Homeless in the House of Intellect
Formative Justice and Education as an Academic Study
Laboratory for Liberal Learning
Length: 33,000 words
In writing Homeless in the House of Intellect, I have three objectives.
First, I aim to establish the intellectual context for a substantial work of scholarship on the concept of formative justice. The last third of this essay introduces that concept and the first two-thirds analyze the intellectual context for it.
Second, through a critique of schools of education, I want to provoke serious discussion of two questions. What knowledge, skills, and understandings should professional educators hold in common and how can schools of education ensure that they acquire them? And should the dissertation, putatively an original contribution to knowledge but often far less, cease to culminate advanced professional preparation in education, replaced by a clinical internship, sustained and comprehensive, one like that concluding the preparation of medical doctors?
Third, and most importantly, I strive to persuade university scholars and administrators to add education to the departments in the arts and sciences, as a field akin to political science, in order to secure a place for disinterested academic research and teaching about education at the graduate and undergraduate levels. American culture needs a renewed understanding of education as a deeply formative experience, one that will serve each person in a life-long aspiration to fulfillment. The educational profession, entangled in the status quo, cannot provide the necessary leadership. The university as a whole might project to the public a moving vision of formative education, a birthright of all, but to lead with effect it must strengthen its internal commitment to the study of education. This essay calls for that action.
These views have ripened slowly over 37 years as a member of the faculty at Teachers College, Columbia University. I am deeply indebted to the College and to the University, and to numerous colleagues, both past and current, for intellectual stimulus and professional support across my career.
At Teachers College, I have had the opportunity to partici-pate closely in doctoral programs preparing both scholars for the academic study of education and practitioners for profes-sional work in schools. I have become convinced that a sharpening of the distinction between those purposes and the programs serving them would further the interests of students and the public they aim to serve. I fear that some colleagues may take affront at this view, and if they do, I apologize, for I intend no insult. I believe, however, that the blurring of aca-demic and professional purposes causes grave weaknesses in schools of education. Despite the immense talent, dedication, and effort of those working within Teachers College and other graduate schools of education, these weaknesses arise because the university supports the study of education poorly. We cannot improve the situation without speaking honestly about its destructive effects and calling vigorously for a decisive remedy.
I want to thank explicitly Rene Arcilla, John B. Black, Ste-ven Cohen, Lambros Comitas, James Fraser, Seth Halvorson, Floyd Hammack, Jennifer Hogan-Murphy, Andrew Light, Su-san Lowes, Maxine McClintock, Avi Mintz, Frank A. Moretti, James B. Murphy, Pat Nicholson, Thomas W. Pogge, Grace Goodyear Roosevelt, Mitchell Stevens, John Waterbury, and Jonathan Zimmerman for comments on presentations or drafts that have helped me sharpen points. They bear no responsibility, however, for my continuing lack of clarity or for the burden of the argument.
who brooked no discouragement.
Putting a question
On the steps of Low Library in the warmth of a springtime sun, a friend surveyed the Columbia square and posed a question. Has the contemporary university fully developed its intellectual organization? A hundred years ago, Columbia was just moving here from midtown, with hardly anything yet built. Columbia was like others, a university in the making. Now it has filled out physically—and intellectually too. It offers several routes to the bachelors—Barnard across Broadway, Engineering back behind Low, General Studies there to the right, and the College proper over in Hamilton. It has the big professional schools, and some smaller, each with its special degree, and the graduate school in the arts and sciences grants the Ph.D. in most any specialty one can imagine, and all around, centers and institutes do research on matters of every sort.
Of course, relative to the generic university, the ideal-type that touches on all the possibilities, Columbia leaves out a few, like a school of agriculture. But who would go to an agschool on the Heights? Surely no single university has all the possibilities. That is not the point. The question is not—Which particular university is most complete? Rather—Is the model, the idea of the university, now intellectually complete? In principle, have the key academic disciplines and the professional schools, major and minor, developed fully with a rough working consensus among them about purpose and effort?
Agreed, some developments, despite the buzz, were not so pertinent. For instance, continuing education is growing, drawing in new participants, and organizational innovations may emerge from distance learning, but these changes have to do with the medium more than the message. New means to meet demands for learning fit within the established fields of study, tilting towards the practical end of the spectrum. The question has to do with the structure and scope of knowledge itself, not with techniques for its dissemination. Do the fields of study within the contemporary university organize its work in a way that is intellectually sound and complete?
Every school and every field still has much to accomplish. The question does not call for an inventory of all pending developments. Rather, is the university rightly organized to support these efforts? Is the research university rightly adapted to acquire, preserve, and disseminate the knowledge, skill, and understanding requisite in contemporary life? Taken together, universities are the novum organum made tangible, for they organizationally embody the advancement of learning that has taken place in the modern era. As they have developed to this point, do university structures rightly serve the intellectual functions active in twenty-first-century experience? Does the division of intellectual labor at work among the arts and sciences and the learned professions suit the major opportunities? If not, what reorganization of intellectual work might prove wise? This is the question.
In putting the question, let us set speculations about the peripheral emergence of new knowledge or skill to the side. A slow churn at the margins where research fields intersect will generate new subspecialties. For instance, nanotechnology is fast becoming a new applied science, not as a structural improvement correcting an evident deficiency in academic organization, but as an extension of well-established lines of inquiry within existing components of the university. Emerging subspecialties evidence a mature system at work, not a persisting immaturity of it. Rather than looking for novelties, let us restrict the question to issues with a long history in cultural experience. Is a core pursuit of the university still imperfectly institutionalized? Given the spectrum of disciplines in the arts and sciences, along with the range of human practice addressed through professional schools, is the study of something important still homeless in the house of intellect?
The professional and the academic
Fragment 51, Kathleen Freeman, trans., Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956), p. 28.
To be sure, turning from ideal-types to the mundane actualities of academic life, professionalism has increasingly pervaded the arts and sciences at the doctoral level, with the various departments aggregating into the professional school that prepares the future faculty of the arts and sciences according to the interests of a largely self-defined elite. Such actualities create circumstances under which departments can slip away from the academic idea and take up some purpose other than knowledge for its own sake. To deal with such circumstances well, scholars and university leaders need to be clear about the integrity of the ideal-type. That Noble Dream: The "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession by Peter Novick (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988) is very illuminating with respect to these problems. I think it is important to recognize that objectivity is a (dubious) epistemology whereas disinterestedness is a disposition in which the dis- in disinterested is important, a refusal to control inquiry by external interests, however putatively normative others may claim those to be. Socrates paradigmatically exemplified disinterestedness when he would refuse to accept what "everyone" recognized to be important and would accept as controlling what he and his interlocutor would hold to be im-portant on careful examination of the matter. Socrates characteristically queried people who possessed expertise of one sort or another to show the limits of such knowledge.
To start, consider the distinctive differentiation long distinguishing university organization. Surely the university has illustrated how "harmony consists of opposing tension," as Heraclitus long ago claimed. Almost always, cognate to each professional school, which prepares skilled practitioners in an important activity, one or more academic fields treat the domain as a subject for disinterested inquiry and teaching. In the professional schools, the interests of practitioners shape research and training, which are keyed to what those in the craft need to know. In the arts and sciences, scholarship and instruction are detached, drawn by curiosity, not driven by the imperatives of practice. All the same, the professional and the academic address the same realms of experience.
In this essay, I will use as the primary distinction, the ideal-types of interested knowledge and disinterested knowledge. I will use as frequent synonyms, the professional and the academic, and for the former, I will sometimes describe inquiry as partial, meaning disposed towards the advantage of one or another given purpose, and for the latter, I will occasionally speak of detachment, objective knowledge, and value-free, dispassionate, or impartial inquiry. Max Weber's methodological essays and his great discussion of "Science as a Vocation" are important for thinking out the discipline of disinterested study, but he was concerned less to define the work of the arts and sciences vis-à-vis professional schools than he was to ensure the integrity of the arts and sciences against diverse temptations of politicization. See inter alia, Max Weber, The Methodology of the Social Sciences, Edward A. Shils and Henry A. Finch, trans., (Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1949) and Max Weber, "Science as a Vocation," in H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, eds., From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946, 1958), pp. 129-156.
Whoever looks only at one or the other, either the professional or the academic, will find the concept of interested or disinterested knowledge difficult to grasp. Thus scholars often flounder in explaining what they mean by "knowledge for its own sake." The concept makes sense as one of two contrasting ideal-types—knowledge adapted to the interests of an organized profession counterbalanced by knowledge derived from the play of curiosity, the knowledge that springs from wonder, the knowledge motivated by no purpose outside itself. Professional schools and the academic arts and sciences do not deal with different human stuff; they overlap, dealing with a common substance in a distinctive way. The knowledge of most worth in the professional school is highly instrumental from the perspective of the skilled practitioner; that of most worth in the academic department is disinterested, value-free with respect to practice, which means neither uninterested nor irrelevant, and it takes the perspective of the inquisitive person, moved by simple curiosity, not that of the proficient professional.
Here is the key. The distinction between the professional and the academic provides a way to decide whether the university has reached its full development. The university structure will be complete if it provides both professional training and academic study for all major domains of experience and action. An opportunity to improve the organizational structure of the university exists where professional programs lack an academic correlate, or vice versa.
Immanuel Kant saw the principle clearly and distinguished lawful from unlawful conflicts between the professional faculties and the arts and sciences. Lawful conflicts proceeded through open, rational debate and were intellectually fruitful. Unlawful conflicts resorted to external authorities to impose a resolution to questions by the force of censorship, suppressing offensive reasoning by the rule of force. See Immanuel Kant, The Conflict of the Faculties, Mary J. Gregor, trans., (New York: Abaris Books, 1979), passim, especially pp. 47-53.
A harmony of opposing tension in the university between the professional and the academic is neither a recent accident nor the happenstance of inefficient management. From its earliest origin, the university housed both liberal education in the arts and sciences and specialist preparation in learned professions, the two sides often locked in creative conflict with one another. The opposing tendencies arose early on, nascent in the different forms of reasonableness that tradition attributed to the pre-Socratic sages. The lore about early thinkers celebrated both their gift for detached reflection with their paradoxes and obscure definitions and their shrewd acumen as they used their knowledge to corner markets for olive oil, to lay out well-ordered cities, and to promulgate effective laws. Soon, ancient centers of learning supported both Socratic and sophistic schools, the one dedicated to philosophic learning, the other to practical rhetoric.
The differentiation between academic and professional study is related to the much-discussed tension between pure and applied knowledge, but I do not think it is precisely the same issue. To explore the difference fully would require an extended reflection inappropriate within the confines of this essay. Pasteur's Quadrant: Basic Science and Technological Innovation by the late Donald E. Stokes (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 1997, esp. Figure 3-5 and related discussion, pp. 70-5), a useful discussion, does not really distinguish between the professional and the academic, for the quadrant applies to both. It arises from the possibility of responding yes or no to two questions – Was there a quest for fundamental understanding? Were there considerations of use? Yes/Yes; Yes/No; No/Yes; No/No. With respect to both interested and disinterested inquiries, one can ask both questions and apply the quadrant to each type of inquiry, with each producing examples of the four different results. What distinguishes interested and disinterested inquiry is not how each situates within the quadrant, but rather who will decide how to answer the questions defining the quadrant and what sorts of reasons they will give in determining their answers. By characterizing inquiry as interested or disinterested, one describes neither the process nor its results, but the motivations driving both the process and its results.
Such early tensions, maturing into the academic arts and sciences and the major professional schools, became an essential organizational characteristic of the modern university. Because of it, the twenty-first-century university includes numerous overlapping units: a department of economics and a school of business; a department of sociology and a school of social work; a department of politics and both a school of public affairs and a law school; a department of biology and a school of medicine; departments of physics, of chemistry, and of other sciences of matter and energy and a school of engineering, a department of religion and a theological seminary; departments of literature, of music, and of art history and schools of the arts, architecture, and journalism.
Why does the university foster so much overlap in its intellectual organization between academic departments and professional schools? We can imagine a corporate apostle of productivity insisting that intellectual institutions use precious resources more efficiently by situating the preparation of professionals in academic departments or, better yet, by locating disinterested scholarship, if needed at all, in the appropriate professional school. We can hear the directives. Have prospective executives take graduate degrees in economics. Better, close the economics department and move the faculty to the b-school. But then, we also hear the complaints. With the one, the economics courses are too ivory tower, divorced completely from real-world, managerial imperatives. With the other, the b-school gives short shrift to high-level researchers, it won't tenure macroeconomists, and it dumbs down anything mathematical to what distracted executives would find easy and relevant. Who knows, relegated to the b-school, research economists might lobby to move en masse to the school of public policy where rational choice theories receive a bit more respect. Corporate restructuring, doing away with inefficient redundancies between academic departments and professional schools, would prove ineffective, for the overlap arises from real differences in the uses of knowledge generated and disseminated by each.
The anomaly in education
Consider whether the opposing tension in the university between academic disciplines and professional schools characteristic for economic, political, social, religious, biologic, artistic, and material experience holds with the study of educational experience. Does the professional school of education stand without a clear departmental complement in the arts and sciences? The ostensible, organized study of education is pervasively professional. To be sure, sometimes it is situated in the faculty of the arts and sciences, but it nevertheless specializes in preparing practitioners. At the undergraduate level, students can often major in education, but in doing so, they are usually taking a program of professional preparation leading towards initial teaching credentials. Thus they study education in an interested, not a disinterested, manner, seeking status as certified practitioners.
Stanford University School of Education. "Undergraduate Honors Program in the School of Education." www.stanford.edu/dept/SUSE/honors/info.htm.
In addition to an undergraduate teacher education program, the Education Department at Brown University offers a concentration in Education Studies with two emphases, Human Development or History and Policy. See "About Us," www.brown.edu/Departments/Education/about.php, and "Concentration Requirement," www.brown.edu/Departments/Education/conc_reqs.php).
Occasional exceptions appear to exist—perhaps. For instance, Stanford's Undergraduate Honors Program in the School of Education, which "is not a preparation for teaching," offers instead an opportunity to do research on educational topics that honors students could not do within a regular discipline. This program confirms the rule, however, for it describes itself as "unique in the nation," and even at that, most "educational research" is not uninvolved, instead comprising a set of inquiries highly responsive to the imperatives of the profession. Perhaps more significantly, Brown University has broadened its undergraduate education offerings to include a concentration "designed for students seeking a broad liberal arts background in the field of education." But it is a small department supporting only an M.A.T. at the graduate level.
See, for instance, the Preparing Future Faculty Program, www.preparing-faculty.org. These developments are not examples of the academic study of education in the arts and sciences, however. They reflect a salutary effort to bring a higher level of professional excellence to the teaching and learning that takes place in the arts and sciences.
At the graduate level, the study of education is almost entirely contained within the schools of education, where research and instruction primarily concerns the needs of schools and those who run them and those who teach and learn within them. Work there is professional, not academic and overall sets the tone for the study of education throughout the university. One exception arises because graduate schools of the arts and sciences are paying much more attention to the quality of teaching in their various fields at both the graduate and undergraduate level. This is a major positive development in higher education over the past decade or so backed by major associations in higher education. It introduces systematic work on instructional practice into the arts and sciences, significantly preparing the way for the disinterested study of education there. The academic study of education might build on these developments, but it would differ in one significant way from them, for it would look outward to education in the world generally, not inward to the process of teaching and learning on the local campus. In the end, needed attention to the preparation of graduate students as prospective college and university instructors is not the same as a field of inquiry devoted to the academic study of education in the way political science approaches politics or sociology social life and conditions.
Ellen Condliffe Lagemann gives an excellent account in An Elusive Science: The Troubling History of Education Research (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), showing how psychology became a dominant component of educational research as professional schools of education developed in the United States. In this story, Lagemann's primary interest is the shaping of educational research, not the development of psychology as an academic subject (see especially Chapters 1 & 2, pp. 23–70). In The Norton History of the Human Sciences (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1997), Roger Smith gives a good general explanation, primarily from the perspective of the history of psychology, describing how many of the leading psychological researchers from roughly 1880 to 1920 were instrumental in building up both psychology as a discipline and education as a subject of professional education (see especially pp. 519–529, 580–599, and 650–672). Dorothy Ross traces how the social sciences developed in American higher education from 1865 to 1929 in The Origins of American Social Science (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991). In contrast to the linkage between psychology and schools of education, she shows the development of the major social science disciplines to be primarily an internal matter through which the disciplines created an internal professional ethos and discipline for their practitioners, not a process linked to a professional school from which the discipline might derive its ethos.
So, my friend observed, if a differentiation between professional preparation in education and the academic study of it does not hold, introducing it may be an opportunity for further developing the intellectual organization of the university. But is the tension between the academic and the professional actually absent in way the university organizes work on education? Do not departments of psychology in the arts and sciences stand to schools of education as departments of biology and related life sciences stand to medical schools? In part, they do, but imperfectly so, for psychology as an academic correlate to the professional study of education has two limitations. First, a weak differentiation of the academic from the professional in the study of education deeply affected the way the university institutionalized the study of psychology itself. The upshot: psychology has been co-opted by the professional school of education. Universities appoint a high proportion of academic specialists in psychology as faculty members in the professional school of education, not in the arts and sciences. Although psychology may partially serve as an academic correlate to the professional school of education, in doing so, it shows how weakly the university differentiates the academic and the professional in education. By co-opting major parts of psychology, the professional school of education has enveloped parts of the academic field, making the interests of the profession primary in major sectors of the academic subject.
In the analysis that follows, I concentrate on developing the rationale for the academic study of educational matters independent of psychology. I think, however, that a few psychologists who are currently on the faculty of education schools might argue parallel to the case developed here that their work would be better situated in the arts and sciences were education recognized there as a significant, non-professional field. Other psychologists seem satisfied within the professional context and call for greater attention to the socio-cultural setting of professional educational work. David C. Berliner gives an attractive vision of improved doctoral preparation in educational psychology, making it more effective with respect to the realities of educational practice, in "Toward a Future as Rich as Our Past," Carnegie Essays on the Doctorate (Stanford: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 2003) www.carnegiefoundation.org/CID/ essays/CID_Edu_Berliner.pdf.
A second, still more important limitation on psychology as the academic correlate to the professional study of education arises because psychology, in its various forms, is mute about much that is at stake. Education involves more than the psychological, for through it the cultural experience of humanity is at work. Education comprises cultural processes, immeasurable and intricate, vital to all, spawning complex institutions, guzzling material resources, with experiential consequences for persons and for publics. The disinterested, academic study of educational experience as it might be conducted within the arts and sciences contains much that lies outside the purview of psychological inquiry. In short, psychology speaks to part of the how and to part of the when in education. Does an academic correlate address well the rest of the how and the when, and also, the what, the who, the where, and the why of education?
