Academic journal article Journal of Thought

Reclaiming the Scientific Spirit: Common Ground for Educational Researchers

Academic journal article Journal of Thought

Reclaiming the Scientific Spirit: Common Ground for Educational Researchers

Article excerpt

I don't believe in marriage.... Let me be clear about that. I think at worst it's a hostile, political act--a way for small-minded men to keep women in the house and out of the way, wrapped up in the guise of tradition and conservative religious nonsense. At best, it's a happy delusion. It's two people who really love each other and have no idea how truly miserable they're about to make each other. But when two people know that--and they decide with eyes wide open to face each other and get married anyway, then I don't think it's conservative or delusional. I think it's radical, courageous, and very romantic.... (Taymor, 2002)

A Critical Union

This soliloquy from the movie Frida was given as a toast upon the marriage of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and I believe it offers a powerful revelation to us as educational researchers now faced with the challenge of reconciling tensions regarding the scientific nature of our work. For qualitative, quantitative, and arts-based researchers to enter into a common discourse with eyes wide open--all the while knowing how divergent our basic epistemological assumptions are--is both radical and courageous. Yet, how can we be otherwise? Considering the current political climate where so much of the quality of the daily life of students and teachers is being based upon a narrowly defined concept of "scientifically proven," how can we not join in such a union? As researchers, we stand at a critical point and time, in which we need to make a commitment to each other, to schools, and to the scientific spirit that joins us. A marriage of sorts is required between researchers who see the world very differently. In order to achieve this, I believe we must create a common ground in which the multiple forms of inquiry can come together--eyes wide open--and collectively "strive to be articulate" (Dewey, 1944a, p. 66).

Reclaiming the Scientific Spirit

In recent years, educators have debated the nature and legitimacy of educational research--particularly regarding the role of "science" within research. The publication of the NRC's (2002) report, Scientific Research in Education, has further fueled that debate which now extends beyond the traditional quantitative/qualitative dichotomy to question the nature and legitimacy of various forms of research including that which is characterized as post-structural and arts-based. With this context in mind, I offer a normative framework to examine the degree of rigor present within qualitative and arts-based educational research. Further, I argue that a common ground is needed for discussing our modes of inquiry in order to promote the overall growth of knowledge and understanding within the field, and I offer necessary preconditions that must be met in order for the common ground to be formed and sustained. As Marshall (1984) contends, we need to consider the philosophical underpinnings of our work in educational research in order to ensure its integrity. To this end, I have engaged philosophical analysis of Deweyan inquiry in order to generate a normative framework for the necessary conditions of inquiry within qualitative and arts-base research. This framework offers a means through which we can keep each other in check and prevent the work in our field from weaving "a firmer fabric of misconception" (Dewey, 1933, pp. 20-21) by virtue of neglect, apathy, or neo-liberal positioning.

It is one thing to introduce the argument that we need common ground and then focus on defending the position. This tact, as Popp (1998) reminds us, is consistent with Dewey's notion of the desired, which is an image or idea as it first comes to mind. However, the stakes of the current accountability movement do not afford us the luxury of lingering within the ideological debate of the desired. Rather, I believe we need to concern ourselves with what Dewey (1939) characterized as the desirable, which is the desired when it has become the subject of our inquiry to consider the conditions needed to achieve it. …

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