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Professional Life and Work

Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives: studies in education and change

Educational Research as a Public Intellectual

CARE then provided a think-tank for curriculum development and school innovation and evaluation projects.  The work was powered by the political settlements of the day and by the support of substantial elements in the liberal establishment as well as the broader labour movement and other movements committed to social justice.  At this time, then, educational researchers at CARE could act as public intellectuals since in a sense, they were working with the grain of support from these social movements.  It is always difficult to stand at one historical moment and recreate a sense of the past, but MacDonald has captured the heady sense of momentum in the early days of CARE:

The curriculum development projects of the 1960s (by the end of the decade some 200 national initiatives had been funded) led, in the 1970s, to a re-staffing of a still expanding system (the school leaving age was raised to 16 in 1972) on a new basis - the experience of change. [...] They poured into the departments of education in the universities and the polytechnics, the local authority advisory services, even the national inspectorate and senior school positions, bringing to their new responsibilities a hands-on knowledge of the practice of schooling that would breathe new life into those atrophied institutions by challenging their traditions and offering them a new role. The beachheads of an unfamiliar academic territory were rapidly established in higher education, increasingly under the title of 'curriculum studies'. The theoretical tradition of education based on derivative disciplines began to give way to the new theorists of educational practice whose theory was based on the close observation of new curricula in action, grounded theory of school life whose conceptual catholicity and seemingly casual disregard for the carefully constructed authority of the social sciences had to meet and survive accusations of amateurism and naive ignorance. But survive and flourish they did, not least because, supported by their colleagues in the local authority advisory services, they exerted an increasingly decisive role in the reshaping of in-service education for teacher, taking that opportunity to draw their students into the process of field-based enquiry into school problems and practices. That opportunity was extended as more and more colleges of initial training were incorporated into the institutions of higher education (MacDonald, 1991).

In such a climate as this the power of ideas is considerable.  These initiatives represent a sense of 'a world under construction'.  The public sector of schooling was being reconstructed and educational research provided important insights into this process.  When public services are being reconceptualised and reconstructed in helpful and broadly supportive ways by sympathetic politicians, the educational researcher as public intellectual emerges from the shadows.

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Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives
  • Date of publication: 01/09/2003
  • Number of pages (as Word doc): 160
  • Publisher: Open University Press
  • Subject:
    Professional Life and Work
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    Professional Knowledge, Professional Lives: studies in education and change
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  • ISBN: 9780335204113
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