Division F (History and Historiography) of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting. American Educational Research Association.
Reviewed by Andrea Walton
Published on H-Education (August, 2003)
Many historians of education regard the annual meetings of the History of Education Society and regional groups, such as the Southern History of Education Society (SHOES) and the Midwest History of Education Society, as "must attend" events. Whereas these relatively small gatherings offer an informal setting for presenting research findings and testing new ideas (as well as opportunities to catch up with colleagues), attendance at the annual meeting of Division F (History and Historiography) of the American Education Research Association (AERA) offers rewards of a different and equally valuable sort. For those who can brave what is admittedly an extremely crowded conference, attendance at AERA offers historians a diverse audience (international and multi-disciplinary) for presenting completed work and research in progress and the chance to bring historical perspectives to bear on the larger discussion among scholars, practitioners, and policy makers regarding the persistent challenges facing education. A comparatively small division within AERA, Division F has a dedicated membership and has been successful in recent years in cross-listing a number of its sessions in the program- thereby connecting Division F to other AERA divisions and areas of inquiry in education. Unfortunately, a technical glitch in the production of the 2002 conference program thwarted the hard work of the program organizers this year (the final program failed to list the cross-referencing between Division F and other AERA divisions). <p> At the outset, I would like to acknowledge my heavy reliance on a variety of sources in preparing this brief overview--among them, review of proposals, attendance at sessions, and informal feedback from attendees and discussants. Because many of the proposals for the papers presented are readily available for viewing via the "search 2003 program" function at www.aera.net, I have tried to offer a broad overview of AERA as a platform for historians--to provide a "snapshot" of the range and caliber of works presented rather than a detailed commentary on individual papers. <p> A highlight of this year's conference program, which for many Division F attendees exemplified the international character of Division F's membership and the power of history's contribution to AERA discussions, was the session entitled "Theory, Method, and the History of Education," organized by Professor Gary McCulloch, University of Sheffield (U.K.) with commentary by Barry Franklin and Kate Rousmaniere. This standing-room only session was divided into two groups: the first dealing with theory and method in the history of education; and the second dealing with theory, biographical method, and the history of education. The themes raised in this panel session were elaborated upon in a special issue of <cite>History of Education</cite> entitled "Theory, Method, and the History of Education," edited by Gary McCulloch and Ruth Watts. The panel (and the journal issue) represent a reply to Jurgen Herbst's 1999 article in which Herbst asserts that the history of education is in need of reinvigoration--that is, needing to move away from postmodern concerns and cataloguing variations of well-known stories (tested for race, gender, class and other forms of difference) to what Herbst would consider more theoretically and methodologically adventurous and innovative studies. <p> The richness of the "Theory and Method" panel session and the caliber of the essays appearing in the related journal issue provide an ample response to any assertion that the history of education is a lagging endeavor. In particular, the papers in published form provide a wonderful teaching resource. Many of the essays in the volume point, in varying ways, to what Richard Aldrich (drawing inspiration from Peter Laslett's work) describes as the historian's "duties." Aldrich points to the "impossibility of achieving absolute truth" and underscores that "such recognition only heightens the historian's duty to be as truthful as possible." As Aldrich notes, in trying to depict a "truthful" vision, historians must seek to capture the "voices" of those individuals and groups whose experience is often missing from conventional histories. This endeavor inevitably directs effort toward the writing of different types of history--for example, writing the history of the family--and the use of new sources. <p> The importance of the study of lives to the history of education, the difficulties of retrieving sources to depict the lives of certain types of individuals, and other complexities of biographical research (a theme developed in a number of other presentations sponsored by AERA Divison F such as 17.029 "Founding Mothers" and 34.035 "The Even Wider Circle") were themes picked up in the essays of three other contributors to the AERA panel and related journal issue on "Theory and Method"--Ruth Watts's work on the history