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American Graduate Schools of Education: A View from Abroad

reviewed by Karen Kepler Zumwalt - 1983

coverTitle: American Graduate Schools of Education: A View from Abroad
Author(s): Harry Judge
Publisher: John Wiley, New York
ISBN: , Pages: , Year:
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Judge has presented a provocative, crisply written, impressionistic essay about graduate schools/departments of education (GSEs) at major research universities that should not be ignored. Despite acknowledged methodological limitations, Judge’s report should strike painful recognition among the inhabitants of the GSEs he describes. Having been a student or faculty member at three of the schools he visited, this writer believes that Judge has presented an amazingly accurate assessment of the dilemma facing these leading professional schools of education.

Sponsored by the Ford Foundation, Dr. Harry G. Judge of Oxford University spent sixteen weeks visiting eleven GSEs during 1979 and 1980 to explore “why graduate schools of education, many of international renown, occupy so unclear and uncomfortable a position, both in the world of the research university and in other fields” (p. 1). After submitting a draft of his essay to a “wide cross section” of those visited, Judge revisited these people to discuss their reactions (p. 3).

Their major criticism apparently was that Judge’s defeatist picture was not alleviated by recommendations. In response, Judge “took an outrageous liberty with my friends, conflated them into one American wise man”—Benedict Rosencrantz—and “caused him to write me ‘A Letter from America’ ” (p. 3). The imaginary Professor Rosencrantz casts criticism and proposes alternatives to “moderate your gloomy view” (p. 61).

As a “collegial outsider” from England, Judge was intrigued by a puzzle: “Why should famous graduate schools apparently central to so much in American public and academic life, be regarded as, and regard themselves as, peripheral, as insecure, as undeserving of self-esteem.” He senses that their position in the university is “always ambiguous and often resented.” Practitioners charge them with being remote and irrelevant.

Their leading members are not sure whether they are—or wish to be—part of a graduate school of arts and sciences or of a professional school. By deliberate choice, they have tended to distance themselves from both the task of training teachers for elementary and secondary schools and that of addressing the problems and needs of those schools. (p. 6)

These assessments are further detailed in composite portraits of a GSE in a private university (Waterend) and in a state university (Highside). Judge chose to invent composite portraits rather than present descriptions “to avoid opinions on institutions as distinct from issues.” Although seeming to draw heavily on the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois, these composites have enabled Judge “to draw out underlying structural characteristics of many of the great graduate schools of education” (p. 7). While this format drew criticism from his readers, it will perhaps serve to limit defensive reactions and provoke useful faculty discussion about the issues.

Although he knows that Americans do not take kindly to the idea that some problems have no satisfactory solutions, Judge concludes that “GSEs are indeed firmly trapped within their appointed place in a complicated world” (p. 26). Unlike the British university, which behaves like a monastery, Judge observes that American universities operate within the laws of the market. This “market-mentality” preserves the “unloved system” of undergraduate teacher education from which GSEs try to disassociate themselves but on which they depend for the majority of their students. These efforts to distance themselves from teachers and schools, Judge believes, are related to the low status of teachers in this country—low in the eyes of their university colleagues as well as the critical general public—and to the messiness and difficulties involved in actually trying to work in schools.

The “intractable nature” of the problem is detailed in his last chapter (6), which is full of wonderful quotes for friends and enemies of professional schools of education. Basically, operating within the laws of the market, GSEs have a difficult time attracting good students and then matching the career-based needs and expectations of students with the scholarly orientation of their faculty. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that “GSEs are not concerned with teaching” (p. 37) since they are “escalators by which one climbs from the ranks of teaching to other, superior or more attractive occupations” (p. 38). Trying to attract these credential and career-change seekers in a highly competitive market, GSE faculty have aligned themselves with the standards of graduate schools in arts and sciences and seek esteem through publications. The standards for promotion and tenure, the emphasis on doctoral students, the “plucking” of scientists and scholars from academic disciplines to serve as faculty, and the positivist research orientation all “distract the attention of schools of education from schooling and nudge them towards a social science tradition” (p. 42).

Judge speaks in terms of “anchorage” and “linkage” problems-“the market has obliged them . . . to distance themselves from the contaminating world of practice and training” (p. 40); “It has become very unfashionable for professors of education to have anything to do with schools” (p. 41). Judge describes the scurrying of GSEs for alternative missions as they turn “their backs upon, or their eyes away from, the professional education of teachers” (p. 49). Within the imperialist perspective of the GSEs, Judge finds “layers of prejudice, snobbery, disillusionment, market calculation and . . . creative scholarship” (p. 41). “Scholarship is valued above professionalism” (p. 48). Judge concludes that GSEs have “ceased to be professional schools without ever quite becoming anything else” (p. 40).

His end query—” Was there—is there—no other way?” (p. 49) —is taken up in a letter from his imaginary American friend. Professor Benedict Rosencrantz accepts the broad lines of Judge’s analysis even though he is critical of Judge’s “odd tactics of description” (p. 51), his lack of understanding of American diversity, and his imaginary GSEs that focus on the general rather than the particulars of the places he visited. Most important, however, Professor Rosencrantz believes his European colleague has underestimated the GSEs’ capacity for change. While accepting Judge’s analysis, he prefers to “turn it around for an argument for reform” (p. 55).

