The Society of Professors of Education:
Distinguished Past and Promising Possibilities
The 2011 Charles DeGarmo Lecture
William H. Schubert
(Delivered on April 9, 2011 in New Orleans)
I am honored to have been invited to
give the 2011 DeGarmo Lecture for the Society
of Professors of Education (SPE). Early in my
career, I recall attending with admiration several
of the first DeGarmo Lectures, especially those
given by Harry S. Broudy and John I. Goodlad.
Later I remember officiating at Lectures by Fred
Erickson and Sonia Nieto. I am especially
appreciative of this invitation knowing that SPE
was founded by both Charles DeGarmo and
John Dewey in 1902.
While I have often spoken and written
about Dewey, I have not said much about
DeGarmo, and this surely would be a time to do
so. He graduated from Illinois State Normal
University (ISNU) in 1876, served as principal
of the Grammar Department of the Model
School at ISNU from 1876 to 1983, received
his Ph.D. from Halle University in 1886, returned
to ISNU as a Professor of Modern
Languages and Reading until 1890, was a
Professor of Psychology at the University of
Illinois from 1890-91, was President of
Swarthmore College from 1891-98, and from
1898 to 1914 was Professor of the Art and
Science of Education at Cornell University. The
corpus of DeGarmo’s work included Essentials
of Method (DeGarmo, 1889), Herbart and the Herbartians (DeGarmo, 1895), Interest and
Education (1902), and Principles of Secondary
Education (1907-10). I find it curious that little
reference to DeGarmo himself was presented in
previous lectures named in his honor. Of course,
nothing in the invitation specifies that the lecture
should draw upon DeGarmo’s work. In his work,
however I do see buds of the concern for what is
necessary and neglected in education today. For
instance, Merle Curti (1935) shows that DeGarmo
had critical inclinations before that term was
widely acknowledged in educational discourse,
saying that he “demanded that moral and civic
education be directed against such practices as
watering stock and stealing franchises, against
whatever in public morality, held over from the
older exploiting frontier days, jeopardized the
means of subsistence for large classes of the
population” (pp. 256-257). Similarly, Mary Louise
Sequel (1966) noted that “DeGarmo’s educational
philosophy had a strong socioeconomic cast,”
quoting him in his Herbart and the Herbartians ((1895) as saying, “The future…belongs neither to
the humanist nor to the scientist as such, but to
both” (p. 237) warning that if economic problems
of the time were not solved, “hunger and economic
servitude will cause the masses to change
evolution to revolution” (p. 239).
DeGarmo’s eminent Cornell professorship
title, Professor of the Art and Science of Education,
symbolizes the basis for my DeGarmo Lecture,
residing in his desire to build on both the
humanistic and the scientific. To be a professor of
the art and science of education implies to me the
practice of delving deeply into fundamental questions
of education that long have been the mainstay
of both the foundations of education (philosophical,
historical, social, and cultural) and its practical
instantiation in curriculum studies. In fact, the term fundamental featured prominently in arguably the
preeminent curriculum book of the 1950s, Fundamentals
of Curriculum Development by B.
Othanel Smith, William O. Stanley, and J. Harlan
Shores (Smith, Stanley, and Shores, 1950 and
1957), who were as well-respected as scholars in
foundations of education as they were among
curriculum scholars. This unity of foundational and
curricular studies epitomizes the fact that many of
the early members of the Curriculum Field
emerged from historical, philosophical, and sociocultural
foundations of education. The amalgam of
my own scholarly studies is from both foundations
and curriculum, having studied foundations in my
Master’s Degree work at Indiana University in the
late 1960s with Philip G. Smith, A. Stafford
Clayton, Stanley E. Ballinger, Malcolm Skilbeck,
and Harold Spears in the early to mid 1970s, and
in the mid-1970s having pursued Ph.D. work with
J. Harlan Shores, Harry S. Broudy, Louis J. Rubin,
Hugh Chandler, Bernard Spodek, Fred Raubinger,
William F. Connell, James Raths, Ian Westbury,
Joe Burnett, Jacqueline Burnett, Hugh Petrie, and
others at the University of Illinois at Urbana-
Valuable perspective on DeGarmo can
be gleaned from Merle Curti (1935), William F.
Connell (1980), and Harold Dunkel (1970).
