Professing Education
A publication of the Society of Professors of Education
December, 2005. Vol.4 No.2

Editorial: Beyond Professors of Teaching

John M. Novak

In 1989, Richard Wisniewski and Edward R. Ducharme edited The Professors of Teaching: An Inquiry. In the Introduction, Harry Judge noted that teacher education is institutionally weak and intellectually uncertain. Is that true where you work? Is that true about the type of work you do? If this is true, what should you, and we, do about it?

This issue of Professing Education looks at institutional and intellectual concerns of professors of education. Certainly teacher education is an important area of interest for the educational professoriate, but our mission moves beyond preparing and sustaining teachers for and in their work in schools. Our work also includes the development of education as a field of study and an exploration and improvement of the educative process in and beyond schools. Professing education takes many forms and includes the development of insightful ways of studying educational phenomena and the construction of defensible knowledge claims about matters of educational worth.

The six contributions to this issue explore the nature of the work of professors of education. In the first essay, Jan Armstrong provides a brief history of the Society of Professors of Education. Starting in 1902 as the Society of College Teachers of Education, the name was changed to the National Society of College Teachers of Education in 1909 and changed again in 1969 to the Society of Professors of Education. With these name changes came other changes that Armstrong lists. What changes do you foresee regarding the nature of our work? What changes would you like to see? Does the name, "the Society of Professors of Education," represent a defensible identity in this age of specialization?

After her overview of the Society of Professors of Education's history, Jan Armstrong does double duty and hones in on one member, former president Douglas J. Simpson. Simpson is a prolific scholar on John Dewey and teacher education and is a thoughtful person in all respects. In the interview he warns professors of education not to ignore ideas and skills that are immediately useful to classroom teachers and administrators. The importance of a grounded and imaginative approach to various facets of the educative process is stressed. How do you make practice intelligible and theory useful in your work? Are many of your students too young or inexperienced to appreciate the importance of going beyond techniques?

Professing education is not limited to the academy. Allan Jones, editor of Caddo Gap Publishing, shows how he contributes to the profession by reading, reviewing, selecting, revising, and publishing the works of his professional colleagues. Similar to his institutionalized colleagues, his work involves many possibilities for accomplishment and satisfaction. He also speaks to the importance of sustained service to the profession. How many professors of education do you know outside the academy? Does the academy encourage a very narrow and homogenized notion of professing education?

In speaking about the profession, Andrew Short looks at the gendered university environment in terms of the power possessed and exercised by professors. His claim that powerful professions represented in the academy are male dominated and encourage marginalizing attitudes towards women deserves further analysis and discussion. To what extent is this true in your university? Is it a matter of concern?

Gendered universities can also encourage gendered perspectives. Karen Csoli shows how this works in the area of spirituality. She points out that the spiritual portrayal of a man sitting on a mountaintop represents a limited notion of spirituality. Rather than emphasize solitude, female spirituality is found in experiences that are communal and social. Her suggestion to replace the spiritual image of the solitary man with the alternative vision of a group of people sitting together opens up different ways of being connected. Does this work for you? Would you want to become part of that group?

The final essay is Jill Grose's review of Conflicting Paradigms in Adult Literacy Education: In Quest of a U.S. Democratic Politics of Literacy by George Demetrion. Grose appreciates the author's attempt to find a Deweyan common ground among conflicting paradigms and points out the difficulties of making this work in an accountability-driven political atmosphere.

We hope you enjoy each of the contributions and appreciate the authors' intentions to extend the conversation about the nature of the educational professoriate beyond a narrow, technical conception of teaching. A sense of history, focus, alternative professional commitments, the workings of gender in universities and on mountaintops, and a critical appraisal of new books should help make us all be better professors of educational living.


Editors: John M. Novak & Kenneth A. McClelland
Associate Editors: Dirk Windhorst & Rahul Kumar
Publisher Coordinator: Robert C. Morris
Web Publishing by: Rahul Kumar & Herman Yu

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