Bad Marriage?

This is from a 2005 article by Stanford's David Labaree. He tackles this question: How did progressivism became the ideology of most education schools?

Education schools have their own legend about how this happened, which is a stirring tale about a marriage made in heaven, between an ideal that would save education and a stalwart champion that would fight the forces of traditionalism to make this ideal a reality.

As is the case with most legends, there is some truth in this account. But here a different story is told.

In this story, the union between pedagogical progressivism and the education school is not the result of mutual attraction but of something more enduring: mutual need. It was not a marriage of the strong but a wedding of the weak.

Both were losers in their respective arenas: child-centered progressivism lost out in the struggle for control of American schools, and the education school lost out in the struggle for respect in American higher education. They needed each other, with one looking for a safe haven and the other looking for a righteous mission.

As a result, education schools came to have a rhetorical commitment to progressivism that is so wide that, within these institutions, it is largely beyond challenge.

(I do wonder: are things changing? I see more professors at Harvard, for example, open to less progressive views of what classrooms should look like -- KIPP's, for example).

At the same time, however, this progressive vision never came to dominate the practice of teaching and learning in schools — or even to reach deeply into the practice of teacher educators and researchers within education schools themselves.

When Arne Duncan discusses changing Ed Schools, he never addresses this history.

Ed School professors generally believe X. Teachers trained in Ed Schools end up working for K-12 school leaders that generally believe Y.

Set aside the merits of whether X or Y is correct. So long as these two groups differ on X versus Y, how can Duncan catalyze Ed School change, if the change he hopes for requires belief in Y?