Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Questions for the AESA Executive Committee

Questions for the AESA Executive Committee

The American Educational Studies Association (AESA) is meeting next week in Cleveland. AESA is, according to its website, “a society primarily comprised of college and university professors who teach and research in the field of education utilizing one or more of the liberal arts disciplines of philosophy, history, politics, sociology, anthropology, or economics as well as comparative/international and cultural studies. The purpose of social foundations study is to bring intellectual resources derived from these areas to bear in developing interpretive, normative, and critical perspectives on education, both inside of and outside of schools.” I think about the social foundations – and more broadly multicultural foundations (i.e., educational policy, foundations, and multicultural education) – as one of the few spaces within educator preparation where students are able to grapple with big picture, counter-intuitive, and complex and controversial issues. It is also a discipline, I have argued, that is highly marginalized. Yet given this, I have seen very little activity from AESA that would suggest that there is trouble in the field. I speak only as a single member of AESA. But any and every member should be kept abreast of what AESA does. I have seen little. I would assume that it is the executive committee of AESA that is to be held accountable. According to the AESA bylaws they are the “principal policy-making body” of AESA.

So here are some questions I wish they would answer:

1. Who is a member of AESA? Are they primarily graduate students or tenured faculty? Are they historians? Sociologists? Educators? No comprehensive survey of the field has been done since the mid-1980s. AESA, in other words, doesn’t really know who its constituents are, what they need out of AESA, or how they can best be supported.
2. Who is not a member of AESA but should be? The AESA membership list consists of about 500 individuals. Yet there are about 1,400 teacher education programs. Assuming that every program has a required introduction or foundation course; assuming that 25% require a multicultural education course (see my data in the article cited above); assuming 2 sections per program (a conservative estimate): that means that there are a minimum of 3,000 sections taught every semester. And that’s not even counting specialized courses such as anthropology of education, etc. Put otherwise, there are a huge number (literally thousands) of potential faculty who seemingly should be a part of AESA but aren’t.
3. How is AESA working to support the field and its constituents? AESA or its representatives no longer have any interaction with the two major accrediting institutions –NCATE and TEAC – that have oversight into what schools of education should teach and how. AESA has no formal linkages to AACTE, the main umbrella organization for schools of education. How else can AESA support the creation or sustainability of foundations positions, foundations perspectives, and tenure-track lines?
4. How can I learn more? AESA created a listserv back in July to foster dialogue. Yet after a flurry of immediate activity (sparked by, it just so happened, my question of what constituted allowable speech on such a listserv), it has been almost completely silent.

Am I being unreasonable? Asking for too much? Perhaps. But in the face of such seemingly major problems and issues I would hope for more.


David Ritchey said...

Note to Dan Butin and others: Appreciate your comments about AESA but I would like you and other readers of this blog to be aware of the Association of Teacher Educators and its work. ATE has been around since the 1920s and is tackling some of the same issues you highlight -- for instance, as one of the founding groups of NCATE we have representation on their governing boards and visiting groups, and we are in discussion with TEAC to see how we can work with them. The third edition of Handbook of Research in Teacher Education will be published in time to be released at our February Annual Meeting in New Orleans, and we expect it to be a fundamental resource for teachers and teacher educators. Additional information about our association is at www.ate1.org. I invite you and others to find out more about ATE.
Thanks for the opportunity,
David Ritchey, Executive Director
Association of Teacher Educators

Dan W. Butin said...

Thank you David,

I appreciate the reminder that ATE is a major group within teacher education. My sole reference to AACTE was not meant as a slight. But your comment makes my argument that much more applicable, as I am sure that AESA has no relation with ATE that I am aware of. It should.

Aaron Schutz said...

My personal opinion is that a group like AESA is unlikely to be the most effective way for foundations to enter the realm of policy.

Instead, I think a different organization designed specifically to do this, with pathways designed to allow it to act is more likely to work. Of course, it is nice when a group like AESA takes a stand, but this is mostly in the form of a vote in principle, or a report. This matters if you are the American Medical Association. It doesn't matter much if you are some vague group no one knows about like AESA. When you don't have the power of a brand like AMA, then you need to actually do things to have an effect.

Such an organization would need to be able to respond to things like a state's effort to remove social foundations issues from its standards, NCATE and its similar action, etc. And it would need to go beyond stern finger-shaking in blogs and journals.

I'm not offering to spend a lot of time creating such an organization, which may be hypocritical of me, but that doesn't change the reality of the situation as I see it.

Sherman Dorn said...

I suppose we could go the "press-release report" route and create a small group to "grade teacher education" programs for their attention to liberal-arts perspectives on education. That would probably gain significant attention, it would involve a relatively small number of people doing the work... and would be hypocritical, given the anti-reductionist nature of liberal arts.

Or we could do some hybrid form of using the CSFE standards and simply describe where programs are in terms of hiring people with social foundations backgrounds, having courses in liberal-arts perspectives on education in different programs, and having commitments to liberal-arts perspectives in the college's curriculum guidelines (whether NCATE conceptual frameworks or something else), etc. That would also involve a more restrictive number of people, but I'm not sure if it would gain as much attention as crisis-mongering.