Wilhelm Dilthey introduced his substantial work on historical pedagogy, asserting that "the blossom and goal of real philosophy is pedagogy in its fullest sense, the formative theory of man (Bildungslehre des Menschen)." See Pädagogik: Geschichte und Grundlinien des Systems, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. IX, 3rd, edition, (Stuttgart: B. G. Teubner, 1960), p. 7. I think the concept of historical pedagogy, the idea that one learns through philosophy and history what human beings can and should become, is important for the disinterested study of education and regret not having published anything on it other than a fragment in a Spanish journal: Robert McClintock, "El nacimiento de la historia de la educación: Los antecedentes alemanes de la pedagogía histórica." Revista de Educación, fall 1985. An excellent doctoral dissertation in an academic department of education would examine the development of historical pedagogy from Hermann Niemeyer (1754–1828) and F. H. C. Schwarz (1766–1857) through Wilhelm Dilthey ending with the Weimar Period with Das Pädagogische Problem in der Geistesgeschichte der Neuzeit by Hermann Leser (Munich: Druck and Verlag von R. Oldenbourg, 1925 & 1928).
William Torrey Harris, of course, was both the first U.S. Commissioner of Education and the founder of The Journal of Speculative Philosophy (1867) a key journal in the history of philosophy in America. See The American Hegelians: An Intellectual Episode in the History of Western America edited by William H. Goetzmann (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1973). Louis Menand might have paid more attention to Harris and the Journal of Speculative Philosophy in The Metaphysical Club (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001), for they did much to draw together and sustain the community of discourse about which Menand wrote.
Throughout the twentieth century, there has been a paucity of work on education in leading philosophy journals and the dearth is especially marked over the past 50 or more years. Mind published one article with "education" in its title in the twentieth century, in 1953; Philosophy and Phenomenological Research published five between 1940 and 1998, the most recent in 1952; The Philosophical Reviewpublished three in the twentieth century, the most recent in 1921; and Philosophical Quarterlypublished none between its start in 1950 and 1998. Relatively speaking, only the Journal of Philosophy has been a hot bed of pedagogical speculation, between 1904 and 1998 publishing fifteen articles the most recent in 1982. Although academic philosophers do not ostensibly write about education, what many of them write has great relevance to the disinterested study of education and it would gain in value were there an organizational center for such work in the arts and sciences.
In the nineteenth century, philosophy served as the academic correlate to the professional study of education, at that time spanning both the psychological and cultural sides of it. Philosophy had this role, not only in Germany, but also in the United States, for German influence in American philosophy, from Transcendentalism through Dewey, was significant. By World War I, psychology had largely separated from philosophy and, like their peers in England, American philosophers largely abandoned detached reflection on the cultural aspects of education. As a freestanding subfield, the philosophy of education, Dewey notwithstanding, had migrated to the schools of education, which co-opted it as the "philosophical and historical foundations of education" to serve an explicit role in the professional preparation of teachers and other educational specialists. Through most of the twentieth century in the arts and sciences, philosophers have rarely written about education overtly.
It is important to break away from the lazy equating of education with schooling, particularly schooling through state-supported systems. The best educational histories make that break, but the controlling definitions of education in them have not been entirely satisfactory. Paideia: the Ideals of Greek Culture by Werner Jaeger (Gilbert Highet, trans., 3 vols., 2nd ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 1945) is a work of lasting value for the study of ancient Greek educational thought. But Jaeger reified his ideas about "the Greek mind" and dehumanized education in his magisterial history by defining it as a self-subsistent force, "education is the process by which a community preserves and transmits its physical and intellectual character . . . from one generation to another. . ." vol. 1, p. xiii. Lawrence A. Cremin was more circumspect in his 3 volume American Education in which he would "view education as the deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to transmit or evoke knowledge, attitudes, values, skills, and sensibilities . . ." vol. 1, (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), p. xiii; cf. vol. 2, p. ix; Public Education (New York: Basic Books, 1976), p. 41; and Traditions of American Education (New York: Basic Books, 1977), pp. viii & 134–5 for variations. This definition concentrates attention on the causal processes that one might associate with education. I think it more appropriate to accentuate the reciprocal influences and complicated interactions at work within it. Cremin wanted to discriminate between the history of education and "history in general," and consequently avoided a truly comprehensive definition of education. This was a mistake, I believe. Fundamental human concerns—economics, politics, social action, culture, and education—touch all of human experience. Scholars in these fields of study should not exclude anything by definition, but make reasoned judgments according to their understanding of the whole about what they take to be incidental and what they hold central to a proper understanding of the matter in question.
Recognizing the limitations of psychology and philosophy as academic complements to the professional study of education implies a definition of education, which deserves to be explicit. Education occurs through complex interactions under concrete circumstances as persons or groups perceive, activate, develop, and combine natural capabilities and nurtured possibilities, thereby acquiring and realizing their determinate attributes. This definition avoids the verb, to be, refraining from saying what education is, for education does not exist passively like a stone; it takes place actively, as a result of which persons or groups achieve significant accomplishments. Educative agents acquire their characteristics through an interactive process that takes place in an actual environment replete with constraining and enabling conditions. Education viewed from past towards future accounts for stabilities of personal character and the weight of social reproduction; viewed from future to past it projects the aspirations and hopes, which persons and peoples work to achieve.
A great deal of pedagogical frustration arises because people insist on thinking about education using Kant's second analogy of experience, the principle of temporal succession according to the law of causality, only to find that all-too-often teachers, curricula, and texts have little causal command upon the plastic stuff of the pupil. Theorists will find it far more fruitful to consider educational experience, like so much other human experience, through Kant's third analogy, the principle of simultaneity according to the law of reciprocity or community. Persons engaged in education—child and adult, near and far—inhabit a shared life-world in which all and everything are simultaneous and therefore necessarily "stand in thoroughgoing community of interaction with each other." See, Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, I. Elements, Pt. II, Div. I, Bk. II, Ch. II, A213/B260, Guyer & Wood, trans.
Scholars can genuinely respect the complexity of educational practice by breaking the simple assumption that education is what happens in schools. What happens in schools may or may not be education and much of education takes place independent of school and classroom. Disinterested inquiry about education needs to try to see it whole, understanding how education unfolds, both in school and out. Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich (New York: Harper & Row, 1971) can still be very helpful, if we take it as an exhortation to concentrate on the realities of education, not the formalities of schooling. Wherever education takes place, we need to pay more attention to the student as a controlling agent, a view I argued long ago in "Towards a Place for Study in a World of Instruction," Teachers College Record (73:2, Dec. 1971, pp. 161–205), www.studyplace.org/studyplace/ studyspace/mcclintock/twards_a_place_for_study_1971.html.
Looking at the interactions through which it takes place, education comprises reciprocal determinations between an autonomous agent, possessing natural and cultural potentials, and a range of circumstances, all co-existing within an extended time and place that both limits and enables the actualization of potential. Through education, homo sapiens becomes the Lamarckian species capable of developing and passing on acquired characteristics. Disinterested scholarship on education would study, in a variety of ways under diverse conditions, how educational interactions bring natural potentials and nurtured achievements to fulfillment and affect the quality of personal and public life.
So defined, inquiry into education considers many matters, some pertinent to professional work and some not, but all susceptible to detached scrutiny. Universities institutionalize support for the disinterested study of education as a cultural endeavor poorly, however, with no organizational center in the arts and sciences and an uncertain rationale within schools of education. To be sure, from time to time, at one or another university, in this or that academic department, a scholar thinks deeply about one or another cultural component of education, but nowhere do such thinkers draw together into an effective department of education in the arts and sciences where they can plumb, as a community of peers, the human experience of education in an objective manner. With respect to historical, cultural experience, the university has situated dispassionate scholarship on education in its professional school, and there academic inquiry has lacked the critical mass and resources to remain true to its intellectual mission in the face of steady pressure to prove its relevance to the imperatives of preparing practitioners. In short, the disinterested study of education in American universities has an anomalous organization. Does this anomaly matter? Does it indicate a potential for further development in the organizational structure of the university?
By preparing both academic scholars and professional practitioners, perhaps the schools of education demonstrate how corporate rationalization can improve results and lower costs. Certainly, the peculiar situation in the study of education has had discernible effects on educational scholarship and the advanced preparation of professionals. Whether the effects improve results or lower costs is a question.
See A History of Teachers College, Columbia University by Lawrence A. Cremin, David A. Shannon, and Mary Evelyn Townsend (New York: Columbia University Press, 1954), pp. 140–1. "For years there had been discussions in educational circles on the inappropriateness of the research-oriented Ph.D. program for a large variety of school leadership positions. What was needed instead was a doctoral program whose foci lay in the advanced knowledge, the specialized understandings, and the practical skills required for broad professional competence in the field. Acceptance of such an equivalent doctorate would accomplish at least two things which seemed very much in demand. First, it would remove the continuing conflict of aims and purposes which had for years marked the effort to pursue both research and professional goals in a single Ph.D. program; and second, it would allow those advanced students who remained with the Ph.D. to concentrate more than ever on the cultivation of research skills and competencies. In so doing, it was felt that a good deal of the friction between 'research-oriented' and 'field-oriented' members of the Faculty would be quickly alleviated."
Concern to ensure that the Ph.D. would be restricted to academic programs at Teachers College was evident in reports by two influential committees: "Report of Committee on the Ph.D. Degree," submitted by Austin P. Evans, Chairman, to the Dean of the Graduate Faculties, January 29, 1952, and "On the Relation between the Graduate Faculties and Teachers College, Columbia University: Report to the Joint Committee on Graduate Instruction by a Special Fact-Finding Committee," submitted by Uriel Weinreich, Chairman, November 15, 1963 (with revisions to September 11, 1964). This effort at Teachers College to preserve the academic character of the Ph.D. earned by its students has been more or less successful, but it has not been balanced by a similar one to ensure that the Ed.D. remained strictly a professional degree.
National Center for Educational Statistics. Digest of Educational Statistics, 2002. Chapter 3, Tables 254, 279, 282–287, 292–293, and 296. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d02/. In addition to education, psychology is the other field that awards a very high number of doctorates relative to other fields, 10.4% of all doctorates earned in 2000–01 (4,659). One may hypothesize that students in schools of education earn a significant proportion of those psychology doctorates. Most of those earned in ed schools, however, probably go to educational researchers, not field practitioners. The ratio of psychology doctorates to all those in the social sciences is 1.2 to 1 as it is for all those in the physical sciences. The ratio to doctorates in economics is 5.5 to 1, in history 5.0 to 1, in political science 6.8 to 1, and in sociology 8.5 to 1. Year after year, at least since 1950, about one quarter of all doctorates earned in the United States has been in education and psychology.
In most fields, the Ph.D. is the highest academic degree, with advanced professional degrees given a distinctive identification—M.D., M.B.A., J.D., etc. In the field of education, universities have confused the situation, however. Early in the twentieth century, the first major graduate school of education, Teachers College, used the Columbia University Ph.D. as both the highest degree for academic work in education and psychology and for the most advanced level of professional preparation. By the 1930s, Teachers College students were earning an unseemly proportion of Columbia's Ph.D. degrees. To correct that situation, Teachers College and Columbia adopted the Ed.D., ostensibly a distinctive degree for advanced professional preparation in education, restricting use of the Ph.D. in education to strictly academic programs. By this time, however, many other universities had adopted the early usage at Teachers College for their own schools of education, granting the Ph.D. indiscriminately to signify both advanced academic and professional preparation. And at Teachers College, a clear distinction between the academic Ph.D. and the professional Ed.D. proved hard to uphold, for many students wanted a Ph.D. on completion of their professional preparation and many faculty members wanted to give Ed.D. programs a more academic cast, aiming to gain status as research scholars thereby.
Consequently, whether a doctorate in education, be it Ph.D. or Ed.D., is an academic or a professional degree has long been ambiguous. A symptom of this ambiguity: official, nation-wide statistics have counted both degrees in determining the number of academic doctorates awarded each year by the nation's universities. As indicators of academic attainments, peculiarities resulted. In 2000–01, American universities awarded just under 45,000 doctorates, of which 15%, a bit over 6,700 were in education. The number of doctorates earned in education was 1.7 times greater than all those in the physical sciences, 1.5 times greater than those in the biological and life sciences, and 1.7 times those in all the social sciences and history. For every doctorate in economics, 7.9 were awarded in education, for history, 7.2, for politics 9.8, and for sociology 12.3. Furthermore, these proportions have been roughly constant for the past fifty years or more.
Of course, not all doctorates in education are professional degrees. Educational researchers, not professional practitioners, earn some of the doctorates in education and they go on to staff schools of education and educational research organizations. One can estimate the proportion with the following reasoning. If no education doctorates were professional degrees, one would expect the American Educational Research Association to be on the order of 8 times the size of the American Historical Association. AERA put its membership at about 20,000 and AHA at over 14,000. If the ratio between those membership levels indicates the ratio of research doctorates between education and history, about 1,330 of the more than 6,716 doctorates in education in 2000–2001 were earned by research scholars, which leaves the rest, some 80%, earned by professional practitioners. Since many AERA members have doctorates, not in education, but in psychology, this estimate undoubtedly overstates the number of research doctorates in education. Of the research doctorates in education earned annually in education, most in turn involve "educational research," which as a domain is highly interested research producing instrumental knowledge for the field. Those earning a doctorate in the disinterested academic study of education would be much the smaller part. We will see below that the academic study of education shows signs of a seriously deficient critical mass.
Consider some implications of these gross numbers. Each doctorate indicates completion of a dissertation, an original contribution to knowledge, and each contribution to knowledge should have at its generative source a significant question, one worthy of serious inquiry. Does educational experience, year after year, generate nearly ten times the number of significant questions, each meriting an original, consequential study, than political experience generates? As a field of disinterested inquiry, education is neither more nor less protean than politics; rather, it generates so many more doctorates because both prospective academic researchers and professional practitioners are seeking the degree, whereas in most other fields, only the prospective academics seek the doctorate. Is this situation efficient or effective?
Models of advanced study
By separating the academic and the professional, the university has developed a model for supporting advanced academic education that differs significantly from the one sustaining professional preparation. Each model includes distinctive ways to establish and enforce standards of excellence and expectation.
The induction is most formal in medicine, substantially so in law with the system of bar examinations, and rather informal in business, where the recipient of an M.B.A., after a period of comprehensive orientation to a firm, makes it, or does not, onto the fast track to executive power. It would take the discussion too far afield to fully differentiate the patterns of advanced professional preparation in education from those in medicine, law, and business. Suffice it here to contrast two ideal-types, one in education where doctoral preparation modeled on the academic Ph.D. serves to prepare advanced educational practitioners and the other, variations of which serve in medicine, law, and business, where a period of intense formal instruction followed by clinical practice, constitutes the training of practitioners. The history of professional education is a good example of the disaggregation of work on education that comes about because the arts and sciences do not recognize education as a matter of academic study: the best scholarship on professional education fits into the history of each separate profession and a good conceptual overview is lacking. Hence, a serious historical sociology comparing forms of professional education would be very helpful. The Culture of Professionalism: The Middle Class and the Development of Higher Education in America by Burton J. Bledstein (New York: W. W. Norton, 1976) does not try to differentiate types of professional schools. "Dissecting Types of Professional Schools" by Peter M. Blau, John B. Cullen, Rebecca Z. Margulies, and Hilary Silver, Sociology of Education, 52:1, (Jan. 1979), pp. 7–19, concentrated too much on extrinsic characteristics to tell much about the typology of educational strategies across the professions.
On the professional side, different types of schools implement the professional model in distinctive ways. Nevertheless, they share a general pattern. In most fields, the professional school primarily provides intensive, formal instruction in the base of knowledge and stock of skills requisite in the profession, for which students pay a high tuition and struggle to master fully in a limited period of all-out study. In this model, through an additional period of interning or on-the-job learning, students recoup somewhat their cost of tuition in knowledge, skill, and understanding, while they master their prescribed learning in actual practice. On the successful completion of their paid, clinical practice, they are inducted, more or less formally, into full professional status. Throughout the process, the major bodies of professional self-governance directly set and legitimate standards of expectation, or indirectly influence them significantly, ensuring that the interests of the profession control the program of preparation. Standards are relatively clear-cut and high; and both professional schools and professional groups cooperate to enforce them with rigor.
See Francis Bacon, The New Organon, Books One, XXIII–LXVIII. However much Bacon's ideas may or may not have had to do with the development of modern scientific methods, his vision of the intellectual enterprise and the potential role it could have in a well constituted society certainly suggest the structure and function that intellectual institutions have developed in the modern world.
On the academic side, with the doctorate in the arts and sciences, the model of advanced education de-emphasizes formal instruction in the knowledge of the field and apprentices the student to an extended process of appropriating the state of the field and generating new knowledge, involving proposals, research, and publication, with standards throughout set and enforced by the dynamics of peer review. The more elite the university, the more it, not the student, bears the student's costs and subsistence. With reliance on peer review, expectations are often unclear and the enforcement of standards can sometimes appear dysfunctional, but the process has deep roots in the idea of academic freedom and it advances the research mission of the university well. It stokes the advancement of learning. High-level academic apprenticeship teaches by doing and inducts the prospective academic into the advancement of learning, developing an impassive resistance to the idols against which Bacon warned. By keeping the professional model and the academic model largely distinct, the modern university has simultaneously cultivated both advanced professional preparation and disinterested scholarship in the arts and sciences.
