Critical Studies in Teacher Education : Its Folklore Theory and Practice
reviewed by Louise M. Berman - 1988
Title: Critical Studies in Teacher Education : Its Folklore Theory and Practice
Author(s): Thomas S. Popkewitz
Publisher: John Wiley, New York
ISBN: 1850001545, Pages: , Year:
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Teacher education is currently an arena in which various groups and individuals are performing their acts. On the one hand, some are calling for increased control, more rigorous study of academic disciplines, career ladders, and tighter measures for assessment and certification. Deans and academic officers have suddenly rediscovered the significance of teacher education and are conspiring to give it an honorable place in the pecking order of departments and colleges.1 Others are calling for the decentralization of decision-making processes, the encouragement of teachers to speak in their own voices, the involvement of teachers in research and knowledge generation, and the empowerment of teachers.2
Enter Popkewitz and fourteen authors. Clearly opposed to any reforms in teacher education that might be of a technocratic, instrumental nature Popkewitz et al. seek to demystify the "regimes of truth"3 or the fundamental codes of culture "that underlie a society at any one time. These codes govern the society's discourse, its exchanges, its techniques, its values and the hierarchy of its practices" (p. 4). The "taken-for-granted" concepts that have long, though perhaps inadvertently, guided teacher education are unpacked as these authors expose from a "critical studies" perspective the underpinnings of current ideologies in teacher education and take first steps toward designing programs for the preparation of teachers.
Whether or not the reader agrees with the ideas presented here, he or she should find the writings of this group of authors refreshing. They ask critical questions. They probe. They care intensely about the values of justice, equality, and individual rights.
In the Preface, Popkewitz states, The essays draw upon critical traditions in political science, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, and history. The patterns of teacher education are located in larger issues of cultural contractions, economic structures and social transformation. The categories of teaching, learning, and competency are transposed into questions of labor, ideology, power and gender. The call for professionalism in teaching is defined as a dynamic of social transformation, serving as an institutional ideology which legitimates existing power arrangements and the assumptions of teacher labor. The essays are concerned with the structure by which certain questions of power became omitted from public consideration, obscuring the social and political complexity of professional life. (p. x)
In his opening chapter Popkewitz discusses schooling's myths based on instrumental reason-a search for certitude and taxonomical structures as op-posed to consideration of the problematic and critique. He argues that teacher educators have been lulled into thinking that the world is already made, hence little attention is given to the actual realities of social control.
In addition to Popkewitz's opening and closing chapters, the book consists of four parts. In Part I, "Teachers Education, Class Relations and Gender: Historical Perspectives," Paul Mattingly and Michael Apple point out the dilemma posed in American education when the enterprise is considered democratic but teachers are given relatively little autonomy. Apple, basing his case on historical data, indicates that teaching must be placed within the historical context of "gendered labor."
In Part II, "Professional Education: Forms of Labor and Ideology," Mark Ginsberg, rather than discussing professionalism in the abstract, focuses on preservice teachers' conceptions of professionalism. He attempts to "illuminate the contribution of the ideology of professionalism to the reproduction of inequalities in wealth and power characteristic of capitalist and patriarchal structures" (pp. 86-87). The conflict between professionalism as remuneration and as service is explored. Kathleen Densmore, in her study of two first-year teachers, indicates the vulnerability of teachers to the operating procedures of the schools. She concludes that teachers are more like laborers than like professionals. From the perspective of the English, Geoff Whitty, Len Barton, and Andrew Pollard consider teaching critical reflection as a means of sensitizing teachers to problems of control and images of a particular kind of society.
The authors of Part III, "Myth and Rituals of Control," challenge many of the "taken-for-granted" myths of teacher education. Barbara Schneider traces the origin of many of the myths, attributing the current status of teacher education to the low status of colleges of education; the emphasis on experimentation, numbers. and classification; and the perceived "high quality" of programs of educational psychology as compared with programs of teacher education. Catherine Cornbleth deals with the persistent "myths of thinking skills, the right answer, and stages and styles of cognition and learning" (p. 186). Clinical supervision is discussed by Henry St. Maurice as "the gaze of power," which "reduces lived experience to positive knowledge manipulation by symbol and word" (p. 246)
Part IV, "Alternative Perspectives to Professional Education," is the beginning of a redefinition of teacher education. Henry Giroux and Peter McLaren propose a "pedagogical model that stresses the primacy of cultural analysis, teaching for democracy, and active citizenry" (p. 266). Landon E. Beyer and Ken Zeichner recommend teacher education programs and policies based on "reflection, critique, and personal and social enquiry" (p. 298). They stress the importance of overturning social reproduction and giving attention to 'Sustice, equality and non-exploitive social relations" (p, 298). In the final chapter Popkewitz focuses on problems of knowledge, the institutional quality of schooling, and social and cultural interests having a bearing on school knowledge.
Clearly Critical Studies in Teacher Education is a tantalizing, thought-provoking work. The sacred cows of teacher education are debunked as the authors raise profound, startling, and at times unanswerable questions. The book is replete with references and documentation as themes of reproduction, control, professionalism, gender, power, and social and economic injustice are examined in the context of teacher education. At times, I wished that the above themes, which form the foundations for the book, had been sharply laid out in a chapter or two so that the remainder of the work might have moved rather succinctly into the implications of these ideas for teacher education. The book occasionally seemed somewhat repetitive as the various authors made critical analyses of the themes.
The themes underlying the book are those frequently treated by the critical theorists who represent a variety of disciplines as mentioned earlier. Yet the editor does not really define what is meant by critical studies until the last part of the last chapter. There Popkewitz indicates that the use of critical goes beyond a concern with "understanding the internal logic and consistency in an argument, methods or findings" (p, 350). He states: "The problematic quality involves interrelating questions of social philosophy with politics, history, and 'unmasking' motifs of social inquiry, such as found in the sociology of knowledge and Marxism. 'Critical' means moving outside the assumptions and practices of the existing order" (p. 350). Popkewitz goes on to say that critical means moving outside the existing order so that common assumptions are made problematic.
Therein lies a dilemma. The utilization of critical in the sense that it is tied to the political and social order is in one sense an accepted use of the word. On the other hand, reflection and personal and social inquiry are recommended as part of an alternative approach to teacher education. The enhancement of such skills may lead students of teacher education to uncover themes and foundational areas beyond those discussed by the authors. For example, reflection and personal inquiry may lead to uncovering the significance of the aesthetic, beauty, the spiritual, and other basically human qualities. The discussion here is surely based on foundations that have certain "good" qualities. The possibility, however, that the experiential base of the curriculum might evoke other purposes and values for teacher education is not considered.
The authors have built a case against technocratic programs. They have also argued that the realities of social and economic inequities should not be reproduced. However, could not the processes of reflection and social inquiry lead to acknowledgment of deprivation of qualities of the human spirit?
Critical Studies in Teacher Education needs to be part of the dialogue currently underway on the preparation of teachers. It should evoke lively discussion not only among those persuaded by the philosophical orientation of the authors but also those committed to teacher education as a field of practice and study. The book elicits questions such as the following: What are the values in which teacher education is embedded? What are the virtues and weaknesses of those values? What values might surface if programs gave increasing attention to critical inquiry and reflection? What processes would enable negotiating among competing values? Popkewitz et al. have rendered service by unearthing certain of the values underlying educational practice. The task remains for educators to continue to examine premises underlying practice, to cause those premises to surface, and to construct programs in which values are congruent with practice.
1See Teachers College Record 88, no. 3 (Spring
1987), special issue, "Reforming Teacher Education: A Symposium on
the Holmes Group Report."