Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)


Carole Pateman goes to Ruskin College

This year, a young school dropout named Carole Pateman is accepted to attend Ruskin College, an independent educational institution located in Oxford. Carole had abandoned school at age sixteen and worked at several low-grade clerical jobs before deciding to attend Ruskin College.

Ruskin College is an independent adult education school for working class students with no formal educational requirements for entry. It was founded in 1899, with the idea of offering a 'second chance' to students who
wanted to pursue an education and put something back into society. The original founders of Ruskin College believed that a good, solid education could assist working class people to act more effectively on behalf of
their communities and organizations. They argued that education is power, and that it has a great potential to transform individual lives and societies. At Ruskin, Pateman studied economics, politics, history and sociology. She was the only woman who sat for the examination of the Oxford University Post-Graduate Diploma in Political Science and Economics. She passed the examination with honours. 

After studying two years at Ruskin, Pateman won a place at the women's college of Oxford, and stayed at Oxford University until completing a doctoral degree. Her doctoral dissertation, on the topic of participatory
democracy, led to her first book, entitled Participation and Democratic Theory, which was printed for the first time in 1970, reprinted 19 times and translated into many languages. This book was certainly a pioneering work that made a significant contribution to the field of participatory democracy, and called our attention to its educational dimensions. I use this text in my course on citizenship learning and participatory democracy at the University of Toronto, and my students and I enjoy it very much, and we find it still highly relevant to reflect on today's context in spite of being written more than three decades ago.

Since Participation and Democratic Theory, Pateman published many books and articles, including her influential The Sexual Contract (1988) and in 1991 became the first woman to be elected president of the International Political Science Association. Since 1990, she teaches at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and is recognized as one of the world's leading political theorists, and particularly in feminist political theory. 

Ruskin College opened its doors to Carole Pateman in 1963 and this opportunity offered her and other school dropouts a high quality education that would have been difficult to access otherwise. This opportunity started her on a journey on which she was to make many important intellectual contributions to the understanding and the deepening of democracy and justice. Ruskin College made a difference in her life, and she, in turn, is making a difference in the world. The impact of Ruskin College was not lost on Dr. Pateman as she noted in her message to the college on the occasion of its 100th anniversary in 1999, "Ruskin was truly a turning point in my life."


DS (OISE/University of Toronto)


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Last updated on November 16, 2003.