How does this unfortunate result come about? Andrew Abbott, in his excellent study, The System of Professions: An Essay on the Division of Expert Labor (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988), esp. pp. 52–58, gives some helpful clues. Abbott observes that professions use two bodies of knowledge. One is the profession's knowledge "in use," consisting of powers of diagnosis, treatment, and inference (the ability to make connections between diagnosis and treatment when these are ostensibly obscure). The other is the "academic knowledge" of the profession, a "formal knowledge system . . . ordered by abstractions alone" (p. 53). Abbott's "academic knowledge" differs from what I am discussing as disinterested knowledge appropriate to the arts and sciences; Abbott's is a set of professional resources that serve to legitimate professional authority and to generate new methods of diagnosis, treatment, and inference. For clarity, I will use his alternative term, the formal knowledge system of the profession. Within the profession of education, the formal knowledge system comprises the great bulk of "educational research" as represented by the American Educational Research Association. In the professional model of advanced education described above, the period of intense formal instruction concentrates on the profession's formal knowledge system, followed by the period of interning, linking the formal system to the profession's knowledge in use. We can hypothesize the following dynamic in schools of education. With the disinterested study of education, appropriate to the arts and sciences, relegated to the professional school, energies directed to it combine with the efforts to develop and transmit a formal knowledge system for the profession of education. Together, these give the formal system inordinate heft relative to activities nurturing the profession's knowledge in use. As a result, the formal knowledge system has become over-developed, a professional peacock-tail rendered ineffective by its excessive divisions and components, and its absorption of resources culminates in a stunted commitment to developing the knowledge in use among practitioners-in-preparation. The hypothesis: by moving the truly academic study of education into the arts and sciences, the balance between the formal system and use system in the professional school would improve.
In education, the professional school primarily uses the academic model in preparing advanced practitioners in educational administration, curriculum and teaching, and other specialties, areas where one might reasonably expect to find the professional model in use. In individual cases, in which a strong student meets up with an effective advisor within a program where support is sufficient, results exemplify the best of academic standards. But systemically, the academic model works poorly in professional situations where the knowledge of most worth is clinical, rooted deeply in the particularities of practice in this or that place under these or those conditions. Systemic reliance on the academic model conflates the trappings of academic scholarship with substantial professional learning. As a result, schools of education too often nurture well neither excellence in scholarship nor prepossessing competence among licensed practitioners.
Virginia Richardson gallantly tries to give a coherent overview of all this in "The Ph.D. in Education," Carnegie Essays on the Doctorate (Stanford: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 2003) www.carnegiefoundation.org/CID/-essays/CID_ educ_Richardson.pdf. The result, however, provides a befuddling complexity of formal categories singularly lacking in concrete substance.
The Harvard Graduate School of Education has started the arduous process of developing a core curriculum to address this incoherence, so far introducing one core course, "Thinking Like an Educator: Modeling an Integrative Approach." This is a major act of institutional leadership, intended eventually to reshape professional preparation for educators both at Harvard and elsewhere. It shows, however, how far schools of education have to go before they can effectively impart a common base of knowledge, skill, and understanding throughout the field, for it is currently one course out of many, significantly still an elective—an important start down a long path of innovation. See "Getting to the core at HGSE" by Beth Potier, Harvard University Gazette, Oct. 7, 2004, www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2004/10.07/01-gsecore.html.
Although the academic model for advanced work predominates in schools of education, it does not result in strong disinterested scholarship there. Strong norms of original scholarship should prevail, but within the cluttered doctoral instruction in schools of education, the practices of peer-review become unusually muddled. Over-academicized professionalism has spawned a myriad of methodologies as professors in schools of education have sought ways to enable prospective professionals to produce passable dissertations, even though their talents, skills, and interests often have little to do with serious scholarship. In the professional schools of education, academic norms have controlled recruitment, promotion, and tenure for decades in areas that one might expect to be grounded in clinical expertise and the scholarly process has churned on eclectically within a diverse world of practice. A great incoherence has resulted with too much written about too little, virtually none of it conclusive. With too much written, there has been thereby too much to teach in an environment riven by overspecialization. Hence, schools of education communicate little consensus about what constitutes the shared knowledge and set of skills requisite across the educational profession. Without a consensus on essentials, programs and courses proliferate in schools of education and the field has a jumble of professional standards poorly enforced. External certification procedures are equally fragmented and multiple accrediting agencies dart incessantly, here and there, through the schools of education.
Having spent my career on the faculty of a major graduate school of education, I have little desire to perpetuate the long-standing art of bashing schools of education. The university, not the school of education, is at fault. The university has created serious problems by mingling the academic with the professional in its work on education. This weakens schools of education, where the forms of advanced scholarship receive undue emphasis in the processes of professional preparation, and it leaves a gap in the arts and sciences, which accord no place to the disinterested study of education.
With a weak differentiation between academic and professional work, the university inadequately institutionalizes the study of education. Noble exceptions may exist within an imperfect system but university authorities should not point to these and insist that they can and should become the norm without any change in the flawed system. Over time, heroic effort cannot substitute for good organization. As the university squeezes everything into the professional school, irrelevant norms exert excessive influence in developing practical expertise. Academic procedures dominate advanced professional preparation; most students engaged in the time-consuming, resource-intensive process of writing dissertations have no real reason to do so. Would-be practitioners spend their time, effort, and money seeking to satisfy inappropriate standards of research scholarship, which gives them little opportunity for paid, on-the-job learning through interning and clinical practice. This situation raises the costs that students must bear while straining the resources for the support of students engaged in genuine academic inquiry through the schools of education.
Medical schools would seem to be the exception, for they derive substantial resources from funded research. But if one concentrates within medical schools on the professional preparation of the M.D., they combine a relatively short period of intensive formal instruction with a subsequent period of income-producing interning and clinical residency. An original contribution to the research program of medical schools does not culminate the professional preparation of the newly minted M.D. See Kenneth M. Ludmerer's two books, Learning to Heal: The Development of American Medical Education (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985, 1996) and Time to Heal: American Medical Education from the Turn of the Century to the Era of Managed Care (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).
Schools of education are beginning to face a powerful financial reason to shift the advanced preparation of professionals from the academic model to the professional. With a relatively large number of doctoral students, a financial time bomb ticks away in the current situation: schools of education cannot afford to meet what are becoming the prevailing norms for the support of doctoral candidates in research universities. Graduate schools of education have an inflated number of doctoral students and fewer resources than the more affluent parts of universities. Hence they lack the endowment per student, the research income per student, and the teaching opportunities (on-campus or on-line) per student to compete according to the emerging academic model for supporting advanced education—a five-year package covering full tuition and providing a substantial stipend for all students admitted to doctoral programs, which rigorously limit their size. Schools of education will find it hard to offer competitive packages to that portion of their doctoral students genuinely engaged in academic doctoral study. If they do not differentiate the pedagogical process characterizing the academic doctorate from the professional doctorate, all doctoral students will increasingly expect full support through the course of their studies. With 15% of the nation's doctoral students, schools of education would drive themselves to bankruptcy meeting such demands for assistance.
Like most other professional schools, schools of education are tuition-dependent. Schools of education need lots of students paying for lots of courses, and they have relatively few resources to support detached scholarship. In the current situation, they must spread those scant resources thinly across an inflated number of doctoral candidates, each of whom must try to do good research on a shoe-string. With too many poorly supported doctoral students struggling to make "an original contribution to knowledge," it proves hard to insist on exacting standards. Pseudo-scholarship comes to pervade the preparation of professionals in education even though the world of practice continually calls for leaders endowed with less academic paraphernalia and with a fuller repertoire of effective skills. Excessive academic accouterments distort professional preparation, while a demand for direct relevance to the needs of professional educators chronically challenges academic inquiry.
With all its effort concentrated in the schools of education, the university serves the field of education less effectively than it does in areas where a potent academic organization in the arts and sciences stands in creative tension with a strong separate school dedicated to the task of professional preparation. The anomaly in the study of education matters enough to merit change.
Building a case for change
As an obvious solution, the university could do what it did in other fields: institute academic departments of education in their undergraduate and graduate schools of the arts and sciences to complement the professional school of education. In the arts and sciences, students and scholars would address education in an impartial, comprehensive way with no presuppositions about professional practice. Disinterested, academic scholarship about education would improve. Pressure to use an academic model in professional preparation would diminish. Schools of education might restructure to be more like medical schools, developing a program of professional education combining rigorous formal instruction with clinical practice and overlaying that with an ancillary program of externally funded educational research responding to clearly defined needs for improved professional knowledge. This fix is easy to state, but hard to effect.
Most critiques of the situation view it as a problem of the education schools, not the university as a whole. For instance, in The Trouble with Ed Schools (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), David F. Labaree analyzes well the problems of status encountered by schools of education, pointing out how the knowledge needed by the profession has unusual characteristics.
The most useful study is An Elusive Science by Ellen Condliffe Lagemann (op. cit., note 8), a thorough historical examination of the investigation of education in research universities. Lagemann explains why during the period of rapid development before and after the turn of the twentieth century, research universities did not did not incorporate the study of education into the arts and sciences, the reasons having to do with gender, as all male faculties feared that departments of education would bring unwanted co-education in their wake (Chapters 2 & 3, pp. 41–97). Also as a major step in improving knowledge about education, she calls for diminishing the institutional distance between educational research and academic research in the social sciences and humanities (pp. 231–247). I am in full accord. In order to anchor such connections and give them real staying power, however, it is necessary for the university to add academic departments of education in the arts and sciences. Dedicated to disinterested inquiry and teaching, scholars could develop a body of knowledge about education and engage students in it as an academic study, thereby complementing the professional schools of education and their extensive production of "educational research," that kaleidoscopic effort to equip the educating professions with what they need to know. An academic department of education would not constitute a discipline in the mid-twentieth-century sense, but an intellectual concentration in which scholars use diverse strategies, as they do in departments of politics, to develop a better understanding of educational experience.
Critics have published a steady din calling for an improved study of education. Some hostile, some sympathetic, they all assess professional education and appraise research in the field. Overwhelmingly, the needs of professionals dominate the analyses. What are and are not professionals doing? How are they recruited and trained? And how do they generate the knowledge of potential use in practice serving students and society? The critiques are high-minded; whether harsh or supportive, they seek ways by which the educational system and those who labor through it can better serve society and its progeny. All this is important, but it is not what is here in question. It does not tackle the basic reform that the university must make in the way it organizes the study of education. The basic reform does not have to do with success or failure within the professional school, but with the absence of the study of education in the arts and sciences. That absence weakens disinterested inquiry and distorts professional preparation.
By itself, no amount of reform in the professional schools will bring about a sound demarcation between the academic and the professional in the university study of education. The trouble with ed schools does not cause the weak differentiation; the trouble is its symptoms. The cause is that the academic arts and sciences never made a formal place for the objective study of education within their precincts. And the current difficulty will not be easy to correct, for universities are unlikely to create academic departments of education simply because their schools of education are burdened with a confusion of functions. To bring such a step about, scholars and university leaders need to perceive how they can strengthen the arts and sciences themselves, and the university as a whole, by making a place for detached, academic work on education independent of the professional school. They naturally ask, Why should we change the given situation?
The Evans Report (op. cit., note 18, p. 6) gives a good example, circa 1952. It reported a check of the opinions about Ph.D. work at Teachers College then held by professors in Columbia's Graduate Faculties. Respondents thought the top candidates in education to be on a par with those in the arts and sciences, but they also held that the overall spectrum of quality was lower, with many suggesting that "the poorest candidates from Teachers College, as judged by the dissertation presented and its defense, are inferior to the poorest appearing in most other departments; that the dissertation of these weaker candidates too frequently are dubious in clarity of definition, adequacy of content, mastery of research techniques, and effectiveness of presentation; that guidance during the planning and development of the dissertation sometimes appears to have been inadequate; that when their research leads them into subject-matter fields represented by departments under the Graduate Faculties, the weaker candidates often show lack of essential information in such fields; and that final examinations upon the dissertation are not always sufficiently searching." Presently, a similar check of opinion, across many different campuses, might uncover similar views. Fifty years after the Evans Report, the Trustees of Teachers College heard a not dissimilar brief from the outgoing Columbia President, George Rupp, in his envoi to them. But it was a bum rap, in mid century or now, for the university needs to let schools of education be professional schools, like other professional schools, and provide for the academic study of education in the arts and sciences, as it does for other great sectors of human experience.
The decision in the late 1990's by the University of Chicago to close its Department of Education is a powerful recent example of that habit of rejection. The Department of Education at Chicago was a small, high quality professional school with a tradition of academic strength, which had contracted and needed renewal. It could perhaps have become an academic department devoted to the disinterested study of education. Put under review, the Chicago department wavered in its "Self-Study," and made neither a strong case for its autonomy as a field among others in the social sciences nor for a clear mission as a professional school. It claimed to be a bit of both: "as a multidisciplinary field of inquiry, education gains its coherence across disciplines by addressing a set of questions derived from problems of practice." It did not achieve internal consensus about developing a non-professional undergraduate major. Its most prominent proposed area of potential strength was methodology, hardly a raison d'être for a field, followed second by policy studies, which the University could easily incorporate into its larger and more dynamic Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies. See, University of Chicago, Department of Education, "Self-Study" (January 1996) and "Report" (November 1996), www.uchicago.edu/u.scholarly/education/study.html and www.uchicago.edu/u.scholarly/education/report. html. The moral of that sad tale is clear: the case that must be made is a case for change, not continuity, and it must be a case compelling enough to overcome strong prejudgment against it. I do not think, however, that the University of Chicago's action indicates that universities will necessarily reject a strong case for inclusion of the academic study of education in the arts and sciences.
A good answer is not easy. Historically, the arts and sciences have denigrated educational scholarship and resisted including a department of education in their midst. The arts and sciences are now unlikely to welcome the disinterested study of education spontaneously, for they have a well-ingrained habit of rejection and the field comes freighted with the peculiar pathologies of a stunted history. The university will adopt the strategy of differentiating the academic and the professional for its work in education, if the advantages are clear within the context of the arts and sciences themselves. We shall see that the arts and sciences can reap many advantages as we pursue answers to two questions. First, does the absence of the characteristic differentiation in the study of education have adverse consequences within faculties of the arts and sciences that might motivate a change? And second, more positively, would academic scholars in the arts and sciences reap benefits were they to add a department of education within their schools?
Effective answers, that is answers that do change the situation, however, must cross a threshold of resistance. It is not hard to win tepid assent, followed sotto voce, "Is it worth the trouble?" Academics of influence need to reflect and come to strong assent, after which they know what to do and act to do it. Let us not, therefore, minimize the issue. The university should adopt differentiation not simply to shift a few scholars and their programs from one school to another in order to make arrangements in education more consistent with those in other fields. That is a mere argument of symmetry, which mathematicians may take as grounds for strong assent, but not most academicians and certainly not university administrators. The motive needs to be stronger: making a proper place for the study of education in the arts and sciences will set the conditions for a further, important advancement of learning. Organizational change is worth the trouble when it leads to intellectual results of vital consequence. Might the disinterested study of education do so? Can adding the study of education to the arts and sciences appreciably advance the work of impartial scholarship, its power and substance, not merely in a new specialized niche, but across the full scope of academic work as a whole?
Consider a two-fold response. It will explain why the arts and sciences could become more productive by making a place for disinterested work on education. One part, the positive, will show that through the academic study of education important advances in the work of the arts and sciences are feasible. The other part, the negative, will show that the current organization for the study of education holds back good academic work, on both education and other important matters. Let us take the negative up first: conditions in the arts and sciences and the plight of academic scholars in schools of education both currently inhibit the academic enterprise. Let us then turn to the positive, more important part: envisioning what the academic study of education might become on achieving fuller development. Together, the reasoning will make evident, not only that the disinterested study of education would develop more fully as part of the arts and sciences, but other fields, and their combination as a whole, would benefit from this advance and the results would have significant value in the conduct of life, both individual and collective.
What the university has lost
We start with the negative, weaknesses in the arts and sciences and the disinterested study of education induced by the current situation. Insofar as it exists in the arts and sciences, the academic study of education is dispersed as a subsidiary interest in many different departments. Insofar as it exists in the schools of education, disinterested inquiry is subject to strong professional imperatives. Both conditions narrow the scope and diminish the quality of the resulting scholarship and detract from the arts and sciences as a whole.
The power of the informational base to inform choice is fundamental and is laid out well in the parable opening Chapter 3 of Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (New York: Anchor Books, 2000), pp. 54–6. The hopeful dynamics that Sen perceives in welfare economics function because the informational base upon which people ground their choices is not fixed and impervious to change. In his Nobel Lecture, "The Possibility of Social Choice," published in Amartya Sen, Rationality and Freedom (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), pp. 65–118, Sen explains the role of "informational broadening," a wonderful stealth term for education, which can be activated in many ways to combat the source of poverty and sociopolitical stagnation in "capability deprivation."
See, among others, Creating Citizens: Political Education and Liberal Democracy by Eamonn Callan (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), Civic Virtues: Rights, Citizenship, and Republican Liberalism by Richard Dagger (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), Republicanism in the Modern World by John W. Maynor (Malden, MA: Polity, 2003), and The Greek Tradition in Republican Thought by Eric Nelson (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
See J. Peter Euben, Corrupting Youth: Political Education, Democratic Culture, and Political Theory (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997); Alexander Nehamas, The Art of Living: Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998); and Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989).
In the arts and sciences, scholars in a variety of departments publish work of high quality that bears significantly on educational experience. For instance, within economics, Amartya Sen's work concentrates on how subtle incentives under conditions of autonomy can significantly change the informational base from which people make choices, and with that, whole patterns of human capital formation change, deeply altering, for better and for worse, patterns of economic development. Or within political thought, in recent years theorists have contemplated declining rates of citizen participation in democratic polities and resuscitated interest in civic republicanism as a potential ethos more effective at forming engaged citizens. Likewise, significant contemporary philosophers, among them, J. Peter Euben, Alexander Nehamas, and Charles Taylor, have concentrated on the formation of the self as a culturally endowed source of action in an historical world. Such studies, and much, much more, illuminate the embedded role of educational experience in core activities interpreted through the arts and sciences.
Not infrequently, a problem of context weakens work pertinent to education dispersed in the arts and sciences. Good interpretation arises from the tension between text and context. Often scholars in the arts and sciences seem to write about education by stealth, perhaps not wanting to appear too interested in a suspect subject. A risk for stealthy scholarship on education is not simply, like all scholarship, that someone will take it out of context; rather critics can too easily put it in the wrong context and as a result evaluate it poorly. If education had a more visible, legitimate place in the arts and sciences, much work, now shunted into a context fruitless for interpretation, might be taken up in a more enlightening way.
Stanley Cavell, Cities of Words: Pedagogical Letters on a Register of the Moral Life (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004).
See Stanley Cavell, Conditions Handsome and Unhandsome: The Constitution of Emersonian Perfectionism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990), especially pp. 3–4, 48–53. Cavell reiterated his discomfort with the criticism in Cities of Words, pp. 211–2, 248. More broadly, Cavell communicates in undertones his feeling that his interests do not fit in well with the dominant interests in current philosophical scholarship. I wonder to what degree this uneasiness arises because he is really an educational theorist, who feels himself, like others, homeless in the house of intellect.
