The Foundations/ Cultural Studies Nexus: An Emerging Movement in the Education Field

Article excerpt

[T]he future of social foundations of education is already intertwined with cultural studies in education. (Steve Tozer, 2001, p. 304)

This essay situates Cultural Studies in Education (CSE) as "in-the-making" (Ockman, 2000). Its tale is of contradictory tendencies at one of the primary sites where CSE is being articulated, educational foundations. I focus, hence, not so much on what is CSE as where is CSE (Schwarz, 1994). (1)

To explore the "fit" of cultural studies with the organization and culture of schools of education, I look at what cultural studies is doing in terms of processes of making and unmaking via a case study of a programmatic effort to rethink educational foundations. (2) My site is Ohio State University. My interest is in contradictory processes of incorporation and exclusion, affirmation of the new accompanied by elaboration of tradition, and normalizing as well as oppositional desires. The final section probes the resources CSE offers for generating a better location for educational foundations in current debates and intellectual currents, particularly claims to a "post-foundational" era.

Cultural Studies in Schools of Education:

A Case Study

Wright (1997, 2000, 2004) delineates the convergences and divergences between cultural studies and cultural studies in education in terms of social justice, power relations, national and racial identifications and identities, social difference and diversity, and popular culture. While Wright is most useful in situating CSE in relation to Cultural Studies across the university, my focus is on what happens at the intersection of cultural studies and colleges or schools or departments of education. To this end, I draw on the files of the quite cantankerous history of efforts to rethink foundational studies in education at Ohio State University. I'll begin that history backwards, with the rather drawn out approval at the University level.

1998, University Level Approval: The CSE program was approved in early 1998 after a protracted struggle based on concern that a "subspecialization" in CSE would preempt any program that might develop in arts and sciences. (3) Key in the approval process was a letter from Bob Donmoyer, Director of the School of Educational Policy and Leadership, to the Office of Academic Affairs. Donmoyer argued that as "education is a public policy field rather than an academic discipline," educating people who take on very different sorts of jobs as is typical of the professional schools, co-existence should be no problem. The Donmoyer letter went on to use Giroux to delineate defining properties of CSE. These included an argument for interdisciplinarity and media studies in the training of teachers as well as a rejection of the

   professionalization of educators and the alienating and often
   elitist discourse of professionalism and sanitized expertise.
   Instead [CSE] argues for educators who self-consciously produce
   knowledge and power-related discourse that must be examined in
   relation to both the conditions of their construction and their
   social effect. (Giroux, 1997, pp. 236-237)

As well, the Donmoyer letter noted the long-term uses in critical educational studies of the Birmingham Center's work, e.g., Paul Willis, Angela McRobbie, and others. It also questioned traditional assumptions about whose claims get privileged as origin and turf by using Handel Wright's (1997) argument that the history of cultural studies could as well be positioned in adult education, cultural centers and folk schools as Birmingham. Several sites of a cultural studies approach to education were listed as well as journals and book series as a way to "situate our institution in the vanguard of an emerging movement within the education field." (4)

1990-1995, The Canon Wars in Education: To get to this place of University approval was no small feat. Beginning in 1990, spurred by various administrative restructuring initiatives and incentives at the University level, cost efficiencies and shifts in intellectual currents, efforts began to rethink foundations by combining faculty across several areas. …