By John Fisher
Lawrence and Wishart pound;14.99
The title (from the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes) was used in 1950 by Arthur Deakin, then TGWU general secretary, to express his belief that you can't measure the benefits of education: "Money spent on education is always bread cast upon the waters."
The role played historically by trade unions in adult education is too little acknowledged. For decades, trade union evening, day release and correspondence courses, together with weekend and summer schools, made up a significant route by which working-class adults could further their education.
This story of the TGWU's contribution to what was, as John Fisher acknowledges, a wider worker education movement involving other unions as well as the Workers' Educational Association (WEA) and the Labour Colleges, is fascinating, not least because of the great names from the past that stride across its pages. Deakin is in the introduction, and Ernest Bevin is not far behind. To follow we meet Frank Cousins, Jack Jones and, latterly, Bill Morris, who put inclusion and equal opportunity at the core of the education programme.
This is a fascinating browse for anyone with an interest in organised labour and an essential source for serious students of the history of adult and further education.