Rawls' critique of perfectionism, a critique of Nietzsche taken at second-hand, at which Rawls is not at his best, is Section 50 in A Theory of Justice, Revised edition, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971, 1999), especially pp. 286. It is bizarre to accuse Nietzsche of propounding a pernicious political philosophy on the basis of a quotation from Schopenhauer as Educator, a meditation on education in which Nietzsche was most apolitical, rejecting the influence of the state in any sound education. To be sure, Nietzsche opened the relatively long and passionate sixth section of Schopenhauer als Erzieher by meditating on the proposition that the sole task of humanity is "to engender individual great men," but he immediately dismisses any sociopolitical meaning to such an assertion as a crass deterrent to the "intrepid self-knowledge" that allows each person to engage in the lonely pursuit of a higher self. He goes on to rebuke commerce, the state, good taste, and scholarship as selfish forms of vacuous privilege that suck dry the creative energies available for individual self-formation in destructive cultural deflections. It was the antithesis of elitism, a rousing complaint against the tyranny of barren elites.
As an aside, one must wonder whether the use of the term "perfectionism" in philosophy over the past fifty years or so, a rather forbidding term derived from Methodism, does not belie the reluctance of good academics in the arts and sciences to speak directly about education. It is remarkable how, in a wide-ranging study such as Perfectionism by Thomas Hurka (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), nothing is said explicitly about education.
Take the philosopher, Stanley Cavell, as a case in point. Education is a central theme throughout his work, finally made explicit in his recent book, Cities of Words, which his subtitle describes as "pedagogical letters." With this book, as with most of his writing, it is sometimes hard to say exactly what Cavell is writing about, in part because he always writes "as educator," not stating conclusions and giving, ex post facto, his neatly edited reasons for them, but engendering ideas, exemplifying the power of conversation to induce them, by setting before his readers his inner conversations, his internal dialogues, parenthetical jump within parenthetical jump, so that they will see for themselves how the exchange of words and the association of images will enrich their thought. Cavell has written extensively about the importance of an Emersonian perfectionism for current philosophy and he objects when critics question his ideas about Emerson, and with them about Nietzsche, as a form of anti-democratic elitism. The critics, pre-eminent among them, John Rawls, interpreted perfectionism as a political philosophy, the wrong context. Cavell's ideas, along with most perfectionist thought, should be interpreted as educational philosophy, with perfectionist prescriptions having less to do with the presumed prerogatives of elites and more to do with the self-educative opportunities facing each and every individual and the struggle to fulfill them.
Numerous aspects of Barzun's work reflect a many-sided pedagogic intent. Throughout his career, Barzun has reached out as a scholar beyond a specialist audience, writing sometimes to debunk dangerous ideas, as in Race, A Study in Superstition (Revised Edition, New York: Harper & Row, 1937, 1965). Numerous works of criticism reach out broadly to inform and to enable and then to provoke readers to push back, to question their assumptions, and either to assent critically or to assert independently an alternative view. Barzun's most recent study, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present (New York: HarperCollins, 2000) shows such a pedagogy at work. Most of the work is remarkably informative, building up an attentive reader's capacity to think about cultural experience, adducing detail in the service of carefully stated, large ideas. Then in the final part Barzun advances the thesis of decadence, cutting into common complacencies, pushing the reader to form his or her view. Further development of Barzun's work as educator would need to look closely at his commitment to language usage as a tool of clear thinking, for instance, Simple and Direct, (4th edition, New York: HarperCollins, 2001) and A Word or Two Before You Go . . . (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1986); and to research practices as an element in educating the general public through The Modern Researcher by Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff, (6th edition, Belmont, CA: Thompson, Wadsworth, 2003). Barzun's criticism has called out for the maintenance of conditions promoting high-quality achievements and their reach to a discerning public across a wide range of domains—music, art, literature, and intellect—through works such as The Energies of Art: Studies of Authors, Classic and Modern (New York: Random House, 1956); Critical Questions on Music and Letters, Culture and Biography (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1982); The Culture We Deserve (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1989); and many more. Barzun worked constructively to advance the conditions of intellectual achievement in the university as Provost of Columbia and spoke out forthrightly about improving conditions in higher education in works such as The House of Intellect (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959), Science: The Glorious Entertainment (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), and The American University: How It Runs, Where It Is Going (New York: Harper & Row, 1967). He has long defended active intelligence on the fundamentals in education and teaching through books and essays such as Teachers in America (Boston: Little, Brown, 1945); Begin Here: The Forgotten Conditions of Teaching and Learning (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991); up to his recent pamphlet, What Is a School and Trim the College! (Washington: Hudson Institute, 2002). Such is but a sampling, skipping over much of his formal scholarship and his work in publishing, all of which nurtures the intellect of the general reader. Where in the arts and sciences can one celebrate Barzun as educator?
Problems of context go beyond the proper interpretation of certain ideas and works about them. Without a formal place in the arts and sciences for the disinterested study of education, it is sometimes difficult to find the proper context for whole careers that are life-long efforts in education in a broad and fundamental sense—that of Jacques Barzun, for example. Through a full, productive life, he has won note in many ways, as historian, stylist, critic, academic leader, and educator. In each domain, however, he shares the spotlight with others, also of substantial note. To recognize the full force and stature of his accomplishments, the central commitment informing them all needs to be seen as that of the educator deploying scholarship and criticism, persuasion and action, exhortation and advice to engender awareness, rigor, precision, discrimination, and thought. In the twentieth century, few can match his pre-eminence as a many-sided educator, but in the professional schools he is unlikely to be remembered as anything but a bête noir and in the arts and sciences there is not an arena of study within which to appreciate his central accomplishment. In this way, the arts and sciences lack the context for doing full justice to some of their greatest exemplars.
Early in my career, in Man and His Circumstances: Ortega as Educator by Robert McClintock (New York: Teachers College Press, 1971), I tried to develop an idea of civic pedagogy as a concept by which diverse activities structuring public life might be examined in relation to each other. Lawrence A. Cremin had a much better term for a similar concept—"the education of the public"—in Public Education (New York: Basic Books, 1976) pp. 57–80. But neither has had any traction as a concept drawing diverse strands of research into relation with each other. Rather than seeking basic unifying concepts, indigenous to education, so to speak, the professional interests dominant in the study of education lead scholars to use concepts derived from one or another field in the arts and sciences in order to frame solutions to specific issues encountered in institutions of formal instruction. Kevin McDonough and Walter Feinberg provide an example in their introduction to their fine collection of essays, Education and Citizenship in Liberal-Democratic Societies: Teaching for Cosmopolitan Values and Collective Identities (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 8, where they observe "the chapters in this book address the requirements of citizenship in liberal-democratic political theory as it has evolved in recent years, in order to take into account claims from cultural recognition through education." The movement of thought is not to generate a fundamental view from the experience of education, but to clarify a specific problem in the experience of education by bringing more general, external ideas to bear upon it.
It should not be surprising, as a sub-concern within literary criticism, that studies of the Bildungsroman put the novel at the center of discussion, as the matter to be illuminated, with Bildung at the periphery, as that which will be discussed in order to illuminate the novel. It is a symptom, however, indicating the lack of a coherent concern for education in the arts and sciences, that there is no sustained effort to examine what one can learn about education and Bildung from the novel and how one might test that knowledge and connect it to other ideas about education. See The Way of the World: The Bildungsroman in European Culture by Franco Moretti, New edition, (New York: Verso, 2000), Season of Youth: The Bildungsroman from Dickens to Golding by Jerome Hamilton Buckley (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974), and Reflection and Action: Essays on the Bildungsroman edited by James Hardin (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1991).
In addition to problems of context, educational inquiry within the arts and sciences suffers from dispersal and the isolation of parts. Within diverse fields, scholars thinking about education often have to struggle for the recognition for their ideas, which may appear peripheral to their colleagues. Thus preoccupied, they do not draw potential connections with related work in other fields. Without a standing discourse about the disinterested study of education, the connections between diverse contributions to it are more likely to go unnoticed. To be sure, to evidence the absence of something is difficult, but we can note opportunities for exchange that have failed to develop. For instance, there seems to be a paucity of exchange between students of human capital formation and students of citizenship education even though the educational dynamics studied by both may be closely related. Likewise, literary critics writing about the Bildungsroman seem to interact little with philosophers concerned with the cultural formation of the active self.
Conceptually, we can see what happens. Educational work within the arts and sciences is largely encapsulated within each originating discipline, there being no group to draw different inquiries together, concentrating a sustaining attention on what is common among them. Scholars such as Charles Taylor in The Sources of the Self, Alexander Nehamas in The Art of Living, and J. Peter Euben in Corrupting Youth separately work from a distinctive background and interest, with its unique integrity, and that is as it should be. In addition to the integral value each achieves, however, their separate works potentially inform a common discourse about education, and it is the absence of a systematic centering of that discourse in the arts and sciences that we must lament. To begin, a department of education need not be large and it could start usefully by drawing a few initial faculty members from schools of education and a few from existing departments of the arts and sciences. But by starting to work, beginning to prepare advanced students in the disinterested study of education, it would strengthen currently disaggregated contributions from within the arts and sciences by providing them with a coherent context and by educing productive connections among them.
More is at stake. To put ideas and careers in their proper context is important. To draw fruitful connections between separate strands of work is too. Beyond all that, detached inquiry about education has importance for the fundamental mission of the arts and sciences themselves. Intellect leavens experience in three ways—with scholarship, research, and criticism. In lived experience, scholarship, research, and criticism overlap and in the person they combine to make the complete academic, yet conceptually they have significant differences, which become clearer if we think about them as ideal-types. Scholarship begins from the cumulative state of a field, the broader the better, and integrates findings, new and old, addressing a fundamental concern by crafting a coherent understanding of the whole. Research starts with a well-defined, specific question, to which the researcher seeks a clear and definite answer using peer-sanctioned methods and techniques. Criticism addresses a spectrum of aims and accomplishments and informs selection among them, strengthening assent, deepening appreciation, provoking doubt, channeling attention and energy.
In practice, research is taking on a role, central yet problematic. Research is an important means in the conduct of scholarship and criticism, for scholars and critics alike must answer numerous particular questions in the exercise of their craft. In addition, research is also an important purpose, one that is ever more central in academe: not a means, but an end, the dominant purpose defining elite effort—the essential character of the research university itself. Leading universities have become research universities because they depend financially on funded research and their faculty members rely on the publication of peer-reviewed research for promotion and tenure. Such activity is a great source of intellectual energy in the arts and sciences. As researchers bring their specific results together as the basis for theoretical abstraction, they energize scholarship, and as they uncover unexpected specifics they empower criticism. In addition, research powers much professional work, as distinct from the academic, for good research tends to be use-driven, conducive to interested, not disinterested, results, and it accentuates findings with instrumental value directly applicable to a specific form of activity. In contrast, scholarship and criticism, even when energized by significant research programs, often have less direct instrumental value. Instead, they leaven experience substantially through their capacity to have lasting educative effects as a student uses them to define her values, standards, and skills. The pay off is neither direct nor immediate, and consequently the arts and sciences need recurrently to explain the educative value of reflective scholarship and critical discourse with care, which disinterested scholarship on education can help to do.
In German there is a literature, both extensive and deep, on formative education, Bildung, but it is largely ignored in English. It is important to reinvigorate the ability to think well about the formative effects of education as they develop over the full period of a person's formative experience. Schooling, and the study of education as schooling, pigeonholes educational experience into grades and subjects and assesses the fragmentary results as these are evident in cohorts, not the integral development achieved by the person. Educational scholarship needs to regain contact with ideas about Bildung, and a good place to start is "Bildsamkeit/Bildung" by Dietrich Benner and Friedhelm Brüggen, which surveys it well in Historisches Wörterbuch der Pädagogik edited by Dietrich Benner and Jürgen Oelkers (Weinheim: Beltz Verlag, 2004), pp. 174–215.
With respect to the educative power of the arts and sciences, the ascendance of research in academic culture presents important, but subtle difficulties. The prestige of research conduces to instructional practices that differ in important ways from those that would pertain with scholarship, research, and criticism in a proper balance. Pedagogically, the distinction between the professional and the academic relates closely to a distinction between the applicable lessons and the formative education. In her studies, a student seeks both applicable knowledge and formative experience, one problem being that the former is relatively easy to identify and assess while the latter can be obscure and hard to measure. Formative education is all that which a student builds up over time by way of characteristic interests, proclivities, hopes, skills, considered purposes, attachments, and a unique, dynamic mix of knowledge, lore, information, and experience.
A subtle problem is now building because it arises, not directly, but as a side effect. All three—scholarship, research, and criticism—offer students significant formative experience. Whenever a student is learning by doing, the process is deeply formative, and as a student learns to be a researcher, as all students should, she does so by doing research, a deeply formative engagement. In this sense, the formative induction into the activities of scholarship, research, and criticism are all of one piece. The difference arises with the way the results of research enter into education in comparison to those of scholarship and criticism.
Whatever the field, the accomplished contributor deploys all three—scholarship, research, and criticism—in a well-unified effort. Maintaining the balance becomes more difficult, however. Within the arts and sciences, the prestige of research as an end product grows and that of scholarship and criticism shrinks, for research produces the coin of tangible worth, applicable answers to evident questions. Education as accumulating applicable knowledge gains prestige at the expense of education as formative experience. This makes the formative tasks of scholarship and criticism much harder and detracts from the education of researchers as well. Doctoral students perceive the instrumental value of research work and readily plunge into it, accepting unreflectively the constraints of one or another formal methodology that they find at hand, eager to produce some results. In this process, moreover, they are often impatient with the scholarly effort required to base that research on a well-developed theoretical grounding and to extract its full, critical implications for theory and practice. In this way, research itself as a formative educational experience suffers from the prestige of its results. With such influences steadily shaping educational practice at every level, the measurement of recollected information, research findings at one or another remove, and some superficial skills, increasingly mark educational attainment.
An education in the results of research alone does not suffice; the disinterested mission of the arts and sciences thrives through formative engagement in scholarship, research, and criticism, the power of which is more enlightening than instrumental. How does this formative enlightening take place? By sustained engagement in scholarship, a student develops a large conceptual framework with which she can judge the importance and plausibility of diverse ideas and assertions. By actively doing research, a student forms habits of testing how well different claims are grounded and perceives the strengths and weaknesses in assertions of validity. By producing reasoned criticism, a student acquires a considered structure of priorities to draw upon in the endless process of making choices in response to all the claims upon her attention and commitment. The arts and sciences populate a thoughtful public as a steady stream of university students form their intellectual standards by engaging in the work of scholarship, research, and criticism for substantial periods. And the arts and sciences nourish that thoughtful public through a continuing flow of publication, renewing and extending the scholarship, research, and criticism active in the different realms of public discussion.
Weakened convictions about the educative mission of the arts and sciences may have deep and fateful historical consequences. Much historical initiative seems to have moved away from those working within the Enlightenment tradition, as suggested most recently by Garry Wills in "The Day the Enlightenment Went Out," The New York times, November 4, 2002, op ed page, www.nytimes. com/2004/11/04/opinion/04wills.html. In many ways the carriers of the Enlightenment tradition, historically public intellectuals whose organizational base is the arts and sciences, have been suffering a failure of nerve, in large part because they have lost confidence that enlightenment has any educative potency. The critique of enlightenment has gone too far and to care well for the arts and sciences, it is important to go back and study again works like the Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophic Fragments by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno (Edmund Jephcott, trans. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1947, 2002) in order to see that the critique of instrumental reason is not an unconditional critique, but one voiced in defense of the formative, educational power of enlightened reasoning.
Traditionally, the formative role of scholarship, research, and criticism seemed self-evident or relatively easy to uphold. As professionalism has spread into the arts and sciences, the rationale for more and more work appears to be instrumental, if not to high public purpose, at least to the interests of academics themselves. Under such circumstances, the mission of the arts and sciences, exercised through the formative uses of scholarship, research, and criticism, becomes less self-evident. More and more, academics have difficulty showing employment conscious students, their parents, and the public how study in the arts and sciences should differ from gaining marketable skills through professional preparation. And ironically, the university reinforces this instrumental bias by treating the subject of education itself as strictly an instrumental subject. Currently, the university proclaims through its actions with respect to the study of education that only professional preparation is of value. As the arts and sciences face an insistently market-conscious clientele, they give short shrift to the disinterested study of education. Yet it should be serving as a valuable resource in developing a more compelling rationale for a formative education throughout the arts and sciences. Thus, it may prove deeply imprudent to ignore the study of education in the arts and sciences at a time when the claim that scholarship and criticism have self-evident value as formative educators carries ever less weight.
Educational Wastelands: The Retreat from Learning in Our Public Schools by Arthur Bestor (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1953) was the most distinguished source of this critique. The Miseducation of American Teachers by James Koerner (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1963) was a good summation, discounting rhetorical exaggerations.
When I was a graduate student in history and education in the early 1960s at Teachers College, Education in the Forming of American Society: Needs and Opportunities for Study (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1960, 1972) was the defining manifesto, followed up with Lawrence A. Cremin's The Wonderful World of Ellwood Patterson Cubberley: An Essay on the Historiography of American Education (New York: Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1965). Cremin worked with personal dedication as a scholarly historian to fill out the vision, which he completed with great success before his untimely death in 1990. Only a few years later, his substantive work is out of print, and the agenda dominant in the history of education is once again more exclusively focused on the interests of the profession.
Experience in schools of education shows that belief in self-evident values poorly supports impartial scholarship and doubt-provoking criticism. Academic work on pedagogical themes scattered through the arts and sciences has little resonance in schools of education. As we have seen, conditions in those schools pressure academic scholars to make their work instrumental in the professional preparation of teachers and other practitioners. Mid-twentieth-century efforts to resist this pressure had hopeful beginnings but proved unsustainable. In the late 1950s, critics attacked schools of education as hotbeds of anti-intellectualism. The attack stung scholars in schools of education and they responded by trying to connect more closely to key departments in the arts and sciences, inspired by Bernard Bailyn's analysis, Education in the Forming of American Society. Bailyn showed how historians of education had failed to ask productive questions because they were preoccupied with the interests of the profession, working to build the morale of prospective teachers. They had neglected to pursue disinterested topics of research and thereby missed the opportunity to clarify the role of education in the forming of American society.
