Academic journal article Educational Foundations

What We Stand for, Not Against: Presenting Our Teacher Education Colleagues with the Case for Social Foundations in PK-12 Teacher Preparation Programs

Academic journal article Educational Foundations

What We Stand for, Not Against: Presenting Our Teacher Education Colleagues with the Case for Social Foundations in PK-12 Teacher Preparation Programs

Article excerpt

Courses in the social foundations of education are under attack. But if we want to prepare truly professional, high-quality teachers, those courses are essential.

--Neumann (2009), p. 81

As Neumann (2009) argues, Social Foundations of Education (SFE) courses play a critical role in preparing professional, effective PK-12 teachers, yet, for reasons argued here and elsewhere, six years later such courses remain under attack (see e.g., Ryan, 2006). We each teach Social Foundations of Education (1) courses and keenly feel our discipline's extinction threatens. In this article, by arguing what SFE stands for as opposed to what it stands against, we intend persuasively to present non-SFE teacher educators with formerly unknown or unclear knowledge of the SFE discipline and its intended outcomes with the goal they may become comfortable with--if not outright advocates for--our courses' content and knowledgeable on its purpose(s), rather than viewing SFE teacher educators and our courses as unnecessary, radical, and burdensome to PK-12 teacher preparation curricula.

We first must express thanks and admiration to the group of SFE scholars who recently collaborated to produce a special issue of Critical Questions in Education (in spring 2013) guest edited by Benjamin Baez and Deron Boyles, whose work mounts an inspired defense of the Social Foundations of Education. (2) The CQIE special issue was created to address what we mean when we say "Social Foundations of Education"; to explore how and if it functions within teacher education institutions; and to examine whether our field is rendered obsolete and "replaceable" by generalized knowledge on race, ethnicity, class, gender, ability, and heteronormativity our non-SFE colleagues attempt to infuse across content-area and methods courses. Significantly, our colleagues' work was done without allowing our discipline to inhabit a monolithic or static status. Our disciplinary colleagues' hopes, reflections, and criticisms, along with recognition of maladies, tensions, and the fear we have become insular are represented in a powerful array of essays to which we refer as we explain the merits of SFE to our non-SFE colleagues, but also as we develop a way and means by which to communicate our utility and worth. We aim actively to work against the phenomenon that, "Over time, other departments have cannibalized [Foundations'] content while dismissing our relevance" (Schutz & Butin, 2013, p. 60), for there is not only room for many to be doing the important work of SFE, but, as U.S. demographics shift, so too does the rapidly escalating need for teachers fully to be prepared to serve all children, all families, all communities.

We begin by stating what we understand SFE to stand for as a discipline and why we know it to be a critical component of teacher preparation (deMarrais, 2001), contrasting that with what those outside of SFE assume it to stand against. Our approach here is intentionally proactive and positive because we perceive non-SFE teacher educators frequently misunderstand SFE to be unduly critical, polemic rather than practical, and ideological and indoctrinating rather than central to the morally just teaching of all children from all families, all communities. We then provide possible strategies for reasserting SFE within teacher preparation programs, concluding by highlighting unintended consequences we anticipate will result if SFE continues to be marginalized within teacher preparation--or worse, if the discipline of SFE is forced into extinction as some of us posit elsewhere (see e.g., Hartlep & Porfilio, 2015).

The Social Foundations of Education

The discipline "Social Foundations of Education" began at Teachers College, Columbia University during the 1930s as a progressive movement away from the prevailing discourses of the time (Butin, 2005; Council for Social Foundations of Education, 2004; deMarrais, 2001; James, 1995). …

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