Believing we are on the threshold of an economic Sputnik, Rosencrantz sees an opportunity for the GSEs to use this great public concern to improve teacher education and teachers. Two major reforms underlie this turnabout: closing down many teacher education institutions and moving teacher education solely to the graduate level. In such a change, many great GSEs would return to teacher education and to the schools, and to leading rather than rejecting other schools of education.

Thus, with the help of Professor Rosencrantz, Judge’s report ends on a hopeful note. To this GSE faculty member, who unlike other insiders (p. 51) approves of Judge’s techniques, format, and conclusions, this last chapter is both comforting and challenging. Yet one wonders what this insightful British visitor really thinks about the composite views of his imaginary American. Although “there is nothing, nothing at all” in Professor Rosencrantz’s letter that was not said to him on more than one occasion (p. 3), Judge did choose to make these views part of his report and most likely chose to highlight some views and not others. Who is Benedict Arnold and who Hamlet’s Rosencrantz in Judge’s mind—himself or his American critic who basically accepts Judge’s critical analysis but is “impertinent and foolish” (p. 6) enough to offer recommendations?

But perhaps Judge was wise in focusing on impressionistic description and leaving recommendations to those whom he interviewed. In ensuing faculty discussion, one suspects that most of the debate will focus on the recommendations. That the source of these recommendations is GSE colleagues rather than some opinionated, misinformed foreigner who does not understand the American scene makes them more compelling.

Only time will tell how compelling Judge’s analysis and Rosencrantz’s recommendations really are to the GSEs whose difficulties have been increasingly exacerbated by deteriorating economic conditions and public confidence in education. But like the studies on teacher burnout and stress, this public report, while possibly provoking change, could also add to the very problem it describes. It is obviously a risk the Ford Foundation considered worth taking.

To a faculty member at a GSE that is fortunately still involved in graduate-level teacher education, the vulnerability of these programs is painfully clear. In an institution that has recently advertised “We teach more than teachers,” has increasingly become a doctoral institution, and has rigorously pursued education in nonschool settings, those faculty involved in teacher education know that many of their colleagues view them as “second-class” for the same reasons outlined by Judge. (Interestingly, Judge interviewed ten faculty members at Teachers College, but none of them are among the more than twenty-five faculty who are involved in teacher education.)

In the anticipated faculty discussion, it will be interesting to see whether the Judge report becomes mainly a battle cry for more attention to schools, teachers, and teacher education, or a rallying cry for accelerating movement toward the Harvard, Chicago, and Stanford bandwagons. At least the Judge report will bring to the surface a festering problem of status and insecurity that has too often been politely avoided in recent discussions about Teachers College’s mission.

Teachers College, having one foot solidly in the arts and sciences model and the other still committed to its name and tradition, is in a better position than some GSEs to respond positively if Rosencrantz’s major reforms are implemented. Yet the problems of doing so even here suggest that the reforms will meet rough sailing. Rosencrantz’s recommendations are based on several assumptions: that the public would support a massive upgrading of teaching in this country; that the status of teachers can be changed; that conditions that wiped out MAT programs at many GSEs can be changed; that GSEs would want to respond to this challenge and, if willing, that they have the resources—not just monetary but human resources—to do so. After years of pursuing the arts and sciences model, it will be difficult for faculty to respond to the challenge of leading American schools and schools of education rather than following their university counterparts. Even if they have the commitment and competence, the task is far more difficult and complex than that of imitating graduate schools of arts and sciences. Hence, the university model will remain as an attractive escape from the unknown, messy, and, perhaps, unrewarded adventure set out by Rosencrantz.

If GSEs do accept the challenge, one would hope that they will appeal to more than Rosencrantz’s “dignity” or budgetary reasons (as in the University of South Carolina’s recent decision) when arguing for teacher education’s move to the graduate level, especially since advocating the move is going to seem self-serving. A legitimate argument can be based on the desirability of being liberally educated and being more mature when one rather audaciously assumes the position of being the primary educator for a class of children or adolescents. Such a move also places in the same institution the responsibility for creating knowledge and educating practitioners—heightening the opportunities for new relationships between knowledge and practice, as well as a new kind of professional knowledge.

This is a critical time for GSEs—the Judge analysis and Rosencrantz’s recommendations do not outline an easy future for them nor for the teaching profession. Will the great GSEs “seize the opportunity” as Rosencrantz urges (p. 57) or is Griffith, a recent critic who offers similar recommendations, correct—“There will be no reform if we wait for educators to introduce it”?1

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 85 Number 1, 1983, p. 150-154
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 893, Date Accessed: 12/3/2021 9:08:04 AM

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About the Author
  • Karen Zumwalt
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    E-mail Author
    KAREN KEPLER ZUMWALT, associate professor of curriculum and teaching, Teachers College, Columbia University, has been involved in teacher education for ten years, three at Smith College and the last seven at Teachers College, Columbia University. She was prepared for her teacher educator role at two "Waterend" GSE's: Harvard and the University of Chicago.
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