This paper examines the relationship between education, learning and civic participation arising from 120 biographical interviews conducted with respondents in three areas of England. Through analysis of individual biographies, it is argued that the relationship between education, learning and the generation of 'bonding' social capital is largely unrealistic. Rather, there emerge three loose typologies of relationship between education and civic participation: atomistic, networking and altruistic. These relationships are shaped by individual biography, type of learning and structural considerations. Class, gender and ethnicity particularly influence relationships between education and participation but not in a rigidly deterministic fashion, and may additionally be generators of creative tension. It is concluded that although policy makers would be naïve to expect investment in education and learning to automatically generate virtuous cycles of social capital, the role of education in generating benefits in what can be called the 'ecology' of community is both unexpected and illuminating.