Once again, Peter Smith has redefined the boundaries of the public conversation about access to education, justice, and opportunity in America. Drawing on his 50 years of experience in higher education and the powerful life stories of more than 20 adults, Smith has described a new frontier at the intersection of experiential learning, college and career. And his message is as simple as it is powerful: The Covid-19 pandemic has brought America to a crossroads, a time when the needed radical reconstruction of the “opportunity ladder” in higher education is recognized and attainable. He argues that we are at an inflection point where we can and must end systemic discrimination in education after high school by creating a universally accessible post-secondary education eco-system for lifelong learning and work.
Looking through the eyes of a diverse array of adult learners, Smith makes the case for the economic, social, civic, and cultural value of all learning and all knowledge, regardless of where or how it was gained. And, in doing so, he shines a spotlight on an untapped American resource: the extraordinary talent and intelligence, the human capacity and potential that is currently ignored by the traditional college model. Smith argues compellingly that this “knowledge discrimination” hurts not only the millions of individuals whose learning is denied and whose futures are compromised, but also the society at large. Everyone – educators, employers, political leaders and policy-makers at the state and federal levels, and the general public - needs to read this book because it wraps policy, practice, personal growth, economic security, and social justice into a compelling DNA.
Foreword – Dr. Rufus Glasper, CEO, League for Innovation in the Community College
Section 1: My Story
Section 2: The Learning Journey
Dreams Deferred: One Step at a Time
- Susan Johnson
- Sarah Aronack
- Heather Lumsden
- Kalimah Shabazz
- Rashaan Green
- Dinesha Montiero
- Susan Fenwick
On Their Own Terms – Self-Directed Learners
- Sam Muraguri
- Chris Wilson
- Rahim Fazal
- Michelle Daniels
Section 3: Bridges to the Future
People and Programs
- Katie Reigelsperger
- Calvin Duker
- Jim Clemens
- Ron Williams
Colleges That Helped
- Jose Rodriguez
- Anna Raymond
- Andrew Wheatley
- Betty Graham
Section 4: The Capstone – Michael’s Story
Afterword – Louis Soares, SVP - ACE
Under Ground Programs – Emerging Pathways for Learning and Work
- New College models –
- College UnBound
- SV Academy
- Purdue Global
- University of Maryland Global Campus
- Western Governors University
- Community College of Vermont
- Colorado Technical University
- Bellevue University
- Workplace-Based models
- Bridging Services
- College Promise
- Year Up
- GPS for Learning and work
- Validation of Personal Learning
Using his own white privilege as a stark counterpoint, Peter uses honest, beautiful storytelling to introduce us to modern heroes who succeeded without that privilege. These Stories from the Education Underground illustrate Isabel Wilkerson’s point in Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent. They show us just how much talent our hierarchical education system is leaving behind and they call us to create learning and work opportunities that promote upward mobility and equality throughout life for all Americans.
- Jane Oates, Editor, Working Nation
Peter Smith combines Studs Terkel's story-telling about the meaningfulness of work with motivation and support reminiscent of Gail Sheehy in Stories from the Education Underground. He lets readers know that they can control their destiny by being true to their skills and passions.
- Anthony Carnevale, Research Professor and Director, Georgetown Center for Education and Work
Too often, the same education system that smooths the path for the privileged and powerful excludes or overlooks those populations most in need. Here, in Stories from the Education Underground, Peter Smith delves deep into systemic flaws and finds solutions and hope for the next generation of education visionaries. When former university president, U.S. Congressman, author, and educator Peter Smith speaks, we would do well to listen.
- Dr. Gregory Fowler, President, University of Maryland Global Campus
Through the compelling life stories of individuals who successfully overcame obstacles to educational and economic opportunity. Peter Smith captures the talent and capacity that colleges and employers too often ignore. Stories From the Educational Underground: The New Frontier for Learning and Work is a must read for those of us who strive to deliver on America’s promise of educational and economic opportunity for all.
- Mildred García, Ed.D., President/CEO, American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU)
In this fantastic book, Peter Smith takes us behind the data regarding underserved adult learners, allowing them to tell their incredibly inspirational stories of lessons learned in and, mostly, out of school. Smith’s argument is that “we need to bring personal learning from the margins to the mainstream of American life.” He is right and the time is right … for action!
- Ted Mitchell, CEO, The American Council on Education (ACE)
Peter Smith’s, Stories from the Education Underground: The New Frontier for Learning and Work, is a deft interrogation of the inequitable way our education and training system ascribes value to learning. Contrasting his privileged learning journey through Princeton and Harvard with the experiences of diverse learners who lacked the benefits of social and economic advantage, Smith makes a passionate and compelling argument for the urgent need to value all learning—regardless of where it happens—as a strategy for social justice.
- Michael Collins, Vice President, Jobs for the Future (JFF)
Peter Smith and a chorus of voices call us to remember an equity essential: everyone deserves the opportunity to thrive. As we grow along our winding life paths, many of us need more than one shot at success. Skills are developed from diverse experiences, and the world’s next great talent may come from somewhere you never expected. Open your mind and beliefs with these stories of blind corners, long odds, and “in-spite-of” successes.
- Wendi Copeland, Chief Strategic Partnership Activation Officer, Goodwill Industries International
The assault on democracy, the urgent need to reskill and upskill millions of American workers, and the inequities of social justice further revealed by the pandemic have brought us to an inflection point. They require education and business leaders to reimagine the workforce for the future of work and the good of the country. Let’s begin that journey by taking a leadership role in restoring the “Soul of America”. Let’s occupy and settle The New Frontier for Learning and Work”!
- Dr. Rufus Glasper, CEO, The League For Innovation in the Community College
The march towards educational equity begins with valuing the deeply personal lived experiences of all learners. Peter Smith's timely examination of the 'hidden credentials' earned outside of traditional institutional models serves as a clarion call for everyone who cares about economic mobility in this country.
- Courtney McBeth, Strada