See The Discipline of Education edited by John Walton and James L. Kuethe (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1963) for a movement related to the disciplines and education—a less successful effort to define a discipline of education. Within that movement, it was probably a tactical error to speak about a discipline rather than a department or a field, for the effort died quickly as participants argued with one another over whether a unique methodology was the hallmark of a discipline, and if so, whether education, which has been methodologically eclectic, to say the least, could possibly be a discipline. It might have been a better initiative to describe the academic study of education as a field of study, one such as political science with its multiple vectors of inquiry pursued with a mix of methodologies. That, in effect is what is being called for in this essay. The discipline of education never got started. The disciplines and education did, successfully spreading, but the effort had a tendency to over-expand staffing needs inherent in it. Each discipline that was to be included—say, anthropology, economics, history, philosophy, political science, and sociology—wanted at least a diminutive critical mass, often three faculty members, which put severe demands on resources, particularly relative to the tuition dollars such groupings could generate in the professional schools.
Academics in schools of education de-emphasized the needs of the profession and took their cues about what to study and how to study it from cognate disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. They became professors of a discipline "and education"—anthropology and education, or history and education, or sociology and education, and so on. In this role, they taught with a rigor characteristic of the arts and sciences. They prized recognition by peers there and paid less attention to the relevance of their courses in the preparation of practitioners. Good doctoral programs spread and disinterested scholarship about education strengthened. The effects of the movement persist to the present, but ever more faintly.
In 1977, on behalf of the Teachers College Faculty Executive Committee, I prepared a 36 page study of the College budget chronicling contraction and tuition-dependency, Thinking about the Budget: An Informal Report to the Teachers College Faculty. In addition, I circulated a memo "Possible Strategy for Developing the Department," analyzing the fiscal difficulties that we faced in the home of the disciplines and education, the Department of Philosophy and the Social Sciences. My argument was not obscure: to thrive in a tuition-dependent, financially strapped professional school, we needed to add to our commitment to academic Ph.D. instruction other sorts of programs that would generate more tuition and research income. Implementing a response to the argument was not easy, however. My colleagues deemed (I think rightly from this vantage point) my strategy unrealistic in the particulars I advanced. We stood pat, and in 1994 Teachers College disbanded the Department of Philosophy and the Social Sciences, spreading its programs into other units where they might be more responsive to the core concerns of the professional school. Adherents to the disciplinary idea have not yet found a way to replace such a department with a better means for remaining close to the academic strengths of the university. It is time, however, for the university to look at the question as its problem, not a problem encapsulated in the schools of education, which cannot solve it conveniently for the university without wider changes in the prevailing academic organization.
Fortuitously, the cultivation of the disciplines and education had initially taken hold in a period of academic expansion. While resources were flush, the effort succeeded. It did not, however, come to grips with the fiscal organization of professional schools, which differ significantly from schools of the arts and sciences, a reality that became inescapable as contraction beset universities in the 1970s. Schools of education are tuition-dependent, that is, dependent on tuition paid by students who do not seek knowledge for its own sake, but for its professional relevance. Despite a concerted effort by those appointed to a discipline and education, tuition-dependency progressively eviscerated the academic study of education in the professional school. The disciplinary study of education has often persisted nominally, but in a tuition-dependent professional school it cannot be genuinely robust and detached. The cumulative degradation has been marked.
The educational and the political
To gauge how marked, compare scholarship on the heritage of political thought, securely situated in the arts and sciences, with research on the legacy of educational ideas, conducted almost exclusively by specialists in schools of education. Students of political thought and of educational thought deal with essentially the same resources and often themes of politics and education intertwine in the very same historical texts. Consequently, one might expect scholarship in the two fields to be similar in scope, intensity, and quality of results. In actuality, scholarship on political themes in the historical record differs astonishingly from that on educational themes, with work on political thought dynamic and deep and that on educational thought static and thin.
The Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought currently provide editions of over 125 works from the early Greeks to recent times, for most in both hardbound and paperbound versions. Each edition is edited to high standards and includes an authoritative introduction and scholarly apparatus. See the current list, http://www.cambridge.org/home/searchresults/?site_locale=en_US. Schöninghs Sammlung Pädagogischer Schriften was a similar collection published by Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn, Germany (www.schoeningh.de). In the mid-1980s in comprised editions of educational writings by some 80 figures in the Western tradition, each volume well-edited and introduced. Judging from the current online catalogue the list in print is substantially reduced.
Full citations on this point would be tedious. Consider that the two chapters on Rousseau and education in The Cambridge Companion to Rousseau edited by Patrick Riley (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001) are written by a professor of government and a professor of political science. Peruse the Companion's list of "Works on Rousseau (a highly selective list)," pp. 446–449, which includes many recent studies of Rousseau's political thought and none of his education ideas. Compare two contemporaneous early studies, one good and the other better—The Educational Theory of Jean Jacques Rousseau by William Boyd (New York: Russell & Russell, 1911, 1963) and The Political Writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau by C. E. Vaughan, (2 vols., New York: Burt Franklin, 1915, n.d.[circa 1965]). Note that Boyd's work, the good, still circulates through citations (as in the above Companion, p. 268, n2), while Vaughan's work, the better, has been thoroughly superseded in the available literature.
Let us survey some evidence. In English, educational thought lacks a distinguished series like the Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought. As the study of education in Germany has increasingly come under the influence of American professional practices, the excellent collection, Schöninghs Sammlung Pädagogischer Schriften, has been significantly cut back. And the contrast reaches further than the publication of sources. A startling disjunction in the range and depth of studies separates the two bodies of scholarship. Political theorists substantively engage their past; educational theorists do not. For instance, Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a seminal thinker generating important concepts about both politics and education and one would expect theorists in both areas to produce studies about his ideas. In accordance with that expectation, students of political theory have published a steady stream of thoughtful studies about Rousseau's work, while scholars in schools of education have produced virtually nothing since the early twentieth century. Such a disparity holds, not only for Rousseau, but for nearly all the historical record.
See Rawls' discussion of the Aristotelian Principle in Section 65 of A Theory of Justice, his discussion of the "Kantian Interpretation" in section 40, and his use of utilitarianism as the major alternative throughout the construction of his theory of justice as fairness. Further evidence of Rawls' respect for the intellectual value to be found in the historical tradition of political and moral thought is to be found in his Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000).
Evident in Barber's Strong Democracy: Participatory Politics for a New Age (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984) and An Aristocracy of Everyone: The Politics of Education and the Future of America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992). It derived from Barber's early work, reflected in part ("an invisible presence throughout our study") in The Death of Communal Liberty: A History of Freedom in a Swiss Mountain Canton (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974), p. 16.
For C. B. Macpherson, see The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke (New York: Oxford University Press, 1962), and Democratic Theory: Essays in Retrieval (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), especially, Part three: "Seventeenth-Century Roots of the Twentieth-Century Predicament," pp. 207–250. For Alasdair MacIntyre, see After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981), especially pp. 137–153.
The key work for each is: Berlin, Liberty: Incorporating 'Four Essays on Liberty,' (2nd edition, New York: Oxford University Press, 1969, 2002), Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition, (Revised Edition, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975, 2003), and Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, (2 vols., New York: Cambridge University Press, 1978).
Important work in political philosophy sustains creative dialogue with the historical sources, which John Rawls exemplifies in A Theory of Justice. Rawls constructed his theory starting with concerns initially defined by Aristotle; he drew heavily on Kant; and he worked out his ideas by improving step by step on utilitarian theory. The basic commitment to democratic participation running through Benjamin R. Barber's work derives in significant part from a life-long dialogue with Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Likewise, C. B. Macpherson shaped his basic views through reflection on contract theory from Hobbes to Locke and the influence of Aristotle in the thought of Alasdair MacIntyre is fundamental. Isaiah Berlin pioneered writing the history of political thought as a way to contribute substantively to present-day political thinking, and J. G. A. Pocock and Quentin Skinner have extended those beginnings into a major way of developing the field.
For instance, a search of the title index from 1995 to 2000 for Educational Theory, the leading journal in philosophy and education, (www.ed.uiuc.edu/EPS/educational-theory/Indexes/index_95-00_title.asp) shows 12 contributions about Dewey; Plato, Rousseau, and Marx 1 each; and none on Aristotle, Erasmus, Locke, Hegel, Pestalozzi, Herbart, Matthew Arnold, or Maria Montessori. The History of Education Quarterly shows a similar clumping spread over a longer period, (1961–1998—it emphasizes the institutional history of education over the intellectual history): Dewey 13, Plato 4, Aristotle 3, Rousseau 3, Herbart 2, and none on Erasmus, Locke, Pestalozzi, Hegel, Marx, or Montessori. In contrast, Political Theory shows a much more well-distributed interest in the tradition between 1973 and 2000, with 18 articles about Socrates, Plato 11, Aristotle 24, Augustine 3, Marsiglio of Padua 2, Machiavelli 17, Hobbes 18, Locke 16, Hume 3, Montesquieu 4, Rousseau 18, the Federalist papers 4, Wollstonecraft 1, Tocqueville 5, Bentham 8, John Stuart Mill 16, Burke 8, Hegel 25, Marx 28, Nietzsche 15, Oakeshott 10, Habermas 8, Rawls 12, and Foucault 15. The discrepancy in results between the two fields is not the fault of individual scholars. With the current organization of effort, the study of education radically lacks the critical mass to take effective account of its historical roots in educational theory.
The best text on the history of Western education is still A History of Western Education, by James Bowen, 3 vols., (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1972, 1975, & 1981). Taylor & Francis recently republished it at $390, no campus bestseller. The best text in the philosophy of education is Philosophy of Education by Nel Noddings (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995). It dispenses with "Philosophy of Education before the Twentieth Century" in an 18-page chapter, followed with a 16-page chapter on John Dewey and then, preliminaries complete, it goes on to its the main concerns, the different strands of post-Deweyian educational philosophy. Noddings' text is good, other texts less so, with perhaps Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Education: A Biographical Introduction by Gerald L. Gutek, 4th edition, (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2005) typifying the lot. It is carefully engineered for a standard course in teacher education and its prose, at once simplistic yet obscure, does not suggest that a well-heeled, cost-conscious publisher respects the sophistication of those entering the profession highly. Political thought has a variety of quality textbooks and anthologies. Oxford University Press has recently issued one of each, reflecting the excellence of the resources—Political Thinkers: From Socrates to the Present, a collection of thoughtful essays on contributors to the canon of political thought by scholars, mostly in mid-career, edited by David Boucher and Paul Kelly (New York: 2003), and Classics of Political and Moral Philosophy, edited by Steven M. Cahn (New York: 2002), which gives well-introduced, substantial selections for major figures in the tradition, filling 1200 well-packed pages. Compare it to Philosophical Documents in Education edited by Ronald F. Reed and Tony W. Johnson, 2nd edition, (New York: Longman, 2000), which totals 286 pages of poorly introduced texts, of which 85 concern thinkers prior to Dewey. Philosophers on Education: New Historical Perspectives edited by Amélie Oksenberg Rorty (New York: Routledge, 1998) would seem to be an exception, for it provides a solid parallel for educational theory for what Boucher and Kelly offer in political theory. Contributors to it, however, are almost all academics from the arts and sciences willing to write on education. It hints at what the university might gain by providing a better place for the academic study of education.
In contrast, insofar as philosophers of education work in dialogue with past thinkers, they generally look back little further than John Dewey and write obsessive commentaries on his educational ideas. In political thought, the depth and variety of scholarship in turn leads to a far more vibrant set of instructional resources. A steady flow of quality textbooks and anthologies, up to date with the academic scholarship, equips the field to serve as an important component in general education. In education, fewer texts and anthologies, too often backed by static, older scholarship, cycle through successive editions to serve staple courses that have been required, largely unchanged, since teacher education programs took form early in the twentieth century. In short, the study of educational thought is a declining service component in professional education, while the study of political thought is a dynamic research and teaching field in the arts and sciences.
As human experience, educational experience is on a par with political experience: both are pervasive, complex, and imperative. Nothing intrinsic to the subject explains why scholarship about educational theory should so lag the study of political theory. In the nineteenth century, German academics produced extensive, deep work on education and Bildung, as did American intellectuals from the Transcendentalists through Dewey. In potential, the field of education can match that of politics, but the results do not. The differences stem primarily from disparities in supporting institutional arrangements and constraining purposes. There is no lack of support, but a poor organization of it.
Highly committed, well-educated teachers will often scorn in-service programs run from schools of education, for they perceive the professional view, no matter what particulars it propounds, as hopelessly Procrustean. Meira Levinson, in the Demands of Liberal Education (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), is beginning to show how disinterested scholarship, anchored with engagement and respect for the complex actualities of educational activity, can grasp with a fuller comprehension of the entailments inhering in professed principles.
In total, the university recruits and trains many more educational researchers than political researchers. Those who study education include people fully as capable as those who study politics. Nevertheless, scholarship in education lags because reliance in the university solely on the professional school overwhelmingly turns intellectual attention to the pursuit of interested, instrumental knowledge, serviceable in the organized work of the profession. Far too much is thus ignored. Good educational scholarship should have roots in the daily work of education. Surely that work, in school and out, provides the empirical data to be considered in thinking about education. This means that scholarship in education faces the challenge of understanding it as a full, formative experience lived by each person, who finds herself plunged into a cultural system of global scope, historical depth, and intricate rigor, having to acquire from it the personal resources with which she will seek fulfillment. In actuality, this educational challenge is far fuller, more difficult, and more many-sided than the concerns the educating profession takes as its ends in view. A full-blooded scholarship about education must speak, with depth, with intellectual substance, and with humane purpose, to every dimension of the educational challenge. It is not the subject, but the institutional arrangements supporting its study that account for the differences in the scholarship about education and other great concerns of human life.
Scholars trying to consider education in a detached manner have found themselves pressured by the institutional realities of the professional school to concentrate, not on knowledge for its own sake, but to confect syntheses satisfying to recruits for the profession. Interested knowledge about education is important and necessary, but not sufficient. Seeing its insufficiency, peers in the arts and sciences, haughty from accidental superiority, treat education as a matter unworthy of organized study. That prejudice ought to be brought to the bar of critical examination. Poor conditions for educational scholarship have weakened development of the field. In what might that development consist? Is the disinterested study of education actually unworthy of inclusion in the arts and sciences? Do the potentials of education as an academic study merit serious effort to include it within the arts and sciences? These questions confront, not the schools of education, but the university as a whole.
What the university will gain
Note that we are moving here to the positive from the negative part of our two-fold response to the question whether the arts and sciences should make a place for impartial inquiry about education. The positive task is to show that education as an academic study, properly developed, can substantially contribute to the work of the arts and sciences, and through that, to the work of the university as a whole.
To begin, let us consider further the differentiation between interested and disinterested scholarship. A subtle shift, I think, differentiates professional from academic investigation, namely whether the upshot of the work, its pragmatic cash value, will be a thing or action on the one hand or a concept or theory on the other. Interested inquiry, even when it addresses a great matter with Olympian scope, starts by examining chosen instrumentalities or actions. It becomes interested at its origin because it defines a domain of objects or actions and receives the interest, which will guide the inquiry, as it takes on the purposes that give rise to the objects or activities in question, taking as its justification its capacity to further those purposes. Professional knowledge usually becomes highly interested knowledge because it generally starts out from what members of the profession and their clients do, internalizing their purposes as the purposes to be served by the inquiry.
With the professional, definitions of the professional activity, or components of it, define the interest that controls the inquiry. Education is schooling; education is formal instruction, the work of teachers; education is construction of the common school, the public school, education promotes equity, driver safety, social mobility, the national defense. With each such definition delimiting the sphere of action as the subject of study, the inquiry takes on the purpose of its subject, aiming to enhance the action in question—to strengthen schooling, to improve formal instruction, to perfect the skill and art of teachers, to reform the public school, to promote all manner of goals that people may seek through the work of education. Of course, these are worthy ends and the knowledge achieved as a result can be highly instrumental, but the instrumental results differ from the results that disinterested inquiry into education would achieve. The two enterprises are not the same.
Disinterested inquiry starts, not with what people do, or even with what the stuff of nature does, but with concept formation, Begriffsbildung, the postulation of an idea, an abstract proposition, from which the scholar can build a conceptual framework with which to interpret or explain an element of experience. As with interested inquiry, disinterested scholars generally start concept formation with a definition, but the object of the definition is not some concrete thing or set of actions, but a concept, an idea, an intellectual proposition, something that exists in thought and words. Concepts are intellectual objects and detached inquiry concerns ideas, not things or activities. The ideas may be about things or activities, but the inquiry is about the ideas, which must not be confused with the things or activities to which they might refer. And frequently, perhaps always rigorously speaking, the objects to which they refer are imaginary, conceptual, ideal, not the tangible actualities themselves. Consequently, as a noun, the term "gravity" refers to a theoretical concept accounting for countless phenomenal behaviors, not to an objective force, but to a conceptual explanation.
Galileo Galilei, Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences, Henry Crew and Alfonso de Salvio, trans., (New York: Dover Publications, n.d.), p. 244.
Two New Sciences, p. 154.
Historians and others, apparently dealing with unique particulars, have sometimes suggested that discourse applicable to "any" instance is characteristic of natural science, as distinct from the Geisteswissenschaften or human sciences. As Max Weber showed in his critique of Eduard Meyer in The Methodology of the Social Sciences, (Edward A. Shils and Henry A. Finch, trans., New York: Free Press, 1949), pp. 127ff., the problem of the unique can be exaggerated, for the first act of conceptualization in any science is to abstract from particulars a set of ideal categories about which to think, even if the thinking is to interpret the uniqueness of the particular. Natural science, like the human, starts in a primitive sense with unique particulars—this tree or that rock or the night sky as it appears now. Nature has yielded instances of its homogeneous elements only after its was subjected to much post-theoretical refining. Hence all sciences, the natural and the human, touch upon particulars and develop through the formation of concepts in the realm of thought; they construct the realm of thought by inventing concepts elaborating its contents. Within that realm, students of the human sciences often want to preserve the particularity of what they study, and even in such an effort, an "any" remains, for they cannot abstract themselves out of the intellectual construct that they create and consequently the "any" for them applies, not to the unique object of interpretation or explanation, but to the interpreter or explainer—"any interpretation will need to take this construction of the matter into account." Were the discourse to insist on the unique particularity of the interpreter, it would be without meaning or value as a communication. And interpretation becomes partial, partisan, and dangerous when voiced as if only a special group of interpreters, those who share an identity defined by external characteristics, can make the interpretation and partake in the values it nurtures. In contrast, disinterested study of the particular results is an ideal construction in thought, one pertinent to any intellectual consideration of it, which creates an open discourse in which any and all can participate.
