Thursday, October 26, 2006

Declining Number of Foundations Scholars

The National Science Foundation recently released a report, US Doctorates in the 20th Century. There is a whole bunch of interesting information about the history of the doctorate, diverse paths to completion, etc. (I’m still plowing through it all). But to continue my theme concerning the marginalization of foundations, I found some data very revealing. The NSF study uses data from the yearly federally funded Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED). This is the survey that all doctoral students are asked to complete upon finishing their dissertation work. Part of the survey includes a checklist within which you choose your specialty. There are 40 distinct categories within education (e.g., music education, psychology, social science education). There is only one (as far as I can tell) foundations-type category: “social/philosophical foundations of education.” This is the one I know I chose when I filled it out. It does, of course, raise the question of what do historians of education choose? What about those that do cultural studies? What about queer studies? Assuming that the methodology is more or less sound (self-identification issues, completion rate, etc.), the data show a precipitous decline in those that identify themselves as foundations scholars. Here is the NSF data, and I have created an additional table to more clearly show year-by-year averages.

Total number choosing “social/philosophical foundations of education”-
1960-64 -- 312
1965-69 -- 1188
1970-74 -- 1430
1975-79 -- 1197
1980-84 -- 930
1985-89 -- 605
1990-94 -- 545
1995-99 -- 647
TOTAL (1960-1999) -- 6854

yearly average for those choosing “social/philosophical foundations of education”-
1960-64 -- 62
1965-69 -- 238
1970-74 -- 286
1975-79 -- 239
1980-84 -- 186
1985-89 -- 121
1990-94 -- 109
1995-99 -- 129
TOTAL (1960-1999) -- 171

So what the numbers clearly show is a decline from 250 or so foundations scholars coming out each and every year throughout the 1960s and 1970s to about 150 or so foundations scholars coming out each and every year beginning in the 1980s. I checked the most recent (2001 through 2004) SED data and the numbers are more or less the same, in the low 100s. So two issues immediately pop out for me: first, that there is a quantifiable and drastic decline in the number of foundations scholars being produced each year; second, where are all of these scholars going?? There are nowhere near that number of foundations-type jobs out there. So do they go into teacher education? Curriculum and instruction? Educational leadership? Sounds like a good research project for somebody.


Kimtron McKimbop said...

I appreciate so much that you posted this on the web. I'm currently enrolled in a foundations course, and we were discussing the cutting of philosophy based education programs for methods courses. The numbers really make that statement evident, and it just makes me sad because the philosophical classes have been some of my favorite.

I wish I knew where the scholars were going. We definitely need more of them.

Dan W. Butin said...

Thanks Kim for the comment. At least your foundations course talked about this issue. As Craig and Sherman and others on this blog have noted, this is becoming all too rare.