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Increasingly, the provision of adult education (including literacy and training programs) is influenced by a rhetoric of workforce development that tasks education with closing a supposed ‘skills gap’ between the skills that workers have and what employers are looking for. This deficit model of education blames adult learners for their own condition, as well as for larger problems in the economy. In addition to arguing for broader goals for adult education, those in the field also need to question the economic premises of this rhetoric. A review of current economic conditions points to fundamental aspects of capitalism as the source of instability, which means that education and training programs have a limited ability to move large numbers of people out of poverty. For this reason, students and teachers in adult education should focus on developing structural analyses of the situation and push for substantive changes in the economy.
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