Mod 5 Week 1 Initial Post

I’m glad that this current module “Values in education” comes after our study of organisational structures and of learning and the learner. These two earlier themes intersect intimately with educational values. And, Module 4 on ways of knowing, introduced me to the complexities of meaning and knowledge creation. That module provided some of the conceptual tools with which to recognise the extent of discussion about beliefs of knowledge, of which educational values forms only a small part. Without this background, the discussions in this module would be superficial at best.

Values infuse our every action, thought and being. I sit here wearing my three-piece suit, symbolically accepting the uniform of modern business but gently subverting the image through the addition of the waistcoat. Why do I wish to subvert convention? Is it because I believe that academics need not be beholden to norms taken from the commercial world? Is it because I wish to inject some personality into what I may perceive as the blandness of the suit brigade? Or some other reason? If even my present attire is subject to a values analysis, institutional and personal educational values offer a far greater avenue for discussion. And it is this avenue that these next ten weeks will explore.

The first week had us attempt to come to grips with the notions of modernism and postmodernism as it relates to higher education. We had to study the reaction to Jones International University’s successful bid for accreditation. I used this theme to set out a dozen aspects of education that may be used to separate the modern from the postmodern while simultaneously recognise that this present Ed.D. is highly representative of the postmodern position.


The JIU case study (Ogden, 2008) may be disturbing for many students on this fully online Ed.D. course. Who here has not questioned the utility of an Ed.D. over a Ph.D. or has not felt some sense of pejorative defensiveness at having chosen a professional degree, the “Ph.D.-lite” (Shulman, Golde, Bueschel, & Garabedian, 2006, p. 27) instead of an academic one? Who here has regretted the lack of any professor-led instruction that has been replaced by instructor-led readings and extensive discussions? How many recoiled at Module 4’s insistence on developing practitioner questions instead of more purer academic research (Fox, Martin, & Green, 2007)? Furthermore, the medium of instruction available is entirely online, a facet of this course that potentially deprives students of vital learning opportunities and particular modes of personal transformation. Staggers, Garcia and Nagelhout (2008), for example, demonstrate that team building is problematic in online environments, pointing to a difficulty with a core learning instrument on this Ed.D. Even if the level of discomfort is low regarding the fundamental values and associated mechanisms of the course, at the very least, the case study should present the opportunity to reflect on core issues that define our efforts towards our own doctorate.

For rhetorical purposes the previous paragraph deliberately presented the online Ed.D. negatively. It aimed to suggest a metanarrative of superiority of the campus-based Ph.D. in order to set up and challenge some reasons as to why the notion of superiority exists because in many ways the Ed.D./ Ph.D. distinction echoes many of the debates surrounding modernist and postmodernist views of the 21st century university itself.

This metanarrative as it affects the concept of the university is explored by many scholars who point out notions of class-related dominance that promote the interests of the elite through the continuance of systematic inequities such as oppressive differentiated instruction between races (Walker, 2003), monist conceptions of culture based on the views of the ruling elite that dismiss the pluralist other (Strohl, 2006), government authorised accreditation systems that prohibit teacher autonomy in the classroom (Milliken, 2004), a prejudice against dispersing knowledge ostensibly based on the fear that knowledge in the wrong hands creates unstable conditions in a knowledge society (Bloland, 2005) and the regulation of knowledge as a public good (Fuller, 2005). The elements of this metanarrative point clearly to the mechanisms of societal reproduction (Brennan & Naidoo, 2008) being in favour of the elite, as can be expected.

Yet, JIU’s success in achieving accreditation against the wishes of Perley (Ogden, 2008) may be interpreted in one of two opposing ways: ironically as the success of the postmodern, the pluralistic rise of the common person as spectacularly emphasised by Time Magazine who awarded their Person of the Year to you (Grossman, 2016); or as a mechanism of elite control through accreditation and increased governmental regulation (Power, 1994) in the age of massification(Trow, 2007). If the former, we may predict a continuing erosion of the elitist oligarchic hegemony. To an large extent, there is evidence for this. Widening participation in education has led to more gender balance and minorities’ presence in many erstwhile white male dominated fields (Tapper, 2007). A fundamental question remains, however. Are values actually changing to reflect the diverse composition, or do new entrants abandon their values to embrace the old? If the latter interpretation is accurate, it is still difficult to envisage accreditation being rejected for universities that successfully promote Gibbon’s Mode 2, “mission oriented” (Bresnen & Burrell, 2012, p. 26) or practitioner, knowledge, including courses like this current one.

