Each year in the United States, hundreds of thousands of people enroll in adult basic education (ABE) classes but leave before completing a level or accomplishing their goals. The persistence of this phenomenon may indicate that it is a feature of the system, rather than an unforeseen outcome. Research on other types of social service provision (e.g., welfare) suggests that seemingly inefficient systems are actually intentionally constructed to discipline the population in need of assistance. From this perspective, learners’ experience of the churn within the ABE system may be just as important as their time in the classroom.
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