing tangentially on the work of Raymond Williams. The overarching assumption is that education might be understood as the practice of equality, which I employ alongside conceptualisations of empowering adult literacies learning as drawn from writings in the field of New Literacies Studies (NLS). These approaches enable the critique of criminological theory associated with prison learning, alongside the critique of assumptions traceable to NLS. The analysis focuses more specifically on Scotland’s prison system, where the criminological theory of ‘desistance’ currently holds some sway. I observe that whilst perspectives of criminologists and educationists draw upon similar sociological assumptions and underpinnings, different conclusions are inferred about the purpose and practice of adult learning. Here criminologists' conceptualisations tend to neglect power contexts, instead inferring educational practices associated typically with early years education. I also demonstrate the importance of equality in the context of adult education, if educators are to take responsibility for the judgements they make in relation to the education of socially excluded groups.

adult education; equality; prisoners; rehabilitation

British Educational Research Journal: Volume 47, Issue 5

Publication date31/10/2021
Publication date online04/06/2021
Date accepted by journal05/05/2021

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Dr Sarah Galloway

Dr Sarah Galloway

Lecturer, Education