To find excellent examples, consult Galileo's Two New Sciences. In that work, Galileo gave many powerful, conceptual definitions. One started the "fourth day's dialogue," investigating the motion of projectiles: "imagine any particle projected along a horizontal plane without friction; then we know, from what has been more fully explained in the preceding pages, that this particle will move along this same plane with a motion which is uniform and perpetual, provided the plane has no limits." This particle is thoroughly conceptual, patently counterfactual with respect to the world of experience, with proofs in thought, explained in prior pages, accounting for the imagined behavior of the postulated objects. The word "any" here is deeply significant, and earlier, at the start of the "third day's dialogue" on uniform motion, Galileo significantly called attention to its importance as he explicitly inserted it into the traditional definition of uniform motion—motion in which equal distances are traversed in equal times becoming motion in which equal distances are traversed "during any equal intervals of time." Any here drives the definition out of the realm of particular instances and locks it securely in the conceptual realm, with the proposition applying, not to this or that perceived motion, apparently uniform, but to any conceivable motion, any thinkable one. Whether it touches on moving objects or cultural events, detachment works to generate in thought a conceptual understanding or explanation that will hold as an intellectual proposition about any conceivable instance.
Intellectual, not material, action is at stake in concept formation. A well-formed idea may or may not serve a concrete, tangible interest; it does not exist, however, for that purpose. With instrumental inquiry so widespread, people become far too crass in the way they understand the pragmatic cash value of ideas; their payoff is properly, not material, but intellectual in disinterested thought. With well-formed concepts, thought grasps meaning and explains causalities intelligible in actual experience. Concepts serve in thinking, in reflecting on experience, not in experience itself.
Good concept formation is disinterested because what is at stake in thinking effectively is of a different order, an ideal order, than the tangible interests at stake in the actual experience. Whether or not the interpretations or explanations achieved through good concept formation further the interests of a privileged group is immaterial—in both senses of the word, irrelevant and ideal, not material. Concept formation has powerful uses, however, in that it empowers people to query experience, to ask how and why and with what significance the actual differs from the ideal—the ideal, not in the sense of the perfect or most desirable, but in the sense of the conceptual, the theoretical, what thought leads us to expect.
As the Stoics realized, conceptual thinking is a great locus of freedom and control because it allows an actor to bring concepts and experience together, disclosing numerous options. The discrepancies between idea and actuality permit one to improve the concepts, or to change concrete actualities, or to do both. Interested inquiry is unidirectional, defined by the vector of interest. Disinterested inquiry is omnidirectional, responsive to the play of concept formation, which allows for the critique of established ideas and the unexpected construction of improved conceptual frameworks for thinking about experience anew. Thus, detached inquiry tends to be less instrumental in its results and more critical. We may say that theory is critical, not by the intention of the theorist, but by the character of theory itself. Theory becomes uncritical only when people hypostatize it, taking it out of the conceptual realm and putting it there in the world as a self-subsisting entity, like other actors, acting and being acted on. Keeping to the realm of the ideal, of thought, disinterested inquiry proceeds through concept formation to create coherent ideas, with reference to which people can ask questions about the source and significance of their concrete experience.
Standing back from the rough and tumble of political action, political thinkers have engaged in dispassionate, detached reflection and formed numerous, powerful concepts—justice, equality and equity, legitimacy, obligation, freedom, liberty, property, rights, the state, democracy, representation, power, and on. Present-day thinkers in the field engage productively with past thinkers as they try to further develop, expand, and correct key concepts formed by their predecessors in it. The concepts take on great significance for human life, not as they are used mechanically to shape behavior to their putative specifications, but as they are used critically to understand why behavior, in its divergent particularity, is the way it is, and to disclose creatively what it can become, what perhaps it should become.
The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987) and the culture wars following from it is in large part a complaint that universities have abandoned their educative mission and left the young to flounder for themselves. Bloom nostalgically prescribes a Great Books pedagogy, the workings of which he takes for granted. While William G. Bowen and Derek Bok have provided a distinguished examination of the role of higher education in furthering racial equality in The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), their analysis turns far more on econometric projection than on insight into educational experience.
Compare the role of academic students of education [if such can be found] in public discussion leading to the setting of educational policy with the role of academic economists in discussions leading to economic policy, or students of international relations in deliberations about national security.
Likewise, significant educational concepts have been formed within the historical record, but these have not been as fully developed in modern scholarship. Hence, there are fewer powerful concepts for thinking about education and much writing on education is therefore descriptive, not conceptual. This relative paucity of significant concepts generated through the disinterested study of education may have much to do with two salient absences in current discussions of education. One is the degree to which educational leaders have surprisingly little to say about the educative work of the university. The other is the degree to which academic leaders fail to take part in the public discussion of educational issues. Universities have a weak voice in matters concerning education because too few within them engage in disinterested concept formation about it, and those who do are too dispersed. At its source, this situation has probably arisen because scholars in the arts and sciences have generally believed that there is nothing of substance about education worthy of study outside of its professional concerns for the work of schools. Are there opportunities for concept formation in reflecting on education of a value similar to those arising from reflections on politics or economics or social action? Would more robust concept formation with respect to education be worth the trouble? That is the question we are now addressing.
Were it to come into being as a field of academic study, education would be somewhat similar to political science, for it would include distinct component areas—for starters, let us say, educational theory, American education, comparative education, and cultural change, with each area seeking to provide a general public with conceptual interpretation and impartial explanation pertaining to its core concerns. Powerful concept formation should go on through all its components in the same way that each of the various components of political science generate important concepts with which to explain and interpret political experience.
Here, we can merely sample what might result through the academic study of education, were it organized in this way. To do so, let us engage in some concept formation to assay intellectual possibilities in the component concentrating on educational theory. We can sample what education as an academic study might become by going back into the historical record to look at the formation of one powerful educational concept and to sketch significant ways in which later thinkers have used it to put to themselves and to others important questions about concrete human experience. In doing so, we will see that the concept has had powerful historical uses, ones which have fallen into abeyance. We will also see that although in abeyance, if revived, it will have important implications for contemporary educational concerns. Hence, let us reflect on one example, seeing what it offers. From it, each must extrapolate to a sense of the possibilities for the field, sensing them to be somewhere between the jejune and the seminal. Here is an example, an invitation, to those who will, to develop and expand a much fuller agenda, not a prescription for the whole undertaking.
Ancient texts have unusual significance for scholars engaged in concept formation, for in those texts many powerful ideas have their initial formulations. We go back to them to engage the ideas themselves in the form in which they were first set out, not through later descriptions of them. As we do so, we find that the formation of many key concepts precedes the adjectives describing them as belonging to one or another domain of thought, be it biological, geological, social, historical, political, or educational. Thinkers simply formed concepts, constructing illuminating bodies of thought and critiquing experience with them. Labeling came later as commentators drew ideas together and described them as part of one domain or another. Retrospectively, some ideas became political, and others educational.
In Western intellectual history, educational concepts were initially formed in essentially the same texts as major political ideas, the difference being that political thought, having developed more fully as an academic subject, has labeled the key texts as primarily political. Hence in engaging in educational concept formation, we need to appropriate resources claimed as parts of other fields, not to take them away from those other fields, but to find the educational concepts that may be latent there. Further, we need to be ready to make such excursions, not only into historical texts, but into current contributions as well. A passing difficulty in a prominent work of political philosophy may indicate a lacuna arising because educational concept formation has been weak, allowing readers to gloss over an important idea.
A careful reader will encounter such a passing difficulty in John Rawls' Theory of Justice. His work is a marvelous exercise in concept formation and it awakened political thought from a long analytic slumber by taking the principle of distributive justice to be the generative principle of political economy and setting forth a tight reconstruction of that principle—justice as fairness—as a more coherent construction of it.
See A Theory of Justice, Section 10, especially pp. 50–2.
To set up his theory of distributive justice, Rawls used a distinction between formal justice and substantive justice. In Rawls' view, formal justice describes the situation in a polity whenever a set of principles, good or bad, is in force, whenever "impartial and consistent administration of laws and institutions, whatever their substantive principles," are in actual operation. Rawls put questions of formal justice to the side and restricted his inquiry to the problem of substantive justice, to a search for those principles that would provide substantive, real justice to the members of a polity. He then restricted the problem of substantive justice to questions of distributive justice, finding those principles for the distribution of public goods among members of a polity that would lead to a substantively good distribution. The important issue, the substantive issue, was for him, not whether or not a principle was adhered to, but whether or not, if adhered to, the principle of distributive justice would be substantively correct, the sound and true principle of justice, the one that rational persons ought to accept.
In A Theory of Justice, Rawls touched further on formal justice by way of making some observations about the rule of law (pp. 207–210) and the adherence to system (pp. 441–2), but not to develop the concept as such any further.
Rawls sought to think out which principles would best achieve substantive justice, at least in the domain of distributive justice, and he left the matter of formal justice—whether there was "adherence to principle," "obedience to system"—largely to the side, even a bit mystified. Within Rawls' theory, formal justice either exists in a polity or they does not, for reasons that he left unexamined. There is adherence to principle or there is not, and Rawls did not seek to construct concepts for thinking about the process by which adhering to principle might or might not come about in the experience of a person or a polity.
Rawls, of course, alludes to education as a public good to be distributed disproportionately to the least advantaged in a polity governed by justice as fairness, but he does not consider the role that an educational justice might have in bringing justice as fairness into force within a polity. His whole method, however, presupposes the effective working of a highly Platonic commitment to formative justice to bring about the primacy of rational choice (see especially Section 4, pp. 15–19, and Section 25, pp. 123–130). Rawls and the readers for whom he writes have educated themselves to accept the primacy of rational constraints on their convictions and behavior. The "formal constraints of the concept of right," which Rawls lays down in Section 23, pp. 112–118, are not simply "formal conditions," they are the outcome of a particular formative education, as a result of which people learn to expect principles to be general, universal in application, public, productive of ordered processing, and conclusive or final. For justice to pertain, it is not enough for education to be justly distributed as a good among others; it is necessary that there be a formative justice, an educative process through which people adhere to the constraints they will accept on their various possibilities for behavior. Thomas W. Pogge gives a careful explication of the role education has in Rawls' second principle of justice in his study, Realizing Rawls (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990) pp. 161–181. Pogge shows that Rawls' ideas about education need to be emended to recognize that each person has a right to an education appropriate to his capacities, essentially the issue of formative justice.
A lacuna arises here because "formal justice" is not really a satisfactory concept, but merely a descriptive term. The theoretical principle of interest is not formal justice, a mere description of the condition of one or another polity, but rather formative justice, a concept that enables thinking about how people come to adhere to principle, to accept and to expect "the impartial and consistent administration of laws and institutions" or other restrictions on possible behaviors, and even further, to shape the world and their conduct within it by reference to this system of thought. Formative justice is an important educational concept, one still insufficiently developed. Formative justice—like distributive justice and retributive justice—is an important part of justice, which deserves far fuller attention than it receives.
See The Republic, especially Books 3 & 4, with the development of the concept culminating at 444d–e, where Plato resolved the interplay between justice in the hypothetical city and the person in favor of the latter: "But the truth is that although justice apparently was something of this kind, it was not concerned with the external performance of a man's own function, but with the internal performance of it, with his true self and his own true function, forbidding each of the elements within him to perform tasks other than its own, and not allowing the classes of things within his soul to interfere with one another. He has, quite literally, to put his own house in order, being himself his own ruler, mentor and friend, and tuning the three elements just like three fixed points in a musical scale—top, bottom, and intermediate. And if there turn out to be any intervening elements, he must combine them all, and emerge as a perfect unity of diverse elements, self-disciplined and in harmony with himself. Only then does he act, whether it is a question of making money, or taking care of his body, or some political action, or contractual agreements with private individuals. In all these situations he believes and declares that a just and good action is one which preserves or brings about this state of mind—wisdom being the knowledge which directs the action...." (Tom Griffith, trans., New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
See Socrates dialogue with the Athenian nomoi at Crito, 50c–54d.
A concept of formative justice stands to the disinterested study of education as that of distributive justice stands to the dispassionate study of politics. As Aristotle provided the first full conception of distributive justice, so Plato initiated and gave a first full conception of formative justice. Present-day students of education, however, are not developing his idea very well, for they too often cram his idea into the wrong conceptual context. We immediately encounter here another instance of the contextual problem arising from the absence of an academic discourse about education. Commentary on Plato's Republic normally lacks sympathy because commentators take it to be a work primarily about politics, not education. To be sure, the city, the polis, from which our term "politics" derives, was a central concern in the work. But consider what Plato held to be the primary meaning or significance of the polis in human experience. In describing his city of words in the Republic, Plato conceptualized educational relationships and actions not political arrangements, and elsewhere, as in the Crito, Socrates based his respect for the norms of the city, neither on the realities of power nor on legislated legitimacies, but rather on the educative, formative ethos those norms had provided.
Perhaps the most egregious example having been The Open Society and Its Enemies by Karl R. Popper, Revised edition, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1946, 1950), Part 1, pp. 11–195.
See Howard Gardner's, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Tenth-anniversary edition, (New York: Basic Books, 1983, 1993) and Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice (New York: Basic Books, 1993). Plato, of course, put greater stress on the problem of cultural philosophy that confronts each person than on that of developmental psychology. Considering potentialities in a Platonic manner, I must think concretely about both myself and my circumstances, understanding and evaluating the possibilities for me inhering in those circumstances, the cultural conditions in the midst of which I live. In view of the world in which I find myself, what nurturing resources can I take from the world in order to develop, integrate, and deploy my particular mix of capacities and powers? To live is to respond constantly to this question in order to achieve to my fulfillment within the world, those unique circumstances of my life. Concepts of formative justice help people address that question through a life-long series of self-formative efforts.
If taken as a set of socio-political restrictions prescribed for objective polities, Plato's division of his postulated city into three functional castes, sharply differentiated from each other, strikes present-day readers as profoundly reprehensible. But Plato was not prescribing political arrangements; he was explaining an educational concept. And few would dispense with the educational concept that he was there forming. The castes were a conceptual fiction, like Galileo's particle, counter factual and confined to thought. The thought constructed an educational concept: the idea that human potential has multiple components, each overflowing with possibilities, with each needing to be developed and brought into an appropriate balance and order, one unique to each person, which it is the person's vital challenge to sustain and fulfill. Is this a reprehensible concept? Is this not the concept that Howard Gardner has been elaborating, to considerable acclaim, through his theory of multiple intelligences?
The dramatic tension in Homer's Iliad unfolds from the tension between distributive and formative justice. Superficially, issues of distribution were at stake. The quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles broke out over an issue of distributive justice, nominally as Agamemnon appropriated Briseis, part of Achilles' share of the spoils, which affected the more basic distribution of honor within the community of Greek warriors. But neither further redistribution of spoils nor professions of honor, however, could end the quarrel, for the affront to distributive justice was really merely the occasion through which Achilles came to grapple with his inward problem of formative justice, deciding (to put it in present-day language) what definition of self would be primary for him. Thus, the real drama of the Iliad recounted how Achilles wavered over and then resolved the so-called choice of Achilles, whether to lead a long life of obscure but comfortable satisfaction or to achieve through dangerous deeds a short life of enduring renown.
Issues of justice arise when a need or desire for something exceeds its supply, forcing deliberation about what each recipient is due. Issues of distributive justice stem from having to allocate a finite supply of public goods among a larger multiplicity of claimants. Issues of formative justice have to do, not with public goods, but with human potentials. In education, possibilities exceed feasible achievement, forcing choices. A person cannot actualize all her possibilities; nor can a group. Which ones will receive what effort? By exercising formative justice, a person selects among her possibilities and allocates a finite supply of talent and energy, of motivation and discernment, in pursuing these chosen goals. Formative justice thereby determines the mix of potentials that a person or group will effectively act to achieve.
It is disconcerting, to say the least, that about the only place in American public life that celebrates such a principle of formative justice is in recruiting publicity for the U.S. military. The terms of discussion around formal schooling are about how to teach a set body of knowledge and how to assess whether or not it has been learned. Schools are ciphers with respect to formative justice and schools of education do nothing to prepare teachers to speak effectively to the problems of formative justice young people encounter growing up under diverse personal circumstances. Popular images showing education taking place effectively across a wide range of circumstances—as in movies such as Stand and Deliver, Finding Forrester, Dead Poets Society, and the like—suggest that the effective educator must speak to the problems of formative justice his or her students experience in the choices they must make. Katherine Boo shows what a school can do, despite all the extrinsic disadvantages, when it addresses issues of formative justice in "Letter from Boston: The Factory," The New Yorker, October 18, 2004, pp. 162–176. At the other extreme of willful degradation, partisan politics exemplifies formative injustice at a lavish scale, educational malfeasance as campaigners indulge in competitive perjury and character assassination. The young watch what putative leaders do, and let be done in their names, and the examples they are setting amount to an ever-more miseducative politics. However effective in gaining power, it will in due course destroy the body politic.
Guided, well or poorly, by formative justice, each person exerts educational effort to bring his or her mix of aptitudes to their full employment in pursuit of sustainable fulfillment. "Be all you can be": this is the problem of formative justice that each youth must ultimately solve for herself. What do you want to become? What should you become? What can you become? How will you integrate the imperatives of desire, upbringing, and reason into a secure and fulfilling self? There is one life to live and a multiplicity of possibilities in it. Which merit realization, how, when, where, and why? This is the question of formative justice and good educational concepts, sound pedagogical principles, enable people to think about and act on such fateful choices.
Republic, 414c–e, where Plato made it clear the characteristics in question are in fact the result of upbringing and education, not innate differences. Through the myth of the metals, Plato was addressing the problem of ensuring that the parts in a complex whole remain effectively subordinated in the service of the whole. The problem of effectively subordinating the parts to the whole is a pre-eminently educational problem, one central to formative justice. It has a significant political dimension as well, however. For instance, the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances operate as principles of formative justice within modern constitutional theory. In order to think about different forms of potentiality, we need to think about them as relatively fixed, not in scope but in character, for they are not transmutable into one another. That way, we do not try to have one potentiality do the work of another. Thus, we do not try to draw reasoned conclusions through the exercise of appetitive desire or to bond emotionally through closely reasoned argument. The Platonic myth of the metals does not deserve rebuke if it is taken to describe the character of potentialities. By perceiving the inherent differences setting distinct capacities apart from one another, a person will deploy those capacities, each for its appropriate purpose, and integrate her activities into a sustainable life-project. How to allocate both faith and reason to their proper domains and to be able to draw appropriately on both within the human enterprise is by no means a dead issue, existing only as history.