From these works I surmise that DeGarmo was
a questioner, even of the Herbartian master
narrative that dominated the field, circa1895 to
1905. When Dewey joined DeGarmo in 1902
to create the Society of College Teachers of
Education at a meeting in Chicago, initiatory
members expressed the need to raise the level
of questioning of educators. In the second
decade of the Twentieth Century the adjective
National was added to modify Society in the
organization name, and persisted until 1969
when it was changed the current Society of
Professors of Education. The long-term purpose
of “examining the organization and content of
courses in education (pedagogy)” [taken from
the SPE web site] has continued and expanded
productively “to serve the diverse needs and
interests of the education professoriate” [also
from the SPE web site]. SPE’s primary goal is
to provide a forum for consideration of major
issues, tasks, problems and challenges confronting
professional educators. SPE is an interdisciplinary
organization. Its members include both
theoreticians and practitioners in education.”
This rather lengthy introduction to my
DeGarmo Lecture is necessary because of the
crisis in education today. Both the Educational
Foundations and Curriculum Studies are endangered
species. Policy pundits seldom if ever
acknowledge basic questions. Instead, they
seem enthralled with focus on making education
merely a means to a more competitive nation. In
a world in which nations themselves are neutered
by a globalist government, or corporatocracy (Perkins, 2006; Hiatt, 2007, Klein, 2007), i.e., a
new ruling class (Freeland, 2011), it is necessary
to keep alive the foundational and curricular
questions. Not only is this crisis confined to
realms of educational policy formation, implementation,
and evaluation, it is increasingly a
feature of university life. Areas of scholarship that
do not procure large grants for universities are
being cut. Since those of us in educational
foundations and curriculum studies see our work
as questioning ubiquitous abuses of governmental
and corporate power, it is unlikely that government
agencies and charitable corporate foundations
will fund work to engage in such questioning.
Nevertheless, I suggest here that the
history of SPE should inspire us to keep the
questioning alive. Thus, I have framed this
DeGarmo Lecture around key questions that my
research has revealed to be salient (Schubert,
Lopez-Schubert, Thomas, and Carroll, 2002, p.
525; Schubert, 2009a, and Schubert 2010a, pp.
68-69). In these sources I have previously
identified the questions discussed below, though I
have not elaborated on each in previous publications.
Speaking of elaboration, any one of these
questions could be elaborated to at least book
length; however, here I treat each briefly and
extend an invitation and a challenge to SPE to
think seriously about how to keep them alive in a
context of countervailing forces. Indeed, I see
this as a worthwhile mission for the foreseeable
future of SPE.
Questions to Ponder and to Act On, but
Never to Deem Fully Answered
What is worth knowing, experiencing, doing,
needing, being, becoming, overcoming,
sharing, contributing, and wondering?
A point here is that consideration of what
is worth knowing [the constant concern of curriculum
studies, at least since Spencer (1861) and
likely traceable to the earliest human ponderings]
is necessary but not sufficient. Knowing is worthwhile,
surely, but it is not enough. To that end I
recently called curriculum scholars to focus also
on what is worth experiencing, doing, needing,
being, becoming, overcoming, sharing, contributing,
and just plain wondering about (Schubert,
2009a). On another occasion I illustrated the
need to broaden the quest through portrayal of
autobiographical episodes (Schubert, 2009b).
Undeniably, we cannot take for granted the
questions as already answered by contemporary
policy and practice that seem to value only
dimensions of reading, math, science, and perhaps
social studies as measured on standardized
tests. A detrimental consequence of this stance is
relegating all other purposes of education to a
dispensable waste dump. Moreover, even the
highly regarded reading, math, and science lack
depth of insight and intuition that they could
embody when squeezed into superficial and
arbitrary standardized tests.
What can be done to increase meaning,
goodness, and happiness in lives of the
young – in all of our lives?
Policies and practices based on standardized
tests inappropriately used for invidious
comparisons fuel the dire deficit model of education,
in which students are characterized by their
weaknesses rather than by their strengths, I
suggest that we should focus on strengths, build
their capacities, and proactively encourage their
search for meaning, goodness and happiness, and
join them in that search, knowing full well that one
never arrives at conclusive answers to such
majestic questions. As Santiago, the young
protagonist discovered in Paulo Coelho’s (1988)
inspiring book, The Alchemist, the end or goal is
not as important as the journey. So, what can we
do to reinstate journeys to never-ending quests
for meaning, goodness, and happiness in the lives
of teachers and learners?
What prevents focus on this quest in schooling
and in other forms of education?
