Saturday, July 21, 2007

Where is AESA?

In the most recent issue of Rethinking Schools, Kristan Morrison details what occurred in Virginia concerning the possible elimination of social foundations of education. (I wrote about this earlier here.) While Kurt Stemhagen and others were able to keep foundations coursework as a part of the teacher education curriculum, Morrison states that:

According to the American Educational Studies Association, the major foundations organization, the process of eliminating or reorienting foundations courses has begun or has occurred already at teacher education programs in many states, including Connecticut, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, Maine, Missouri, Ohio, California, Tennessee, Texas, Michigan, Illinois, and Georgia.

This list, if accurate, is troubling. Are such (proposed) changes occurring at the state level? Institution by institution? Is anything being done to support foundations scholars and programs that are facing such challenges? Where’s AESA? Where’s CSFE?

What makes this issue double- (and triple-) pressing is that foundations scholars no longer have any policy levers by which to influence such institution-by-institution changes (as I detailed earlier). NCATE’s dropping of “social justice” due to immense pressure signals that foundational issues have little if any weight in educator preparation policy. Interestingly, the same issue of Rethinking Schools has an article by Therese Quinn and Erica Meiners “Do Ask, Do Tell” that details their (failed) attempt to have AERA weigh in on NCATE’s decision to drop such terminology, specifically as it relates to LGBTQ issues. Quinn has provided additional context here in her blog. The connection, for me, is that Quinn and Meiners are advocating for a larger arena in which to influence policy. And, now that I think about, so is the John Dewey Society.

Yet the very first thing I teach my students about foundations, and the one thing I hope and hope they remember from my course, is that one cannot understand individual problems at an individual level; one must look at larger contextual and structural issues that determine and constrain and guide individual actions.

And this is a structural issue. Foundations scholars cannot support themselves as individual programs. Foundations scholars cannot petition NCATE as individuals. And the John Dewey Society cannot, on its own, be heard to the extent necessary to actually accomplish what it wants. There needs to be a larger organization that can serve as a collective voice for the multicultural foundations on each and every single one of these issues.

Where is AESA?

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