Despite decades of critique from The Tyranny of Testing by Banesh Hoffmann (New York: Dover Publications, 1964, 2003) to The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy by Nicholas Lemann (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000), reliance on mass testing has become ever more widespread as the arbiter of educational opportunity. What may be of use as a diagnostic in helping each person achieve formative justice in their education has no proper business cloaking distributive injustices with a false legitimacy.
Twentieth-century public discourse, obsessed with material externalities, has obfuscated issues of formative justice by degrading them into concerns of distributive justice. Education collapses into schooling, so much seat-time devoted to this or that, with the only issue of justice being one of access to formal opportunities, which get counted up among the cornucopia of public goods. Who will get so much of what kind? In the course of developing his conception of formative justice, Plato spun his myth of the metals to explain why a person would accept the idea that her potential was not some fated absolute, but a complex whole made of many parts that she had to develop and form. Sober literalists among us condemn this myth and its ironies—which Plato at least labeled as myth and spun in discourse for purposes explicitly not to be put into practice. Yet those same literalists collaborate now in our endless testing, with the Educational Testing Service and other authorities propounding our myths of metals, only for us not as myth, but as objectivities legitimated by statistical arcana and an obliging quest for bias-free phrasing. The Republic propounded an early theory of formative justice, a conceptual construct, and a major activity in the disinterested study of education should be the continuous development of that construction, as well as others, and their use in asking difficult questions about educational experience.
We can return to Plato. Let us first sharpen the distinction between formative and distributive justice. Remembering Galileo's caution about the importance of "any," let us meditate briefly about how we might use the two concepts to think about a trivial, but widely documented matter—the doings of professional sport. Take your favorite football team, it does not matter whether it plays the global or the American game, for me the Jets or Giants will do. The front office deals with distributive justice, at least within the tiny universe of the team, in negotiating salaries and other terms of player contracts. The issue of distributive justice here—we will not dwell on your salary or mine—is to justify differentials in compensation, working with players and their agents to achieve agreement through judgments about the market and putative skill and drawing power and other measures of worth, whereby some players will make millions for showing up and others will labor at a base pay of several hundred thousand. If the front office mismanages the valuation of worth and the distribution of resources, with too much here leaving too little there, jealousies and resentments can wrack the team and the stable of players will fall short on talent, leading fans to rail at the front office. If the distribution is astute, the team can thrive. But will it?
This and the previous paragraph are a revision of material in ¶¶119–112 of Robbie McClintock, The Educator's Manifesto (New York: Institute for Learning Technologies, 1999), available online at www.studyplace.org/studyplace/studyspace/mcclintock/manifesto_work_in_progress.html. There I used the term "regulative justice" rather than "formative justice," but the concept in question is the same although I have come to prefer the latter term.
This question raises the issue of formative justice. By itself, a great collection of talent, richly remunerated, may achieve consistent success—damn those Yankees—but it does not guarantee it, as at last the Red Sox showed. A coaching staff must use principles of formative justice to bring each player up to his full potential and to integrate them all into a resourceful, winning team. The issue here is to get each player into optimum condition for the roles he has to play, to build the determination and élan of the group so that each plays with full intensity, and to develop and communicate to each player an astute game plan that takes into account the unique capacities of key personnel and the vulnerabilities of opponents. Finally, formative justice here consists in putting all these activities together, each in its proper measure, so that on the day of the crucial game, the whole team is strong, intense, and shrewd together, winning in a commanding performance.
We might here note in passing that it is only with respect to a measure of fulfillment, of each person's realization of his or her potentialities, that the Rawlsian can judge who is least advantaged, how and why, and the only real "veil of ignorance" (A Theory of Justice, Section 24, pp. 118–123) that people systematically experience is the ignorance at any time and any situation of what their best potentials are. Justice as fairness may make even better sense as a theory of formative justice, than it does as a theory of distributive justice.
As in sport, so in the great game of life—the challenge of formative justice abounds. Football is a microcosm of passing import, personal or historic, but even with more complex, fateful situations, formative justice perfects the unique excellences of diverse components and integrates them into an optimal performance, on pain of suffering the consequences. Whatever the domain of experience, the theory of formative justice enables a person to think about how to bring a diversity of potential capacities to a combined fulfillment. For distributive justice, the conceptual telos is equality in one sense or another. Or perhaps, as Rawls reasons, fairness is the goal, equality being too simplistic. For formative justice, fulfillment is the controlling goal. Formal justice, as Rawls understood it, describes the end state of the process of formative justice and it consists in laws and institutions, "whatever their substantive principles," that people have brought to fulfillment in practice, effectively instituting diverse efforts motivated by a suitable integration of interest, pride, and principle.
Aristotle, Politics, I, 1, and passim. "Every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good; for everyone always acts in order to obtain that which they think good. But, if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good." (Benjamin Jowett, trans.) Any full discussion of formative justice would require more attention to Aristotle, in addition to that given here to Plato, as well as many others.
Fulfillment is a goal that excites powerful human sympathy. We want our own fulfillment and thus exercise effort to develop and use our natural capacities, and we want the fulfillment of others, taking care to educate others. We feel spontaneous admiration for exemplary achievement by others and regret when circumstances force someone to desist from significant effort. Thus fans will acknowledge with respectful applause an opposing star, suddenly injured and forced out of a game, for the potential of the game itself became less fulfilling when injury forced his withdrawal. The goal of fulfillment even translates into a powerful directive norm for political economy. Not growth, stoking the ever-insatiable few, but full employment is the goal, the right of each person to creative work and, further, to the full employment of his or her unique mix of potentialities for the benefit of self and others. Full employment in its fullest sense is a truly challenging, and worthwhile goal of public policy. Aristotle defined a city as the shared pursuit of the good life. In this view, human fulfillment becomes the fundamental purpose of a polity. With fulfillment as the purpose the polity, the test of legitimacy comes through the educative work of its ethos, norms, and principles.
Education is more deeply personal than politics and concepts pertinent to it orient from the inside, so to speak, with the person internally as actor both affecting and being affected by the surrounding world. This makes conceptual frameworks enabling people to think well about the self in interaction with the world very important in education. In that context, Rousseau's fundamental distinction between amour de soi, a healthy, affirmative sense of self, and amour propre, an other-regarding self—possessive, proprietary, and prideful—very important. See especially, Rousseau's Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Note O, and Emile, Or Education, Book 3. The interpretation of Rousseau would be clearer, and dangers that some find in his thinking less ominous, if the distinction between formative justice and distributive justice were more firmly in mind. Rousseau based his critique of his sociocultural circumstances, not on grounds of distributive justice, but on those of formative justice—as formative influences they were profoundly distorting. Under the heading of "political education," theorists usually consider what kind of education will lead to good political outcomes. Rousseau, even in the Social Contract, thought about "educational politics" by asking, What kind of politics would have good, or bad, educative outcomes? Can discord, sown by exploitative political conduct, undercut the shared potential for fulfillment by wedging many to despair and others to smug complacency?
There is immense potential in interpreting German idealism as a major exercise in concept formation dedicated to understanding the educational experience of humanity. From Kant's Critiques, setting forth the legislative powers of reason, to Hegel's study of the human spirit's Bildungsgeschichte, the historical process of human self-formation, the primary concern is educational. The challenge to present-day interpreters, and it is no small challenge, is to find a way to make the conceptual achievements of that era far more widely accessible to a general public than were the very difficult philosophical and literary sources of them.
Martin Luther King, Jr., eloquently exemplified such connections in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (April 1963, especially section IV). Franz Kafka's Letter to his Father (November 1919) examined deeply how a distorting paternal authority culminated in a fearful rejection of filial duty and continuity between generations. The ways in which misrule evokes counteraction can be understood only by reference to the ability people have to control the formative education by which they shape themselves in interaction with their circumstances.
With respect to formative justice, the legitimacy of a regimen—something we educators will not confuse with the regime of a state—turns on judgments of whether or not it rightly brings potentials to full realization, whether or not it respects and nurtures the conditions of fulfillment. Were this not an essay, but a full study of formative justice, we would need to develop here the concept of authenticity in dialogue with Rousseau and others; and likewise, the concept of autonomy with Kant, and that of its fruition in spirit, Geist, or culture with Hegel. In doing so, we would see that many issues of political theory can be clearer and easier to manage when the educational concepts embedded in them are adequately differentiated and kept distinct, yet related, in thought. Moving complaints about the deficiency of substantive justice show how the formative influence of a political or moral order distorts the character and expectations of those subject to it. Both the right of rebellion and judgments that a given order is basically legitimate turn in large part on whether one feels that formative justice is attainable under the conditions that prevail.
As Walter L. Adamson has shown well in Hegemony and Revolution: Antonio Gramsci's Political and Cultural Theory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), Antonio Gramsci recommended a highly disciplinary education for proletarians and peasants, not so that they could co-opt themselves into more favored classes, but to master the skills to gain and exercise real political power.
The interpretation of present-day conditions would be more effective, I think, were we to keep the things we do for ourselves more clearly differentiated from the things that get done to us. We need a dose of Epictetus. For instance, students will often misread The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society by James R. Beniger (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990) because they invert the real control problem that Beniger had in mind—How do we cope with the flux of circumstances?—and see the question of control as a conspiracy by hypostatized forces out there to control the outer and inner life of the meager self.
Where the justice at issue is primarily formative, relationships of subordination, coordination, and control may have valences different from what they would have if principles of political power and authority were directly at work. What may be highly repressive in politics may be liberating in education, particularly as the person sets herself a regulative regimen for bringing a favored potential to fruition. A regimen may be demanding in ways that a regime may not. Things that are negative and destructive when done to us as passive objects by an external agent can be positive and fulfilling when we do them actively by and for ourselves. The marathon runner pushes herself through a discipline of painful training to achieve her goal. Were such a discipline imposed by an external power, it would stultify and suppress the spirit, but self-set, it is part of the path to fulfillment.
Plato was not looking for real world versions of his polis, as a key passage showed: "our hypothetical city, since I don't think it exists anywhere on earth. . . . A pattern or model laid up in heaven somewhere, for anyone who chooses to see it—and seeing it, chooses to found a city within himself." The Republic (Tom Griffith, trans.), 592b, cf. 471a–473b.
Ironically, students of education too often read Plato as if he is talking politics, not education, proposing external authorities. Not liking what they thus hear, they turn away. Thus, by mistaking the context, educational thinkers have impoverished their resources. Plato described in speech a highly formative, but authoritarian city, a hypothetical city that he did not seek to found in fact, in order to illustrate an educative discipline by which persons could put formative justice into practice in the living of their lives. By seeing politics where education should be found, interpreters diminish the developmental potentialities of the person. And they compound this weakening by attributing pedagogical initiative, efficacy, and responsibility, not to the person acquiring her education, but to her external teachers. Confined to the externals, to the apparent surfaces, education becomes superficial and lax. Beneath the surfaces, the unexpected, difficult achievements arise from self-discipline, willed subordination to a goal, and extraordinary effort.
Within his effort at concept formation, Plato used three ideal-typical concepts in constructing his concept of formative justice. These described in thought how people adhered to a system of law and even more generally how they willingly constrained their behavior. In Plato's view, people voluntarily obligated themselves and adhered to purposes in response to motivating capacities, which he conceptualized as being of three types—responses to appetite, to honor or spiritedness, or to reason. People want, believe, and think, and in so doing choose their ends in view. Formative justice, or simply justice as he put it, constituted a fourth ideal-typical concept, which consisted in bringing the other three into an appropriate relation with one another such that each separately, and all together, would be fully employed performing their proper functions in a way optimal for the whole person. For Plato, this optimality meant achieving a stable, self-sustaining harmony, that is, fulfillment, in the conduct of a person's life within the flux of his or her actual circumstances.
It is not appropriate here, within the scope of this essay, to try to construct a full theory of formative justice, either through an extended commentary on Plato or by taking the concept up and constructing a new theory of it, as Rawls did for distributive justice. Here, we seek to indicate what the academic study of education might become in the arts and sciences and can do so by following a few further hints from Plato to see how those might lead us further into subsequent work, most of which merits being interpreted as educational, among other things. Plato advanced concepts, under a heading which we are calling formative justice, that grasped in thought, in discourse, the way people constrained their actions and adhered to a purpose or principle, and he gave that, as theorists often do, a normative dimension enabling him to interpret both human fulfillment and human degradation. Plato achieved a theoretical account of how people adhere to principles in the course of living their lives, and with it, he illuminated significant consequences for conduct as people under differing conditions adhered to particular principles in different ways. He used it to put quite clearly two very important questions that should be major concerns in the academic study of education.
Republic, 518c. (Griffith, trans.)
Consider first Plato's wonderful passage at the conclusion of the allegory of the cave. "Education is not what some people proclaim it to be, . . . that they are able to put knowledge into souls where none was before. Like putting sight into eyes which were blind." People learned by exercising their capacity to find and know their own good, their own fulfillment, a capacity that was their human dignity, one that Plato asserted to be a universal—"this capacity in every soul." He then gave a powerful statement of the educative function of formative justice: "Education . . . would be the art of directing this instrument, . . . not the art of putting the power of sight into it, but the art which assumes it possesses this power . . . and contrives to make it look in the right direction."
This passage culminated Plato's critique of the sophists, which had stretched through several of his dialogues, for they were the teachers who professed to put sight into blind souls. The sophists had begun to offer instruction in the rhetorical and related arts that promised to give power to those who would live by the exercise of persuasion and leadership. Conditions had put conventions and circumstances in flux, and with an insouciance that some thought disruptive and others unwise, the sophists prepared young men on the make to gain an edge in pursuing pleasure and power. And immediately both cultural conservatives and philosophic critics then queried whether the proffered instruction could deliver the promised results: truly knowledge is power, which will mean that "a little learning is a dangerous thing," as Alexander Pope many centuries later restated a Socratic ploy. If power is mistaken, it wreaks harm, not good. Thus the paradigmatic culture war began around a great question, one that still echoes into our time and times to come. As the classical Greeks put it—Can arête be taught? Or the Romans—Can virtus be taught? Or as the moderns, from the Renaissance to now, have been putting it, Can virtue, can excellence, can power be taught?
Protagoras, 319a, (Lombardo & Bell, trans.)
This question persisted, recurrently demanding answers. The cultural conservative answered then, and answers now, that arête, virtus, virtue, excellence, power need not be taught, for it was given by tradition and convention, ascribed to the young as a matter of course in a well-ordered community. The sophistic pedagogue answered then, and answers now, that indeed they teach it, for they have devised a program of instruction that leads to "sound deliberation, both in domestic matters—how best to manage one's household, and in public affairs—how to realize one's maximum potential for success in political debate and action." The philosophic critic demurred then, and demurs now, questioning the strong claim that "every day, day after day, you will get better and better" and suggesting that with sustained effort one might develop the rational skill to figure out in the flux of circumstance what principles and skills may prove best suited to the situation, that is, as Plato put it, being able, as occasion required, to "look in the right direction."
Let us take a conceptual risk and agree that in contemporary parlance the best way to translate arête is not its common translation, "virtue," or even the better but less common, "excellence," but the one insinuated here, "power"—Can power be taught? Power, like arête, has a range of component capacities—strength, skill, courage, knowledge, wisdom, compassion. Like arête, we can speak of the power of persons and of collectivities, and we see it as a concept for thinking both about the special capacities of some and simultaneously about qualities universally possessed in some measure by each and every person. Furthermore, like arête and virtus were in their original contexts, power as a concept applies not to an abstract attribute inhering separately in the person, but to a complex quality perceived to arise at the juncture where the active person interacts with his or her conditioning circumstances. One cannot speak about the power of a person without taking into account the context in which the power is manifest.
Can power be taught? People hope that education will culminate in power—for the conservative, reproducing it through ascription, for the sophistic, disbursing it through instruction, for the Socratic, mastering it through learning and study. If the hope is that education will culminate in power, the importance of formative justice becomes inescapable and a major debate running historically through consequential sources emerges into clarity as an examination of education. In the Platonic construct, by definition, the good was the object of power, the ability to act with effect, and in this sense, the Socratic position—that no person knowingly, intentionally did evil—made necessary sense, for every act aimed to accomplish the good. But it meant that the problem of formative justice was pervasive and ominous, posing a difficult question: given the complexity of power and the many goods that were its object, how should one order these so that each, and their resultant combination, could all work rightly, consistent with fit goals?
Republic, 617e & 619b (Grube & Reeve, trans.)
In the face of this question, many people make, as they should, very difficult demands on themselves. And they easily over-reach. The autonomous acceptance of difficult expectations must not serve to legitimate dehumanizing authority over others, be it religious, economic, political, emotional, or educational. Formative justice works through the self-formation of each person. That is the source of the fundamental dignity of each, shared by all humans. It is what Plato celebrated in the greatest of all his myths, the coda at the end of the Republic in which the human souls chose their lives, in which there were numerous possibilities for each. "Responsibility lies with the one who makes the choice. . . . There is a satisfactory life rather than a bad one available even for the one who comes last, provided that he chooses it rationally and lives it seriously. Therefore, let not the first be careless in his choice nor the last discouraged." Here is the inalienable humanistic condition, celebrated by Socrates and Plato, and many after them.
For Hadot, see Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault (Michael Chase, trans., Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1987, 1995), What Is Ancient Philosophy? (Michael Chase, trans., Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995, 2002), and The Inner Citadel: The 'Meditations' of Marcus Aurelius (Michael Chase, trans., Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992, 1998). For Nussbaum, see The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy (Updated Edition, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986, 2001) stressing how Plato and Aristotle saw the problem of formation in view of the vicissitudes of experience; and The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).
Many past thinkers wrote for people engaged in pondering the question of formative justice, the question of their regimen of self-formation. What should be the purposes of your power and how should you direct your power to pursue them? Ancient ethical writers, as Pierre Hadot and Martha Nussbaum have been reminding present-day readers, tried less to desiderate on the substantive question of what the good is, but spoke more to themselves and others pursuing the formative question, trying to develop a rational self-discipline for selecting purposes and shaping their capacities to achieve them. They were students, less of substantive justice, more of formative justice. Their work is one major strand in a literature the aims of which are essentially educative.
