Chapter 8: The Con/text of Mary Sheldon Barnes (1850-1898): A Hermeneutic Inquiry

By Welsh, Benjamin H.; Brooks, Nancy J. | Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, January-July 2008 | Go to article overview

Chapter 8: The Con/text of Mary Sheldon Barnes (1850-1898): A Hermeneutic Inquiry


Welsh, Benjamin H., Brooks, Nancy J., Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue


The tapestry of the genesis of public schooling is so complex that educational scholars may have only just begun to unravel it. This article will further that unraveling by exploring the work of Mary Sheldon Barnes (1850-1898), first female professor of Stanford University. By focusing on particular research and pedagogical texts of Barnes, our aim is to understand both how she formed and was formed by the intellectual and educational milieu of her times. Furthermore, we suggest the possibility that the influence of her work may continue to linger in current educational thought and practice. We begin by explaining the benefits of hermeneutic inquiry for this type of project, move from there to an analysis of Barnes's texts, and conclude by proposing a resolution for what Monteverde (1999) has called the "conundrum" (p. 35) of Mary Sheldon Barnes.

The philosophical hermeneutics of Gadamer provide the theoretical framework for the exploration of the texts in this study. Although Gallagher (1992) types Gadamer's approach as "moderate," we believe that our project may also be considered critical in that we seek greater insight into our own "pre-understanding," thereby allowing us in some way to transcend our present situation. (1) As Gadamer (1960/1997) notes, "Insight is more than the knowledge of this or that situation. It always involves an escape from something that had deceived us and held us captive" (p. 356). We must acknowledge that while this emancipation represents a place of wider understanding, the nature of understanding is that it is never complete or permanent. We can never escape the limits imposed upon us by our pre-understandings; we will never attain a vantage point from which new questions cease to arise.

Regarding hermeneutic methodology, Laverty (2003) points out that there is no universal set of appropriate procedures, but there is an "obligation to understand the context under which the text or dialogue was being produced and to bring forth interpretations of meaning" (p. 21). Gadamer (1960/1997) proposes that hermeneutics is the art of conducting a conversation, the "art of the formation of concepts as the working out of common meanings" (p. 368). A useful understanding of the text itself is possible only if the text is seen in a limited field of inquiry. If we expect a response from the text, we must limit what we wish to learn from it by addressing specific questions to it. While curriculum scholars have taken up hermeneutic methodology in a variety of ways (e.g., Blumenfeld-Jones, 2004; Brooks, 2000; Reynolds, 1989), we felt the approach of Blumenfeld-Jones provided an appropriate set of questions to pose to this particular set of texts. Like Blumenfed-Jones, our intention was to examine literal curricular texts so that we "might learn who we are as historical beings living in the onflowing stream of thought that comprises our particular field of endeavor" (p. 126). In addition, we desired "an approach that reveals the historical characteristics of curriculum and their direct material presence in the curriculum text itself" (p. 127). Therefore, we decided to explore the texts of Mary Sheldon Barnes by utilizing the concepts of "ostensive, personal, [and] historical motives" (p. 128). In short, this involves a search for (1) explicitly stated reasons why the text was produced, (2) specific, individualized issues that the curricularist has within the field that moved her to conceive of new curricula, and (3) general, historical, sociocultural conditions that create a context for the text. Blumenfeld-Jones emphasizes,

   Of the three motives ... this last may be the most difficult to
   explicate, but in some ways it is the most significant. Although a
   curriculum may be the product of the curricularist's imagination,
   no curriculum emanates idiosyncratically from the person's mind or
   responds to an isolated tradition. The multiple contexts of the
   curricularist's decision making not only affect decisions but must
   find a material presence in the curriculum. … 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Chapter 8: The Con/text of Mary Sheldon Barnes (1850-1898): A Hermeneutic Inquiry
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.