Professing Education

 

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- Champaign.

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.”

Past and Promise

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



Question 1
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.

Question 2
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?

Question 3
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?

Question 4
How does the nexus of power that strives for
Empire prevent progressive educational
practices?

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)?

Question 5
How can alternative forms of inquiry and
modes of expression counter hegemonic
practices?

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 Phillion, 2008).

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?

Question 6
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?

Question 7
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
these questions?

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 (2012).

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?

Question 8
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?

Question 9
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?

Question 10
How can we better understand one
another’s autobiographies and aspirations
empathically?

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.

Question 11
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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