Considering and wrestling with this
question was my main focus in Love, Justice,
and Education: John Dewey and the Utopians (Schubert, 2009c), wherein I built on the little
known New York Times article that reprinted a
speech Dewey made to educators at Teachers
College, Columbia University during the Great
Depression. In the article, entitled Dewey Outlines
Utopian Schools, Dewey (1933) claims to have visited a utopian society in which his own
ideas (Dewey, 1899, 1902, 1916) are lived so
fully that it takes even Dewey some time to
recognize them in action. Dewey then relates the
amazing and edifying educational experiences of
these Utopians. I figured that if Dewey visited this
Utopia, then I could too, so I did just that, taking
with me gnawing and exasperating questions
about why we seldom enact this kind of education
on Earth. Just as the Utopians told Dewey,
they also taught me that the principal obstacle is
the acquisitive society, i.e., the inimical transformation
of such matters as meaning, goodness,
and happiness or love, justice, and education into
commodities to be acquired. I argue that even
our language and modes of living are enveloped
by acquisition and concomitant colonization
(Schubert, 2006, 2009-2010). Here we return to
the problem of globalization and the
corporatocracy that emerges within it – a stronger
anathema than even nationalism at its most
feverish height. Again, how can we engage and
enrage public criticism of such a debacle, criticism
that should flow from public education or
mass media, both of which distressingly become
partners to support their own demise?
How does the nexus of power that strives for
Empire prevent progressive educational
Clearly, there is a network of forces
(corporate, governmental, military, religious, mass
media, schooling, and more) that promote
propaganda of the kind the Woodrow Wilson
administration parlayed through the advice of
Edward Bernays (summarized in 1928) to
disenthrall the public imagination and tell the
bewildered herd (as they labeled the people)
what to do in a democracy. Receiving liberal support in the popular intellectual writing of
columnist Walter Lippmann (see 1962), an ethos
of acquisitiveness was promoted to ensure that
the golden rule throughout much of the first half of
the Twentieth Century, continuing today. Increasingly,
it is impossible for political candidates to be
heard, let alone to win, without selling their souls
to lie to a broader public than otherwise possible.
Can we tell the people about the horrific public
curriculum that makes this reality? This curriculum amplifies the need to re-ask in today’s
context George S. Counts’ (1932) titular question,
Dare the School Build a New Social
Order? Can we enact at least some semblance of
democracy, or is the desire to believe in some
authoritative benevolence, taught by
corporatocracy, that the acquisitive society is all
we know? Bolstered by wars in the ironic name
of peace, I hope the situation is not so dire that
we cannot think of responses to William James’
(1884) great challenge to find a moral equivalent
of war. If we cannot, then are we doomed to
reside within the graveyard in Dewey’s (1929)
warning: “The vehement conviction of each
warring nation [today, read globalized
corporatocracy] of the righteousness of its own
cause is the whistling of children in the awful
unexpectedness of a graveyard” (pp 131-132)?
How can alternative forms of inquiry and
modes of expression counter hegemonic
William Faulkner (1964) gives a hint in
his 1949 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, saying:
“Writing…has forgotten the problems of the
human heart in conflict with itself….there is no
room…for anything but the old verities and truths
of the heart…lacking which any story is ephemeral
and doomed – love and honor and pity and
pride and compassion….The writer’s duty is to
write about these things….The poet’s
voice…can be one of the…pillars to help him
endure and prevail” (pp. 444-446). No less is
the case for the educational scholar as a writer.
This is why the arts, literature, autobiography,
and more recently fiction recently have emerged
in educational scholarship (see Willis and
Schubert, 1991; Short and Waks, 2009; He and
This emphasis on story harkens back to
indigenous practices of educating through story
(Archibald, 2008; Coles, 1989; Tuhiwai Smith,
1999). For instance, the brilliant career of Paulo
Freire illustrates positive regard for the indigenous,
so does that of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi in
Japan. Makiguchi’s prolific student, Daisaku
Ikeda reveals desire to seek a new humanism
from Confucianism and Buddhism in a marvelous
collaborative dialogue between Chinese scholar,
Tu Weiming (Weiming and Ikeda, 2010). Ikeda
(2011) offers much promise for humanistic
education through Soka schools he initiated
developed around the world by Ikeda and others
(Ikeda,2010 and 2011). Similarly, grassroots
insights revealed in India and Mexico by Madhu
Prakash and Gustavo Esteva (Prakash and
Esteva, 1998; Esteva and Prakash, 1997), the educational contributions of Rabindranath Tagor
in India, and Truly Wangsalegawa’s (2009) rediscovery
of Ki Hajar’s Among schools in Indonesia,
as well as counter narratives from the
margins (e.g., Anzalduá, 1987; Archilbald, 2008;
Grande, 2004; Tuhiwai Smith, 1999; hooks,
2003; Kinloch, 2010; Morrison, 2008; Walker,
1967/1983) and those from in-between and exile
(He, 2003, 2010; He, Haynes, Carlyle, Ward,
Mitchell, & Mikell, in press). The point here is
that ample narratives, stories, autobiographies,
and artistic portrayals exist, even though they are
not part of what Michael Apple (2000) calls
official knowledge. How can we help spread the
word on these examples and more fully?
