From Statesmanship to Status: The Absence of Authority in Contemporary Curriculum Studies

William F. Pinar


The prestige of the profession is at low ebb. Our authority as experts is, it seems, deeply damaged, and not only among politicians and the public, but among many in the university. In terms of influence, the distance between school and scholarship has never been greater. Our circumstances are so bleak they constitute, I suggest, a “nightmare” (Pinar 2004a, 3, 57). It is a term I use psychoanalytically (in specific reference to the nightmare that brought Freud’s most famous patient to therapy), to suggest the dreamlike character of present political reality. The results of events in a primal past beyond our capacity to reconstruct, reality renders us as if asleep, defenseless, facing the wolves.

In this research essay 1, I will examine two quite different characterizations of the present situation by two prominent spokesmen for our profession: Stanford University Professor David F. Labaree and former Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean Ted Sizer. In part due to their institutional affiliations, each is positioned to represent us – both schoolteachers and education professors – to a larger political public that judges us to be the problem. Speaking from positions of authority, each could clarify what is at stake in the politics of scapegoating – first focused on teachers, now on education professors – and thereby strengthen our professional authority. Do they? I will answer that question through an examination of their recent books: Sizer’s The Red Pencil and Labaree’s The Trouble with Ed Schools. Through such study we can, I believe, begin to attend to the absence of authority in contemporary curriculum studies.

Full Text:


Copyright (c) 2015 William F. Pinar