of women in science (a subject that since Margaret Rossiter's pioneering work in the 1980s and 1990s has received less attention than it warrants), Joyce Goodman's views on "The Hope of Biography: The Historical Recovery of Women Educator Activists," and Philip Gardner's work on teachers' biographies. All three authors dealt with the complexities of sources in writing the history of education and the relevance of educational history to the politics that shape education. <p> The concern with "truth claims" in history was the focus of another extremely well-attended and well-received AERA symposium entitled "Truth and Auto/Biography." The papers in this symposium--by Rebecca Coulter, Lucy Townsend, and Gaby Weiner--explored "problems of sources, from the self- conscious production or re-construction of 'truth' by the auto/biographical subject herself, or from the theoretical/interpretive proclivities of the historian" (see symposium proposal at www.aera.net). The presenters examined the "interpretive" challenges in revealing the lives of everyday teachers as well as well-known figures within the history of education, such as Emma Willard and Harriet Martineau. <p> Division F panels (the Division had a total of 20 slots in this year's program) offered diversity in terms of the range of presenters and topics. Presentations, offered by graduates and senior scholars alike, examined a number of themes--African American experiences in education (student activism; the Civil Rights Movement), the Cold War, women's education in the 1950s, the history of mass schooling, comparative and international perspectives on schooling, and new perspectives on philanthropy and education, to name but a few. <p> In the past several years, Division F has demonstrated leadership by hosting a mentoring forum for graduate students and junior faculty. Inaugurated in 2000, under then-Vice-President Linda Perkins, this year's forum, planned and hosted by Eileen Tamura of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, was a big success. The forum and a number of other elements of the 2003 program- such as the opportunity to participate in the "new member poster session" and a fireside chat by Kate Rousmaniere, professor at Miami University of Ohio, and author of the award-winning <cite>City Teachers</cite>--provided relatively new AERA members with considerable opportunity to gain career advice and to gain feedback on their work-in-progress. <p> In addition to the presentation of research, Division F activities during the AERA gathering provide a complement to activities of the History of Education Society, which meets each fall. A highlight of AERA for Division F has always been the Vice-President's address. Linda Eisenmann's address, "Reclaiming the 'Incidental Students': Higher Education and Women in the 1950s," provided insights into the economic, cultural, and psychological forces shaping women 's educational experiences during this little-studied but pivotal era. During the business meeting that followed, Eisenmann and Program Chair Christine Ogren announced the introduction of a new prize, to be awarded to the outstanding graduate student paper presented at an AERA Division F slot. Prize Committee Chair Jackie Blount presented the New Scholar's Book Award to Catherine Winterer for <cite>The Culture of Classicism: Ancient Greece and Rome in American Intellectual Life, 1780-1910</cite> (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002). <p> One unusual aspect of AERA is the long lead time between the deadline for the submission of proposals and the conference: proposals are submitted at the end of the summer for presentation in the spring. In some instances, work has appeared in print during the intervening months. In actuality, though, this merely changes the direction of the discussion during the session and provides a wonderful opportunity to disseminate research findings broadly and for attendees to interact with authors. <p> The good news is that the deadline for submitting a proposal has been extended to August 8, 2003. See www.aera.net for details. <p> Notes: <p> . <cite>History of Education</cite> vol. 32, no. 2 (2003). <p> . Juergen Herbst, "The History of Education: State of the Art at the Turn of the Century in Europe and North America," <cite>Paedagogica Historica</cite> vol. 35, no. 3 (1999). <p> . Richard Aldrich, AERA session hand-out (2003). <p> . See, for example, Margaret W. Rossiter. <cite>Women scientists in America : struggles and strategies to 1940</cite> (Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, c1982); and idem,<cite>Women scientists in America : before affirmative action, 1945-1972</cite>(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995). <p> . Kate Rousmaniere, <cite>City teachers: teaching and school reform in historical perspective</cite> (New York: Teachers College Press, 1997).
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Andrea Walton. Review of , Division F (History and Historiography) of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting.
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