How do class, race, gender, language, ability,
health, membership, age, appearance, place,
religion, belief, ethnicity, sexual orientation,
status, nationality, reputation, and other
factors influence education and other opportunities
to grow and flourish?
Dominant critical theory parlance focuses
mostly on race, class, gender. Of course, these
should be central foci; nevertheless, others dimensions
of life mentioned (and unmentioned) are also
huge forces of discrimination and should not be
neglected. Too often we do not even notice
language of discrimination that reveals colonization
in our midst, colonized relationships that we
unwittingly create (see Schubert, 2009-2010).
We think nothing of referring to teachers via war
images as being in the trenches or on the front
lines as we try to promote peace and not war.
We refer our research as ammunition for change.
We have had wars on poverty or drugs – implicitly
assuming that aggression solves problems. We
refer to students as products, such as numbers left
in the pipeline, a plumbing metaphor at best and
a barrel of a gun metaphor, returning to the war
metaphor. As we advocate respect for diversity
we decry prejudice as “a myth” when we mean
mistake, thus aligning with positivists who oppose
mythological interpretations in favor of scientific or
scientistic ones. I think of Caliban in
Shakespeare’s (1978/1611) The Tempest who
responds to Prospero, his self-appointed teachersavior,
who tries to “educate” him, lashing out,
“You taught me your language, and my profit on’t
is I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
for learning me your language” (act 1, scene 2,
line 163). How many Calibans are bearing down
on oppressors and colonizers on a continuous
basis, Visigoths at our Romanesque borders?
Frantz Fanon’s (1963) dire warnings about the
wretched consequences of myopically amassing
privilege should still haunt us today. How can we
educate ourselves and others into greater awareness?
How can the lore of all educators (e.g.,
parents, teachers, educational leaders, policy
makers) and students themselves contribute
to insights about matters mentioned in any of
Attempts to provide spaces for voices
unheard or disrespected are available (e.g., Miller,
1990; Schubert and Ayers, 1992; He and Phillion,
2008; Watkins, 2001; Schubert, 2006; Sandlin,
Schultz, and Burdick, 2010; Schultz, 2011). How
can this be done more fully under the auspices of
SPE? It requires a great deal of empathy, which is
what Jeremy Rifkin (2009) argues is one of the
deepest, albeit often suppressed, human qualities.
I am quite sure that both empathy’s reawakening
and its enactment are connected with reverence
for unacknowledged voices and human potential,
which I take as an implicit message from a new
book edited by A.G. Rudd and Jim Garrison
A story may illustrate this point. I recall
being asked to “train” Local School Council
(LSC) members on matters of vision, meaning
curriculum writ large, in the late 1980s and early
1990s when the Illinois state legislature decreed
that each school in the Chicago Public Schools
must constitute the equivalent of a mini-school
board to help shape and implement policy and to
select, evaluate, hire and fire personnel in the
cause of school reform. Many trainers provided
“how-to” packets, procedures, and words of
advice about rules, regulations, budgetary demands,
and more. I decided to present curriculum
to LSC members in the same way that I presented
it to doctoral students – through role playing as
proponents of different schools of thought – the
social behaviorist, the intellectual traditionalist, the
experientialist, and the critical reconstructionist.
After experiencing presentations and associated
discussions, many LSC members expressed
gratefulness about the background received. They
especially resonated with the critical
reconstructionist position that portrayed the plight
of prejudice they and their children faced daily.
They could relate story after story about being
taught to follow rules, give the right answers, and
not be creative or strive to change the system –
precisely what Jean Anyon’s (1980) early work
revealed. One challenged me, saying that now he
and other LSC members knew different positions,
strengths, and limitations, likely consequences, and
saw that schooling was much different for the
oppressed than for the oppressor (Freire, 1970),
but he then emphatically stated that the superintendents
or educational CEOs, mayors, governors,
senators, and other policy makers did not know
or care about this. Who, they asked, would tell
them that they should? Would I do this? Would
these powers listen to me? Should it be SPE that
tells them? How? Would they listen to us? Doctors
listen to scholars in the medical community.
Why, then, do educational policy makers not listen
to educational scholars? Have they heard of us?