To me, this shift in what people put primary in Rome as it Christianized, is well exemplified by Augustine in his Confessions, which showed the inadequacy for him of his philosophical education, a good one, and the deep need he felt for achieving the conviction of faith. Augustine's City of God sketched a new regimen for formative justice, and Dante's Divine Comedy set it forth in a magnificent vision, full in detail and extraordinary in scope, depicting the formative force—for one who felt it, not as a threat or a lure, but as an existential state—of damnation, repentance, and salvation, energies at best weakly sensed by Plato.
Another strand filled out an emerging gap in the Platonic agenda. In view of subsequent history, Plato's tripartite schema of the human constitution took the role of belief in the formation of power too much for granted. He had assumed that acculturation in one or another city-state would provide each person's spirited element with a set of honored attachments more elevating than the appetites but less open to doubt than the objects of reason. Imperial hegemonies, especially the Roman, soon created a syncretism of different beliefs as Rome became intensely multi-cultural. A diversity of acculturating conditions confounded the unselfconscious honoring of belief, for with so much diversity it was impossible to not question conventional local norms. People found themselves with few unquestioned convictions, and pained by that deficiency, a growing number of sensitive, self-aware persons felt that the rational disciplines of the Stoic, Epicurean, and skeptic, did not suffice for their formative needs. Increasingly, they concentrated on achieving conscious acts of faith as the basis for their forming their purposes and powers. We might say that the challenge of formative justice shifted from the plane of reason to that of belief. People no longer found their chief problem to be their rational understanding of the good, but their ability to honor truly, to revere something with unquestioned faith.
Let us leave, for this essay, the discussion of how to shape one's power to live rightly and well in the face of unknown circumstance, which caught reflective attention from the ancients to the present. It is a matter that merits greater attention in the study of education than it is now receiving. Recognition that power is an educational concept, as much as a political one, is essential to making sense of many important developments in current public life. Nation-states came into being as much through the conscious pursuit of an educational ideal as through the constitution of political institutions, and as that aspiration fragments into numerous movements of group identity and assertion, from Black Power in the 60's to the many variants now in action in the national and global arenas, it is wrong to view these solely, even primarily, as political movements. If seen as strictly political, they feed into the Hobbsian war of all against all. These movements pursue power as the construction of identities and the vision of fulfillment through them. Thus these movements are in large part educational, feeding not the war of all against all, but the many-sided affirmation of human potential. Without the study of education, and the place of power within it, fully developed, we hear many assertive discussions of power without discernment and react with repressive incomprehension, tragically exacerbating the tensions of our world.
Our aim here is simply to see what the academic study of education might involve, and around problems of power, it might enable us to convert more political conflict into pedagogical effort. Hence, we should realize that the first question—How can the person best master his or her power to seek fulfillment?—has been a question of seminal importance in our cultural history and one that continues to be at the heart of contemporary dilemmas. Reflection on it should lead to the conceptual critique of educational effort, not to ever more astute answers to the how of education, but to the reflective examination of the what and the why of education, on the who¸ and the where, and the when. On these issues, public discourse is appallingly inert. To what degree do our immense educational efforts further the human fulfillment of those involved? Why, in a world so full of resources, do so many find themselves in a state of deprivation, depression, and doubt, disposed to rancor and resentment? What are the discrepancies between contemporary practices and the ideas of formative justice and what might educators do to diminish those discrepancies? We have probed far enough to recognize that education as an academic study must address these questions, but there are others as well. Let us sample them by looking at the other fundamental educative problem that Plato grasped with his concept of formative justice.
In Books 8 and 9 of the Republic, where Plato traced the cycle of transformation from the rule of the best to that of the worst, subtly charting the interplay of formative influences on the character of the polity and the person, he anchored the second educative question of continuing importance. Two dimensions of it are critical in a disinterested study of education. One accounts for the formative influences that differentiate one person or polity, one regimen or regime, from another; the other concerns the sources of historic stability and change working upon the unique person or polity, the question about the contingency of personality and community in time. Both inquiries intertwine through the historical resources and spread out into different domains of modern scholarship. The academic study of education could do much to give them better unity and focus.
Events, as events do, had raised these issues. For long, Homer's listeners had learned to think about themselves through the contrast between the Greek and the other. Greek cities constituted a cauldron of political experimentation, each coping with its internal conflicts, each engaged in external competition and conflicts among them, and many sending citizens forth in a practice of founding new cities according to a plan. The relative merits of different formative principles in the organization of a polis were significantly contested and debated. People experienced the question. Caught in contingent times, they began to write history, seeking to understand whether and how knowledge and culture determined the power of persons and of polities.
Present-day concern for nurturing the vitality of civil society and for maintaining channels of civic participation is a distant descendant of Herodotean history. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert D. Putnam (New York: Touchstone Books, 2001) and Diminished Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life by Theda Skocpol (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003) have much more to do with problems of formative justice in civic life than with issues of distributive justice.
A very revealing study, perhaps it has been done and I am unaware of it, would look at the Cold War in a neo-Thucydidian manner as the playing out of two frameworks for large-scale formative justice. At least the presentation of self by the leading powers on the "Free World" side was largely framed by reference to deep-seated ideas about the formative justice of democratic regimes, celebrating the capacities for self-development exercised by people under a regime of freedom. The actual conduct of the Cold War, at least in its dénouement, seems to have come about as the Communist regimes were pushed to the point at which they collapsed as distributive systems. If that was the case, the tension was not settled on formative grounds. Hence, one can imagine at some point a revisionist argument that contends on formative grounds that a democratic socialism is preferable to an ever-more bloated regime equating freedom with the untrammeled pursuit of material wealth.
Over centuries, successive thinkers have sought to form ideas and principles with which they could account for the relative success of one power system vis-à-vis another. Herodotus began the inquiry, suggesting that the principle of participation among Greek citizens enabled them to withstand Persian subjects, who were governed by a principle of subordination that neutralized their superior material strength. Thucydides pulled back from the contrast between the Greek and the other and contrasted the two poles within the Greek ethos, the plodding power of Sparta versus the Odyssean sea-wit of Athens, concentrating on the genius and self-destructive volatility of the latter, thereby greatly deepening insight into the interplay between character and command. Plato and then Aristotle turned further inward to reflect on how internal conflicts within Athens and other cities led to a change in governing constitution, and such inquiries have matured into more modern ideas about checks and balances and the separation of powers. One can understand these constitutional principles as principles designed to ensure that each of the different forms of political power keeps to its proper business so that the whole can function in effective harmony, which is precisely the fundamental concept of formative justice. As political theorists have often explored "political education," in which they reflect on the kind of education that will best lead to good political outcomes, so a full consideration of formative justice would lead to ideas about "educational politics," constructing concepts about how political arrangements force educational, formative results, for better and for worse.
"Not a man there knew what his task was to be, or was fitted for it; every one without exception, Northern or Southern, was to learn his business at the cost of the public. Lincoln, Seward, Sumner, and the rest, could give no help to the young man seeking education; they knew less than he; within six weeks they were all to be taught their duties by the uprising of such as he, and their education was to cost a million lives and ten thousand million dollars, more or less, North and South, before the country could recover its balance and movement." Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, end of Chapter VII: "Treason."
Henry Adams, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (New York: Penguin Books, 1986).
Machiavelli, The Discourses (Bernard Crick, ed., New York: Penguin Books, 1985).
How formative influences shape the members of a polity, and hence collectively its power and stability, is a large question, dangerous yet imperative. With respect to the influences shaping people in a polity, there is, first, what we might call the pedagogy of events. Henry Adams pointed to the awful costs of this pedagogy, early in his Education, as he looked back on the outbreak of the Civil War. Adams' autobiography and its companion reflection on Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres were great literature. Unfortunately, they were too indirect to provide well-formed, effective concepts for interpreting the pedagogy of events. Earlier Machiavelli had come closer in his Discourses to creating a conceptual framework for interpreting the pedagogy of events as he reflected on how the Romans preserved, through diverse vicissitudes, their capacity to extend and maintain their governing principles. Later students of Rome took Machiavelli's question rather for granted and concentrated more on its sequel, the decline and fall, without as much educative insight. Hence, the pedagogy of events is still a matter in great need of clarification, especially as it is going on all about us, rampantly since 9/11. We have virtually no good concepts with which to analyze or explain what is happening as public leaders and their followers become willing to compromise their governing principles in angst at apparent life dangers.
Lawrence A. Cremin, American Education (3 vols., New York: Harper & Row, 1970, 1980, 1988).
In Democracy and Education (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1916, 1997), Dewey engaged in important educational concept formation, especially with the concept of growth and the reconstruction of experience and used both concepts to forge an integral link between the politics of democracy and the practice of education. Amy Gutmann's Democratic Education (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987, 1999) is an excellent example of the way students of politics often look at education, asking how educational activities and services should be provided consistent with democratic political norms.
A second type of influence forming political character arises through the ethos of a given polity, through its historical or political character. Which types of regimes educate the best and which regimes can best draw strength from the education of their members? What educational arrangements will best accord with the character of a given regime and what educational strategies will best strengthen and enhance the regime? Some modern responses have probed how education has shaped and been shaped by the principle of nationality, with Lawrence Cremin's American Education perhaps the pre-eminent example. Emerging debates about multiculturalism in education may be the harbinger of an historic dissociation between education and nationality, which could have significant effects on whether people identify with and recognize the nation-state as the dominant center of political authority. Instead of concentrating on the concept of nationality, other modern responses have examined the interactions between democracy and education, with John Dewey's work, and more recently Amy Gutmann's, pre-eminent.
Weber's life work was an effort to understand the cultural sources of capitalistic rationalization, and why it developed in Europe, as distinct from other civilized spaces, and why, within Europe, in the modern period, as distinct from the ancient or medieval. The most accessible example is The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Peter Baehr and Gordon C. Wells, trans., New York: Penguin Books, 2002) along with other translations and editions. Perhaps the most essential instantiation of this concern, which was a life-long work-in-progress, is his posthumous Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology (2 vols., Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich, eds.,Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), especially the very long second part (pp. 311–1374), which drew together all the strands of his historical sociology. I refer to The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy by Kenneth Pomeranz (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), not because cultural factors are primary in his explanatory efforts, but to show how the question of the relative power of different historic civilizations remains an open, unsolved question. A fuller account of these aspects of formative justice would look at the ways in which cultural resources and technological innovations interact in the formation of historical power—questions into which the Wealth of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor by David S. Landes (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1998) and The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress by Joel Moykr (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990) are useful entry points.
The late Edward Said pointed out the deep proclivities to dehumanize others by unconsciously aggrandizing the truth of one's own principles in Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1979). Comprehending how the world appears to someone other than oneself is a fundamental educational skill that is terribly strained as all the world's people are being brought together in a Hegelian life-and-death struggle for mutual recognition. The most difficult of all books about education, the Bildung of the human mettle—Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit—is, alas, among the timeliest. "Hegel on Education" by Allen W. Wood is an excellent summation, although it leaves the topic still very esoteric. See, Rorty, ed., Philosophers on Education, op. cit. (note 43), pp. 300–17. Making the heritage of reflection about Bildung in German available in English would be a significant task for the academic study of education. It is a valuable heritage, but one of minor importance to the work of professional educators.
Finally, a third modern response broadens out in the manner originated by Herodotus, comparing the formative ethos of civilizations, exemplified by Max Weber's incessant investigation and by numerous post-Weberians trying to understand "the great divergence" as Kenneth Pomeranz has recently put it. Such comparative inquiry into the formative power of an interacting cultural system is fraught with dangers, for many people misconstrue ideas developing conceptual differences and take the thought to signify objective inferiorities and superiorities. Here are the roots of genocide, a terrible twentieth-century degradation. It threatens to be a twenty-first-century scourge as well, as globalism intersects with terrorism, as high technology and Midas wealth mingle with massive poverty in a world where the supply of resources shrinks rapidly relative to the demand. Arrogant power meshes with the belief that one's own civilization beneficently imparts full humanity to its members, while that of one's enemies molds depraved beings, less than human. The interplay of self-aggrandizement and the degradation of the other makes it imperative to achieve a dispassionate, value-free understanding of how different systems of formative justice work in the present-day world.
Enough. Were this essay intended to present fully the opportunities for concept formation in education, it would need to deal with much more than the discussion of formative justice touched on here. The historical record is rich in educational concepts, but their current development and use are sparse. Disinterested formation of educational concepts deserves serious academic study. Within the arts and sciences, the study of educational concepts, such as formative justice, would be a fit enterprise, one worth exerting significant effort to introduce.
Looking back on the historical record, we see that it provides a profuse heritage of concept formation, offering influential ideas for thinking critically about educational experience. The claim is not that inquiry about such concepts should become, within the arts and sciences, exclusively an educational inquiry, or even primarily educational, but that, in addition to the economic, social, political, religious, ethical, even literary dimensions of the inquiry, it should consistently have an educational dimension. The educational dimension of concepts like formative justice has been of peripheral import in schools of education, although it would be of central import were education a disinterested study in the arts and sciences. Further, the claim goes beyond recognizing the value in developing the educational import of concepts such as formative justice in itself. The educational dimension of such ideas often constitutes the nexus relating all their other dimensions to each other. With the nexus absent in the arts and sciences, their ability to do justice to the theme, however productive their separate contributions may be, is significantly reduced. The need for the academic study of education is real.
Clearly, the contemporary university has not developed its intellectual organization fully. To complete development of it, the university needs to provide the differentiation characteristic in other fields for the study of education. The university needs to recognize education as a field of academic study, as a body of autonomous inquiry in the arts and sciences.
In doing so, there is no need to make education into a tightly unified discipline, whatever that would be. Basic forms of human activity generate broad, diversified fields of study. The study of politics provides the closest analogue to the study of education. As a field, political science includes significant subdivisions—political theory, American politics, comparative politics, international relations. The academic study of education would as well—educational theory, American education, comparative education, cultural change. Each area itself would be substantial, welcoming methodologically diverse contributions to the conceptual explanation and understanding of educational experience in its fullness. To be sure, contributions to such work take place in schools of education and the object would not be to empty it out of those institutions, but, in a small yet significant way, to fill out and complete the arts and sciences with a group of scholars dedicated primarily to disinterested concept formation about education.
A department of education in the arts and sciences would strengthen and focus university scholarship on education. That step would relieve distorting pressures on schools of education. It would help them, and the educational research establishment, to concentrate more effectively on the instrumental goals essential to the work of professional education. By including a department of education in the arts and sciences, dedicated to disinterested scholarship and teaching, the university can take a concrete step to develop its intellectual organization further. That step would strengthen the university and enhance its human worth.
Some concluding questions
All this, the negative and the positive responses building the case for education as an academic study, might persuade academic leaders inside the university. But what about the academic patrons and the public? Here the university must lead. Someone, somewhere must take a risk, staking resources to change the given situation. That risk devolves upon the university, for ideas precede their payoff. And this brings us to the close, finally, with one last point—the payoff will be real. In fostering the disinterested study of education culminating in the formation of concepts such as formative justice, the university would not be turning away from human experience and flesh and blood needs. The arts and sciences, properly pursued and practiced, are no ivory tower. Too the contrary: the absence in the university of education as an academic study contributes to the woes of our world.
An absence of education as an academic study is not simply an intramural problem within the university. With education in the university confined to the professional school, in public discourse education has become synonymous with the work of schools. This creates a profound irresponsibility as prominent people in other walks, who should be caring for their educative effects, blithely act as if they have none. The young, indeed everyone, need strong, formative examples across the full spectrum of action—effort, honesty, wisdom, self-sacrifice, recognition of complexity, generosity, confident humility, intelligent purpose, courage, and on. Instead, they get heedless leaders in politics, commerce, and the media who shirk the responsibility to cultivate public principles through the formative effects of their actions. The principles through which we live are not given, dependable realities, etched in history; our principles are not transcendent necessities that need no formative care. They are contingent. They exist only to the degree that we exemplify them for each other and enable ourselves, ever anew, to form and fulfill them.
Dishonest corporate executives profoundly miseducate the public, as do the rapaciously overpaid. So do political leaders who lie and deceive in the pursuit of power; they destroy the bonds of community, mutual trust among people, each of whom is unique and different. Politics is not corrupt; our politicians are corrupting. A putative leader cannot excuse deception on his behalf by saying that his guy must twist truth because the other guy's guy is worse, and then follow it up, dismissing the complex temptations the young experience with the complacent cliché, "just say no." Greed and the lust for power are such strong motivations that even if we recover a public understanding of education, such destructive drives will not disappear. Nevertheless, were educational discussion to assume again its proper scope, those blind to their duties would find it harder to pass as persons of probity.
Close readers of Plato know that the concept of formative justice will not be toothless with respect to the important concerns of social justice. In thinking about formative justice, scholars can put critical questions that they are unable at present to put with effect. To some the questions will seem merely rhetorical—"but of course." In that case, one has already persuaded oneself of the point. But to others, concepts of formative justice and the questions put through them may provoke searching inward inquiry, empowering reflections that lead to altered action. That is how detached, impartial inquiry makes a difference in the world and that is why we need education as an academic study.—
- Do parents commit a grave formative injustice when they bequeath to their children resources of wealth and power of such scope that life appears to present the children with no element of circumstantial risk or challenge?
- Do proponents of a belief system commit a grave formative injustice when they set its adherents apart from other people in such a way that they can no longer recognize the full humanity of those others?
- Does a society characterized by extremes of inequality, such that the least favored cannot possibly aspire to realize the capacities that the most favored can easily develop, commit a grave formative injustice, hurting not only the least favored, but also the most, and those between, diminishing the sum of accomplishments to be enjoyed by all?
- Do principles of formative justice pertain on the level of global interactions, the environment, and intergenerational time and how should they operate to prevent the excessive development of a geographic, environment, or generational component to undermine the harmony and stability of the whole?
- Can principles of formative justice show whether the curricula, the delivery of instruction, and the methods of assessing aptitudes and achievements in use in the provision of formal education are most likely to enable students to develop their powers and purposes to achieve fulfillment in an uncertain world?
- When teachers and schools fail to speak with conviction and meaning to the formative choices that each and every student must uniquely make, do they do justice in their work?
- Respecting education and formative justice, should people reassert a politics of humane full employment?
And so, we end. Let us do so by returning full-circle to the question with which my friend began, now restated in a language newly learned.
- Has the university, considering the powers and purposes of its parts, brought each to its full potential and put them all in relation to each other so that each serves its proper business, forming the whole to the fullness of its possibility? Is the university an exemplar of the formative justice for which it should stand?