Samuel Charles Brightman’s (1911-1992) contributions to adult education are in a unique category of their own, as he made no claim to be a scholar, practitioner, or policy maker in the field. Instead, he used his well-honed journalistic skills and political experience to report on the scholarship, practice, and policy issues relevant to the field of adult and continuing education.
Upon graduating from both Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Missouri, he worked as a journalist before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1942.
After the war, he served as associate director of publicity for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), where he rose to director of publicity and then deputy chairman for public affairs. In 1965, he left the DNC, turning to independent public relations and journalism again, and his writing appeared in periodicals such as varied as The Nation and TV Guide. He covered elections for the three major television networks from 1966 through 1976. In a sense, adult education was a third career for him, following journalism and politics. However, they were all part of the ongoing central concern of his life, which was helping ordinary citizens make the most of their lives in a democracy.
One of Brightman’s greatest contributions to the field was serving as founding editor and writer for Adult and Continuing Education Today (ACET) from 1971 to 1985. At the time, ACET was the field’s only independent non-academic publication, presenting news of adult education programs, crises in funding, changes in personnel, and other information that promoted the field of adult and continuing education. He reported on the activities of the Adult Education Association of the USA and the National Association for Public Continuing Education as they became AAACE. He took the historian’s approach to presenting what he saw and then going beyond his observations to provide needed clarity to what was happening at the association level. As an observer, critic, and cheerleader, he brought an important perspective to those actively engaged in the field of adult education.
Brightman was an advocate and practitioner in the field of adult education in more than just journalism. He was an active member and supporter of the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE), a consultant to the National Council of Senior Citizens (NCSC), serving as director of educational services, and actively promoted the Coalition of Adult Education Organizations (CAEO), which included serving on its board of directors. In 1982, he received the President’s Award for Outstanding Service from the Adult Education Association (AEA).Brightman recognized the importance of political support for the field and urged adult educators to greater efforts to gain and extend that support. He believed that the primary purpose of education was to enable us to govern ourselves with wisdom, equity, and noble purpose and that his position was to serve as an external observer and lead the adult education field to greater heights.
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