Education: Giant Classroom

One Friday night in 1727, a group of prominent citizens met in Philadelphia for a high-minded purpose. They wanted to form a club for "mutual improvement," and, as Ben Franklin tells it. decided to meet once a week to discuss "queries on any point of morals, politics, or natural philosophy." In a sense, Ben Franklin's group anticipated what has now become a national craze—the wholesale rush of Americans into adult education.

This week some 1,500 educators, editors, politicians and poets gathered in Chicago from all over the U.S. to talk about that craze. But...

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