Table 1 lists a few of the elements that comprise the locus for the debate. The table is necessarily dichotomous, but it is recognised that many elements form a continuum rather than polar opposites. For example in the table, the Ph.D. represents the archetypical monist degree, but in light of the work at that level in post-structuralism and postmodernism, this representation is debatable.

Table 1

Factors differentiating Ph.D.s and Ed.D.s in relation to values in knowledge

  Ph.D. Ed.D.
attitudes to knowledge academic practitioner
abstract concrete
pure knowledge applied knowledge
mode 1 mode 2
Enlightenment rationalism anti-rationalism
knowledge for its own sake vocational
higher prestige lower prestige
methods of knowledge creation professor-led instructor-led
Platonic Aristotelian
logical reflection
elitist notions of quality absence of criteria
private good public good
The University higher education
structural notions industrial/ Fordist knowledge economy
modern postmodern
materialist postmaterialist
societal notions elite-only education massification
reflect traditions transform society
monist pluralist
high Culture (capital ‘C’) kitsch
The Elite experts
metanarratives grand narratives disbelief of such narratives

References

Bloland, H. G. (2005). Whatever happened to postmodernism in higher education?: No requiem in the new millennium. The Journal of Higher Education, 76(2), 121–150. http://doi.org/10.1353/jhe.2005.0010

Brennan, J., & Naidoo, R. (2008). Higher education and the achievement ( and / or prevention ) of equity and social justice. Higher Education, 56, 287–302. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-008-9127-3

Bresnen, M., & Burrell, G. (2012). Journals a la mode? Twenty years of living alongside Mode 2 and the new production of knowledge. Organization, 20(1), 25–37. http://doi.org/10.1177/1350508412460992

Fox, M., Martin, P., & Green, G. (2007). Doing Practitioner Research. http://doi.org/10.4135/9781849208994

Fuller, S. (2005). What makes universities unique? Updating the ideal for an entrepreneurial age. Higher Education Management and Policy, 17(3), 27–49.

Hitlin, S., & Piliavin, J. A. (2004). Values: Reviving a Dormant Concept. Annual Review of Sociology, 30(1), 359–393. http://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.30.012703.110640

Grossman, L. (December 25, 2006). You — Yes, You — Are TIME’s Person of the Year. Time Magazine. Retrieved on April 8 from http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1570810,00.html.

Milliken, J. (2004). Thematic reflections on higher education: Postmodernism versus professionalism in higher education. Higher Education in Europe, 29(1), 9–18. http://doi.org/10.1080/03797720410001673265

Ogden, J. (2008). CYBER U: The Accreditation of Jones International University. The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University.

Perley, J. (April 3, 2016, April 3). James Perley. The Portland Press Herald. Retrieved on April 8 from http://obituaries.pressherald.com/obituaries/mainetoday-pressherald/obituary.aspx?page=lifestory&pid=179499510.

Power, M. K. (1994). The Audit Explosion. London: Demos.

Shulman, L. S., Golde, C. M., Bueschel, C., & Garabedian, K. J. (2006). Reclaiming Education’s Doctorates: A Critique and a Proposal. Educational Researcher,35(3), 25–32. http://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X035003025

Staggers, J., Garcia, S., & Nagelhout, E. (2008). Teamwork Through Team Building: Face-to-Face to Online. Business Communication Quarterly, 71(4), 472–487. http://doi.org/10.1177/1080569908325862

Strohl, N. M. (2006). The postmodern university revisited: reframing higher education debates from the “two cultures” to postmodernity. London Review of Education, 4(2), 133–148. http://doi.org/10.1080/14748460600855195

Tapper, T. (2007). The Governance of British Higher Education. The Governance of British Higher Education: The Struggle for Policy Control. http://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-5553-9

Trow, M. (2007). Reflections on the transition from elite to mass to universal access: Forms and phases of higher education in modern societies since WW11. In J. J. F. Forest & P. G. Altbach (Eds.), International Handbook of Higher Education: Part 1 Global themes and contemporary challenges (pp. 243–280). Dordrecht: Springer.

Walker, M. (2003). Framing Social Justice in Education: What Does the “Capabilities” Approach Offer? Society for Educational Studies, 51(2), 168–187.

Note: Sadly, James Perley passed away one week ago at the age of 77 (Perley, 2016). Reading his auto-obituary reminds one of the humanity that undergirds all of our academic and professional endeavours.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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