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Doing Good, Doing Science: The Holmes Group Reports and the Rhetorics of Educational Reform


by David F. Labaree 1992

The two major reports of the Holmes Group--"Tomorrow's Teachers" and "Tomorrow's Schools"--contain sharply contrasting rhetorics: the rhetoric of democratic values and scientistic rhetoric. Contrasting rhetorics of the two Holmes Group reports are examples of the polar types of educational rhetoric that have characterized the literature on educational reform in the United States. In "Tomorrow's Teachers," the argument for educational reform rests on technical grounds; the position is that of the educational expert and the reform effort is portrayed as an exercise in doing science. In "Tomorrow's Schools," the argument is political; the position is that of the ordinary citizen who takes up the reform effort as an exercise in doing good. The appeal to science places control of reform in the hands of academic experts and of the policymakers who are looking for an authoritative and exclusive basis for educational intervention. This approach serves to transform educational policy into a technical exercise in social engineering. The appeal to democratic values demonstrates an unhealthy naivete about the disciplinary power of expertise over the reform process, for underlying the scientistic rhetoric is a structure of technical rationality and expert control which puts severe constraints on the possible forms and effects of educational reform. The democratic rhetoric does not provide more than token constraint on the reform process, but it does provide a mantle of legitimacy under which the power of the expert can operate with relative impunity. (Source: ERIC)


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 93 Number 4, 1992, p. 628-640
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10627, Date Accessed: 10/16/2017 8:25:04 PM

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About the Author
  • David Labaree
    Michigan State University
    E-mail Author
    David F. Labaree is associate professor of teacher education at Michigan State University. He is currently working on a book entitled, Research Says: Teacher Professionalism and the Science of Teaching
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