Angela G. Ray and Paul Stob
“This volume concentrates attention specifically on popular learning, a term that implies a contrast with the privileged learning that happened in established schools and colleges. . . . Despite—or perhaps because of—their ambiguous relationships with established educational institutions, the people and groups who populate this volume created their own places, spaces, and discourses for sharing ideas, better understanding themselves and their world, and critiquing the society that surrounded them. . . .
“The argument that links the subjects treated in this volume is that people and groups in the nineteenth century, many of whom had limited access to formal education, pursued learning and developed knowledge useful for public life, whether they would deploy such knowledge in local voluntary associations, in entertainment venues, in religious institutions, or in political forums. They participated in the production and circulation of knowledge for myriad purposes, from economic betterment to social change, from personal growth to public action. . . . [T]he practices of learning they adopted were consistent with their time but modified to respond to their own circumstances: they blended oral, scribal, and print production, as they debated, lectured, kept minutes of meetings, and wrote letters, diaries, essays, poems, stories, histories, town plans, and geographic texts. Their collective intellectual experiments reflect the profound value they placed on learning and offer salutary reminders of its many forms, functions, and results, reminders that may prove useful as we deliberate the future of education in our own time” (pp. 3, 4).