"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, April 29, 2011

Harvard's Ed Doctoral Students Protest Dumping of Social Justice Scholar

When Gary Orfield moved the Civil Rights Project from Harvard to UCLA, that move acknowledged a major shift that had been going on for a long time at Harvard's Graduate School of Education.  Simply put, Harvard's GSE is more aligned today with William Bennett than Harvard alum, William James. 

I congratulate the brave doctoral students who have begun an increasingly vocal protest to call for a return to research on social concerns at Harvard, rather than a laser focus on economic ones.  Doctoral students are also calling for a return to human research using qualitative methods rather than the abstracted empiricism used to dote on the dumbest of data, test scores.  But even more troubling to future scholars at Harvard is the dumping of scholars committed to social justice research agendas.  The latest denial of tenure to Mark Warren was the final straw for doctoral students.

Below is my letter to the Globe reporter, Tracy Jan:


As someone who almost never reads the Globe because it represents the print media version of Harvard's anti-people, anti-public, pro-corporate grad school of education, I have to offer a big thanks to you for your piece today on the doctoral student protests at Harvard regarding the recent refusal of tenure by a noted social justice scholar.  When a friend sent me just the link to the story, I clicked on it thinking that I would see another tribute to education as decided by Oligarchs like Gates and Broad and the Waltons. 

Your piece, however, begins to lay bear some of the dangerous and damaging threats to our democratic aspirations that have reached into the highest levels of organized education--Harvard.  This transition from equity to aggrandizement has been underway for some time, with a number of high-profile professors always at the ready to put the Harvard rubber stamp on the U. S. Chamber of Horror's plans for K-12 education.  We can go all the way back to ideologue, Paul Peterson, whose voucher research (cooked, as it turned out) was used in earlier days to push for school vouchers.  And it still shows up on some reading lists, even though it was properly discredited by real scholars.

The systemic nature of the education takeover by economists and other forms of efficiency zealotry is well underway at Harvard and elsewhere, and this quote from your story says it all--an economist in charge of studying inequality:
In the Graduate School of Education, only about 20 percent of faculty receive tenure, a figure the school is trying to improve through better mentoring, said Bridget Terry Long, a Harvard economist who studies inequality in college access.
Now if you really want to move to a related story, check out the DESE plan to judge the quality of our K-12 teachers on test scores.  You will find all sorts of Harvard connections, from the GSE to the Business School and back again.  . . . . . Try to find something in the Globe about it.  Other than stories that read like press releases from the Boston Foundation, you won't find much.

Thanks again and keep up the good work.

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