Chapter 7: A Distinguished Mentor: O.L. Davis, Jr.'s Impact on Curriculum Research in the 1990s

Article excerpt

In the acknowledgment section of Go to the Sources: Lucy Maynard Salmon and the Teaching of History, I wrote (Bohan, 2004),

   I know I can never properly express my gratitude to Dr. Davis. He
   introduced me to fellow leaders in the field of education and
   carefully edited thousands of pages of my work, and both he and his
   wife demonstrated sincere concern for my well-being. I count my
   lucky stars, for I could not have found a better mentor anywhere in
   the country. Dr. Davis' loyal following of students--his extended
   family--reminded me of the relationships that Lucy Salmon formed
   with her students. (p. xiv)

INTRODUCTION TO O.L. DAVIS, JR.

O.L. Davis, Jr. is undoubtedly one of the most distinguished leaders in the field of curriculum research in the latter half of the twentieth century. He is a prolific author whose publication listings comprise approximately 30 single-spaced pages. A sampling of his work in the late 1990s demonstrates the variety, depth, and breadth of his research. Because he remained an active researcher throughout his 50 plus year career, he was also an outstanding mentor. Indeed, he led by example.

Many former students are generally familiar with O.L.'s background but may have forgotten the specific details. A native Texan, O.L. Davis, Jr. was born in Amarillo on November 20, 1928. He attended the University of North Texas in Denton and earned a bachelor of arts degree in government and a master of education degree in public school administration in 1949 and 1950 respectively. After serving as a secondary school English teacher in Ozona, TX, he became an elementary school principal in Burleson, TX. In 1952, he began serving active duty as a seaman apprentice to a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. Upon completing active duty in 1955, he attended George Peabody College and earned his doctoral degree under the guidance of Harold Drummond. After graduating from Peabody in 1958, he worked for the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development at the organization's headquarters in Washington, DC. Two years later, he moved to academia. He began working as an associate director of the Fifth Year Program in Teacher Education at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and then moved to Kent State University as an associate professor before returning to his home state and The University of Texas at Austin in 1966 (incidentally, the year I was born). In 1970, he was promoted to professor of curriculum and instruction, and in 2001 he was honored as the Catherine Mae Parker Centennial Endowed Professor (Davis, 2008). Today, he holds an emeritus position at the university.

O.L. Davis, Jr.'s Research Interests

O.L. Davis, Jr. had an incredibly wide range of research interests, as evidenced by his own writing and leadership as editor of the Journal of Curriculum and Supervision. His editorials for the journal were always timely, well-written, and fostered careful consideration (e.g., Davis, 2005). Dr. Davis organized his extensive research into six general categories: curriculum development with subcategories in practice and theory, curriculum history, and social studies education. In addition, his three additional categories of education research include teaching and teacher education, human communication and educational technology, and miscellaneous (Davis, 2008).

During the 1990s, I recall several important publications that Dr. Davis authored and edited. A colleague at work remarked to me recently that he and his students enjoyed, "An Invitation to Think," which he wrote for the Kappa Delta Pi anniversary edition of John Dewey's Experience and Education (Davis, 1998). On a personal note, I recall him driving me to the nursing home of retired professor Clark C. Gill, so we could interview him and create a biographical sketch of his life for the Foundations of the Social Studies Special Interest Group. …