We were excited to learn that adult education might return in the East Hampton School District. At a meeting this week, the board of education spoke about how the once-popular evening classes could resume — offering choices among languages, the arts, and life and practical skills.
According to a board member who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, the program had been dropped when it began to compete with local businesses offering similar services, such as fitness classes, but there was more to it than that. In 2012, facing the state’s 2-percent tax increase limit, the longtime director of the district’s adult education program was out of a job and the options reduced in number.
In its heyday, adult education here included eight-to-10-session programs as varied as cake decorating or fencing — all taught by people from the community. The Star’s Marvin Kuhn taught bicycle repair, for example, in the middle school shop classroom. Our own food writer, Laura Donnelly, at the time the Maidstone Inn pastry chef, gave instruction in classic French cooking. Ed Hannibal, the award-winning author of five novels, led a fiction workshop. Agnes Bristel headed up ballroom and swing dancing sessions. Prices, which before adult education was shuttered were mostly less than $100, were affordable.
Our culture is in the midst of a massive do-it-yourself movement that began even before the pandemic turned us into a nation of home sourdough bread bakers. But there is only so far one can go watching how-to videos on YouTube. Interacting with others, as student or teacher, can help bring skills to new levels — and strengthen community ties in an era when more and more we exist in our own personal digital universes. The time feels right again to share what we know, and the East Hampton School Board is to be thanked for putting adult education back on the agenda.