[EDLING:1551] Educational research is an education!
Francis M Hult
fmhult at DOLPHIN.UPENN.EDU
Tue May 9 14:56:21 UTC 2006
> May 08, 2006, 6:02 a.m.
> Chicanas From Outer Space: Educational research is an education!
> By Frederick M. Hess & Laura LoGerfo
> Amidst relentless warnings that America's schools are graduating only
> two-thirds of 18-year-olds, are failing to produce the scientists and
> engineers we need, and need to address stubborn racial achievement gaps,
> more than 14,000 of the nation's education researchers gathered recently
> in San Francisco for the annual meeting of the American Educational
> Research Association (AERA). Their task is not easy. Former AERA president
> David C. Berliner has explained in Educational Researcher, a prestigious
> education journal, that education research is "the hardest science of
> all." Berliner argued that educational science is much harder than
> "splitting either atoms or genes" because those who study schooling find
> their research confounded by "the ordinary events of life" such as "a
> messy divorce, a passionate love affair, hot flashes, a birthday party,
> alcohol abuse...[or] rain that keeps the children from a recess outside
> the school building." Clearly, these scholars in San Francisco would have
> no time for the frivolity one might find at a gathering of biochemists or
> It was quickly made evident that the scholars had buckled down to the
> crucial, serious work at hand. Professors had unflinchingly tackled each
> of the five major fields of educational inquiry: imperialism; ghetto
> culture; hegemonic oppression and right-thinking multiculturalism:
> cyber-jargon; and the utterly incomprehensible. There was also some boring
> work on questions like student achievement and policy evaluation, but you
> only had to follow the crowds to see where the action was. Flipping open
> the two-inch-thick program of research presentations, no responsible
> educator concerned about imperialism could bear to miss the session that
> featured "Na Wahine Mana: A Postcolonial Reading of Classroom Discourse on
> the Imperial Rescue of Oppressed Hawaiian Women," "Every Shut Eye Ain't
> Sleep and Every Goodbye Ain't Gone: Paradoxes of Race in the Production of
> Political Knowledge of Decolonizing Nationhood," and "Written On, Written
> Over, but Refusing to be Written Off: Indigenous Educators Teaching in the
> Possibilities for future research abound. If shut eyes are not sleeping,
> are they absorbing algebra? Where do goodbyes go when they are not gone?
> And, of course, is the empire likely to strike back? If it does, how many
> oppressed Hawaiian women will be further victimized by the postcolonial
> discourse? Researchers seeking to celebrate ghetto culture were riveted by
> the scholarship of "Ho No Mo': A Qualitative Investigation of Adolescent
> Female Language Reclamation and Rejection." A subsequent piece of
> research, "'He's Driving a BMW and I'm Riding the Bus': Examining
> Spirituality in Urban Youths' Lives," no doubt delved into the question of
> what happens after the ho's are no mo'. Meanwhile, the burning issue of
> hip hop pedagogies was explored by the research session on "Black
> Language, Literacy, and Liberation: The Promises and Challenges of
> Critical Hip Hop Language Pedagogies."
> Those more interested in hegemonic oppression could not afford to miss
> "The Formation of the Subjectivity of Mail-Order Brides in Taiwan and
> Their Educational Strategies Toward Their Children." The import of an
> oppressive "majority culture" was tackled in a provocative piece that
> unfortunately suffered from a limited sample size: "Translating,
> Paraphrasing, Helping: Coming of Age for One Child of Immigrants." One
> scholar of multiculturalism showed how to do away with injustice and
> racism, while promoting compassion and wisdom, in "Resisting Resistance:
> Using Eco-Justice and Eco-Racism to Awaken Mindfulness, Compassion, and
> Wisdom in Preservice Teachers."
> Other work promised to promote proper multicultural teacher attitudes, as
> with "Teaching White Preservice Teachers: Pedagogical Responses to
> Color-Blind Ideology" and "Overcoming Odds: Preparing Bilingual
> Paraeducators to Teach for Social Justice." Breakthrough research on this
> front included "Discovering Collage as a Method in Researching
> Multicultural Lives" and "Artistic Code-Switching in a Collaged Book on
> Border Identity and Spanglish." Among the panels tackling the pressing
> questions of "queer studies" (formerly "gay and lesbian studies") were
> "Queering Schooling and (Un)Doing the Public Good: Rubbing Against the
> Grain for Schooling Sexualities," "The Silence at School: An Ethnodrama
> for Educators About the School Experiences of Gay Boys," and "Working
> Against Heterosexism and Homophobia Through Teacher Inquiry."
> Unfortunately, this work may have seemed a bit conventional to those
> researchers fortunate enough to catch the 2004 analysis of ableist
> oppression in homoerotic magazines: "Unzipping the Monster Dick:
> Deconstructing Ableist Representations in Two Homoerotic Magazines."
> Cyber-jargon is a rapidly growing field, with scholars tackling such
> pressing questions as what happens when dyads co-quest in Quest Atlantis.
> One intriguing session included scholarly analyses that tackled "The
> 'Unofficial' Literacy Curriculum: Popular Websites in Adolescents'
> Out-of-School Lives," "Not Just the OMG Standard: Reader Feedback in
> Online Fan Fiction," and "English-Language Learning in a 3-D Virtual
> Environment: Native/Non-Native Speaker Dyads Co-Questing in Quest
> Atlantis." Perhaps the most stimulating work was that penned by authors
> who dabble in utter incomprehensibility. The allure of this work resides
> partly in trying to discern what the authors are actually talking about.
> Scholarship like "Semiotics and Classroom Interaction: Mediated Discourse,
> Distributed Cognition, and the Multimodal Semiotics of Maguru Panggul
> Pedagogy in Two Balinese Gamelan Classrooms in the United States" and
> "Education a la Silhouette and the Necessary Semiotically Informed
> Alternative" leaves one a bit breathless.
> Other work that may not be quite as dazzling, but nevertheless boasted its
> own pleasing bouquet of complexity, included "Fostering a Distributed
> Community of Practice Among Tribal Environmental Professionals During
> Professional Development Courses" and "Vygotskian Semiotic Conception and
> Representational Dialogue in Mathematics Education." Of course, beckoning
> any researcher truly concerned about teaching and learning was the
> Presidential Session that featured a compelling new paper: "'Mami, What
> Did Nana Say?' Public School and the Politics of Linguistic Genocide."
> This special session called to mind one of the more compelling papers
> presented at a past AERA: "Chicanas From Outer SpaceChupacabras, Selena as
> Marian Image, and Other Tales from the Border."
> Perhaps none of this should surprise. After all, Nel Noddings, the
> president of the National Academy of Education, spoke for many education
> researchers when she complained, "Why the emphasis on experimental and
> quasi-experimental research, when there's so much other good stuff out
> there, I don't know." Given the challenges facing our schools, and the
> fact that most of these researchers are supported and employed by public
> institutions, it might make sense for educational researchers to devote
> attention to analyzing public policy, improving teaching and learning, and
> addressing the practical concerns of parents and teachers. Such topics
> were pursued in San Francisco, of course, but if those engaged in serious
> work want their work to be accorded the respect they seek, they need to
> emerge from their hushed sessions and do something about the prominent
> place their profession grants to scholarship that promotes narrow values,
> spouts incomprehensible nonsense, and studies the semiotic
> conceptualization of hegemonic linguistic genocide (or dyadic co-questing
> in Quest Atlantis).
> Frederick M. Hess is director of education policy studies at the American
> Enterprise Institute. Laura LoGerfo is a researcher with a Ph.D. in
> educational psychology from the University of Michigan.
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