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.