Saturday, March 03, 2007

I am a history-education half-breed

Over on my own blog, I've been outed as a Michael B. Katz student (when writing about the new Ravitch-Meier blog) and discussed in a sideways fashion the old debate over Diane Ravitch and presentism in education historiography. (My advisor isn't the same person as Michael S. Katz, a philosopher of education at San Jose State. They're two different Michael Katzes who have written about education and been elected presidents of their respective social-foundationsish scholarly societies.)

But there's a personal story that ties in to my graduate education and says a lot about the respective position of colleges and schools of education within universities, on the one hand, and the position of social foundations within colleges and schools of education, on the other.

When I first came to the University of South Florida, I heard from my fellow new historians of education how parochial our colleagues in Arts and Sciences were. I thought that a little strange; is the cattiness erupting so soon? I wondered. A few weeks later, I attended an event with some colleagues from Arts and Sciences. I introduced myself to several other assistant professors, and one of them asked me where I had my degree from. Penn, I said.

"No," she replied. "I meant, what department did you get your degree from?"


"Oh," she said with a nod. "So you're a real historian."

I was speechless at the incredible display of parochialism. "Oh," I thought to myself, "you probably don't know that my advisor got his degree from one of those inferior schools of education, the one up in Cambridge. And you probably don't know that my fellow historians of education you insulted a few weeks ago had advisors who had their degrees in history. So we're all just history half-breeds."

This parochialism is dangerous within institutions. Social-science and humanities faculty tend to marginalize social foundations faculty without realizing that the social foundations faculty are the best inroads for their perspective in colleges of education. And faculty in colleges of education tend to marginalize social foundations faculty without realizing that they're the faculty who have the greatest link to the disciplines. And all of this marginalization made me laugh when I read p. 23 of Arthur Levine's Educating School Teachers, where he says,

From their inception, America’s schools of education have engaged in a continuing quest to gain acceptance in the academy. It’s a story of unending accommodation to win the approval first of the university, then of education schools as they expanded beyond their initial teacher education programs to include a host of new and more highly prized subjects such as school administration, educational psychology, and the liberal arts disciplines (e.g., sociology of education and history of education).

So what fantasy world does Levine live in, where sociologists and historians of education are at the acme of a college of education? As I feel whenever I've heard the (generally rare outside the head of Ahmajinedad) conspiracy-of-Jews theory, I want to ask, "So where did my secret conspiracy decoder ring and my Swiss bank accounts go?" Sometimes, I'd like that kind of authority in my own institution, but it just doesn't exist.

For more on historians working within schools of education see a discussion last November about the history of education as an interdisciplinary field, held on the H-Education e-mail list.


A. G. Rud said...

Sherman, you may have read Eric Bredo's article a few years ago that found a positive correlation between prestige in social foundations and prestige of the respective college or school of ed. I can send you the PDF.

Art Levine just spoke two days ago at Purdue. He may be reflecting the Bredo findings (I mean the general view that Bredo states, not actually citing Eric's article). He gave a canned but nonetheless excellent summing of his teacher report you cite, and stressed especially that ed schools are professional schools that need to stop aping the arts and sciences. One thing I find I can do in ed schools (I have a "straight" philosophy doctorate from a liberal arts philosophy dept) that I can't do in a liberal arts discipline is meld and mix disciplines, AND consider practice. And I know the undergrads I teach will be out working right after graduation, so there is much more urgency in what I do.

Just some thoughts.

Craig A. Cunningham said...

This is a test

A. G. Rud said...

Craig, I didn't get your test sent to my email, if that is what you were testing.

Sherman, the discussion of ed schools and academe between J. Wesley Null and David Labaree on the H-Education list to which you linked is very helpful to me. In my undergrad fdns class, I paint the normal schools as deficient places from which we in colleges of ed are still recovering. However, I am eager to explore the views that, historically, normal schools were places of intellectual rigor and multidisciplinary investigations. I did know about the Oswego movement, but didn't emphasize it. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Let's go back to what Levine said:
"From their inception, America’s schools of education have engaged in a continuing quest to gain acceptance in the academy."

Nowhere is the gap between the two clearer in the prestige differential between Ed.D and Ph.D.

Normal schools and Female Seminaries morphed into CoEs. They still have that cachet. Universities then went on a binge, gobbling up (or being gobbled up by) hospitals and other institutions, including teacher's colleges. But they never fully assimilated the CoEs.

Levine is correct. CoEs have an inferiority complex. And one of the reasons is the history.

But they also have some insurmountable structural dependencies that hamstring their efforts. Ask: who are the CoEs dependent upon for the acceptance of THEIR product? Public schools! That dependency relation (weak ties in SNT) cannot be ignored. id13.html

Sherman Dorn said...


Christine Ogren's The American State Normal School is now the definitive history of public normal schools. I'd also recommend Jurgen Herbst's And Sadly Teach.