For my first posting on this blog (and thank you for the invitation to join), I want to take up the issue of the marginalization of the foundations of education field from educational policy issues. I have written about this elsewhere, and Michael Katz touched on many of the same issues in a posting recently on this site. My main point for now is pragmatic: the lack of voice is due in part to the fragmentation of our field. And, so long as the foundations field remains fragmented, it cannot and will not have a seat at the policy table. One clear example of this is that the foundations field (through the auspices of the Council for the Social Foundations of Education [CSFE]) is no longer a part of NCATE (see Erskine Dottin et al.’s article about the history of this). When the recent flare-up over NCATE’s use of “social justice” within their dispositions designation occurred, it would have been important for foundations scholars to put forward their own policy perspective. None did. The point here is not to debate NCATE’s decision or CSFE’s decision to stay or leave NCATE. It is to simply state the obvious: there is no central organizing umbrella organization able to make the foundations voice heard in educational policy debates.
I should be clear about why I see the foundations field as relevant, particularly to educational policy issues. Simply put, context matters. It matters because education – from preschool to graduate school – is a complex and oftentimes contested terrain. Clarifying and contextualizing education fosters a clearer comprehension of and thus a stronger commitment to the connections between educational theory and practice. This, in turn, strengthens how we teach and learn and how we think about (and thus legislate) the teaching and learning process in K-12 and postsecondary education.
In later postings I want to explore the structural, cultural, and political issues surrounding this fragmentation. But for now I just want to draw attention to it. While AESA is the seemingly primary and intuitive organization for such an umbrella group (and historically it was founded exactly for this purpose), today scholars will much more intuitively align themselves with the sociology of education section of ASA or with the Critical Educators for Social Justice AERA SIG than with AESA. The implications are huge. On a pragmatic level, our fragmentation threatens the very survival of the foundations field. The inability to have a voice at the policy table has allowed departments of education, schools of education, colleges, and legislatures to literally take foundations out of the sequence of educator preparation. I know of far too many colleagues who have spoken about this occurring in their departments and in the states where they work. Moreover, and worsening this fate, the lack of a unified voice does not allow for foundations scholars to put forward an argument for why foundations matters for future teachers, principals and superintendents. It is easy to malign a course or an idea with very little “value-added’ to students’ standardized test scores. If foundations is not taken as a course by future educators and if its’ ideas are not codified in policy documents, it on many levels does not exist.