Could they name any of us? What can we do to
overcome our marginalized position?
How can we focus more broadly on education,
seeing schooling as only one of several
educative forces that shape us, our identities,
and our commitments?
For thirty years I have argued that we
need to recognize many aspects of life outside of
school as curricular experience (Schubert, 1981,
2010b, 2010c), susceptible to interpretation
through curricular lenses. Homes, families, marriages,
friendships, churches, communities, gangs,
peer groups, radio, television, movies, computers,
the Internet, videos, videogames, popular newspapers
and magazines, sports, stores, shopping
malls, clubs and organizations, military endeavors,
dance studios, gyms, parks, music, art, hobbies,
jobs, and countless other dimensions of life all shape
who we are in multifarious ways. All of these could
be characterized relative to Tyler’s (1949, 1977)
categories of purpose, learning experience, organization,
and evaluation, they could be depicted
differently by Schwab’s (1970) interacting
commonplaces of teacher, learner, subject matter,
and milieu. The culture and any aspect of it educates
us or miss-educates us as Dewey (1938) contends.
When we see students in schools we need to
perceive them as constellations of experience from
many cultural sources of influence which they in turn
influence. Given such transactional influence, we find
a plethora of complementary and contradictory
dimensions of curriculum flowing at once in the river
of schooling: intended curriculum, taught curriculum,
null curriculum (Eisner, 1979), hidden curricula
(Giroux & Purpel, 1982), applied or learned curriculum,
and embodied curriculum, not just the
tested curriculum that policy pundits scrutinize with
blinders to all other dimensions. How can we
increase perception of these multiple curricula of our
lives and their extraordinary complexity in everchanging
relationships to one another in the lives of
students – all of us, for that matter?
How can we better understand curriculum
matters through multiple modes of inquiry
(e.g., philosophical, historical, biographical,
narrative, empirical, scientific, case study,
ethnographic, artistic and aesthetic, critical,
feminist, phenomenological, hermeneutic,
postmodern, evaluative, theoretical, queered
theoretical, practical action inquiry, autobiography,
auto-ethnography, ecological, indigenous,
fictionalized, and so many more) that
have evolved in recent years?
The complexity of curricular phenomena
necessitates equally complicated configurations
of inquiry to understand it, and such understanding
is never complete, always in process as
are the changing circumstances explored and
lived. Herein we encounter some of the most
profound epistemological, ethical, aesthetic, and
axiological issues known to human beings.
Inquiry cannot be defensibly confined to the
simplistic and acquisitive measures employed by
educational policy makers today. How can we
help the public, even if policy makers will not
listen, see the complexity and the need?
How can we better understand one
another’s autobiographies and aspirations
Within the confines of individual existence
we live life as separate beings, who need
to understand the swirl of complexity that
surrounds and engulfs us. How can we come to
know others and ourselves more fully while
realizing that such understanding can never
approximate more than a small proportion of
our existence? Perhaps we can begin as scholars
who genuinely seek to enter meaningful
relationships with one another, stop bickering
among one another, and practice the democracy
we preach, even though we are notorious for
living lives of devious political manipulation and
inane intrigue for miniscule benefits.
How can we build on strengths with faith in
the goodness of human potential, and in
doing so focus continuously on what we can
and should do as educators?
This question defies the deficit model of
education by its focus on strengths, a quality I
found in the Utopians that Dewey (1933) and I visited (Schubert, 2009c). How can one be an
educator without hope? For instance, if one were
convinced by John Gray (2002) that human
beings are inventive but use inventiveness in
predatory and destructive ways, and their most
basic qualities, one could not be an educator –
only a manipulator or indoctrinator. As noted
earlier, Jeremy Rifkin (2009) sees humans,
alternatively, as fundamentally empathic, which I
believe fits well with Martha Nussbaum’s (2010)
call for education and life that is not for profit, i.e., in harmony with Dewey’s (1933) hope for an
imperfect utopia (intentionally oxymoronic I am
convinced), always striving and struggling to
overcome acquisitiveness and greed. This is a
struggle that Chomsky (1999) has long implored
us to engage – to overcome the practice of putting
profit over people. How can we open our eyes
and the plight of others, wrought by our privilege,
to see and be the grass that persistently and
relentlessly grows in the cracks of colonization,
oppression, and death, to cultivate new life to our
moribund planet Earth?
Though this call is far too much for any
one group to accomplish, we should all strive to
do our part. Surely SPE can make spaces in our
far too acquisitive professoriate to keep these and
other questions alive, to act on them, with hope
that the world can be healed.
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