Book Notes & Thoughts: An Elusive Science, by Ellen Condliffe Lagemann

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Every time I go to a conference, I try to bring a book to read, usually one that has been sitting on my shelf waiting for me. The book fills those little in-between moments of travel waiting in line or on the plane, downtime after sessions finish, or in the quiet time before bed when there are no children to be tucked in. This time it was An Elusive Science: The Troubling History of Education Research, by Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, former Harvard GSE dean and current research professor at Bard College. This was a nice follow up to reading and blogging about Reese’s history of K-12 schools, as that provided the context for Lagemann’s history of what was happening in research. As I become a member of this research community, this book gave me the historical perspective of my field.

My advisor, Rich Halverson, and Erica Halverson quote Lagemann in their chapter in the Sage Handbook, Education as Design for Learning, A Model for Integrating Education Inquiry Across Research Traditions. This was one of the foundation articles in how I think about education research. They draw on Lagemann to understand the foundations of educational research. As I try to formulate my own schema for situating design, improvement & innovation, and educational research & development, I wanted to understand the history of the field.

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Book Notes & Thoughts: America’s Public Schools, by William Reese

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America’s Public Schools: From the Common School to “No Child Left Behind,” by William J. Reese, 2011.

I subscribe to Larry Cuban’s blog, which means I get an email every few days with his historian perspective on new initiatives like Personalized Learning or Coding for All. As I work on my research to understand how change does (or does not) happen in education, I felt like some historical context might provide perspective on the conversations I am having today.

William Reese is a professor here at UW-Madison in Education Policy Studies and History, though I’ve not had the opportunity to take a class with him. I had previously read Pillars of the Republic, by Karl Kaestle and Shopping Mall High School, by Powell Farrar and Cohen, but I was particularly interested in this book about the more recent times of NCLB. Nonetheless, I learned much about the progressive era, Dewey, curriculum, urban vs. rural schools, and the wrestling of a common goal for public schools. One of the key trends that was new to me was the consistent assumption that held up urban schools as the ideal and rural schools as backwards. This is written as the dominant narrative of public schools, with some attention paid to integration orders after Brown v. Board and the different experiences of non-white and poor students in schools.

p. 13-14. “School-houses and churches are the true symbols of New England civilization, as temples, pyramids and mausoleums were the symbols of ancient civilizations,’ declared a college professor at mid[19th-]century…. Schools, he said, were not like clocks, once wound ticking of their own accord; someone needed to operate and guide them. Moreover, ‘no reform is carried in the State or the world without a reformer. Improvements originate with original minds, and are usually presented to the people by interested advocates.”

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Reflections on “Blueprint for Armageddon”, WWI podcast series by Dan Carlin @hardcorehistory

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Podcast “cover” artwork for the first episode.

Over the past three weeks, I’ve been listening to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast series entitled “Blueprint for Armageddon.” With six episodes and over 22 hours total, it was a major undertaking. And I don’t didn’t even like history! Like a good story teller does, he pulls you in and weaves a tale that you want to listen to, almost regardless of the content. But in the process, I became fascinated with the war itself, the technological changes, and the process of trying to imagine what it was like on the ground and what it was like to be alive and in the world at that time.

I think like most Americans who experience the normal high school curriculum, my experience with learning World War I was  in March/April of my sophomore year, at which point we highlighted enough major details (trench warfare, Wilson’s 14 points, Entente vs. Allies) in order to understand the seeds of World War II. We would move on quickly to World War II, which ran into the last weeks of the year and the cold war/60s/70s/80s were oh-by-the-way mentioned. You get the distinct message that WWI just isn’t worth focusing on, but in this (extensive) telling of the story, I was amazed at how, on many fronts other than just military history like the development of technology and social movements, this war set up not just WWII but an entire era that affects our beliefs today. Continue reading “Reflections on “Blueprint for Armageddon”, WWI podcast series by Dan Carlin @hardcorehistory”