The New Common Sense of Education: Advocacy Research Versus Academic Authority
Susan Notes: If teachers and parents are ever going to both understand and oppose NCLB, they first must understand that the attacks on public education are part of a broad political movement with goals far beyond education reform. They need to understand the relationship (or lack thereof) of schools to the global economy, and this review helps, showing us that all that global economy talk is just a smokescreen for the real corporate agenda.
Generally, American educators and their organizations have responded to these many initiatives and the cumulative climate of change in a rational, if piecemeal, fashion. Our research is juxtaposed with their research. Our journals, newsletters, and magazines analyze the details of their proposals. Our annual meetings and conferences take up their themes as the concepts driving our dialogueâ"€ for example, accountability, competition, and standards. It may be, however, that this debate cannot be properly joined in such a fragmented and didactic manner. The response of educators has been based on the assumption that the critics of public education have as their objective the improvement of our schools and are separated from the professional education mainstream only by an honest difference of opinion with respect to methods. This gentle analysis may be no more than a reflection of how educators see their own motives rather than a dispassionate evaluation of those of the critics.
''Another way people liked to refer to what we were doing is waging a 'battle of ideas.' That battle, at least among serious people, is now over. We have won it'' [Midge] Decter went on to identify a new enemy: the American education system. (Brock, 2002, p. 50)
Intellectuals of the right recognized that with the fall of Communism a need emerged for another target to coalesce their rhetoric. Increasingly during the past 20 years American public education has been filling this void. Undefended by corporate lobbying interests and identified as a Democratic voting block, educators and their institutions provide a useful object for reproach. Education is an institution about which most Americans care and feel informed, and, thus, makes a broadly relevant target. Discrediting public education also serves to draw attention away from many fundamental social and economic problems. Despite the drumbeat of mainstream media, however, public education has been very successful. Berliner and Biddle (1995) carefully documented public education's alleged shortcomings in their publication The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America's Public Schools. They demonstrated how skewed the analyses of the right have been. Richard Rothstein, in ''Lessons,'' his column in The New York Times (until its unexplained cancellation by the Times in November, 2002) and Gerald Bracey in his monthly department ''Research'' in Phi Delta Kappan also regularly submit convincing analysis and empirical evidence to support a fair and positive appraisal of our schools. Yet blaming economic troubles on failing schools and low TIMSS scores continues to be an extremely effective strategy by what Bracey (2001) calls the ''Education Scare Industry'' (p. 157). ''Trade deficits that ballooned 20 years ago,'' Rothstein (1996) writes, ''were caused not by low test scores but by corporate bloat, markets that were more open here than elsewhere and a budget deficit that pushed up interest rates and the dollar's value'' (p. A-14). These facts are rarely apparent to the average American who has been conditioned through dumbed-down and misleading mass media and social studies textbooks to view failing schools, immigrants, and welfare mothers as the source of their troubles (Spring, 2002, p. 176).
Add to this political opportunity the economic fact that the K–12 education ''market'' of $732 billion (U.S. Department of Education, 2002a) is arguably the largest reservoir of public funds insulated from full development by corporate America. To the extent that political and economic motives are operating, the critics of public education will not be satisfied with articulate responses by educators, well-meaning reforms, or even demonstrations of ''results.'' Educators may assume they are engaged in an honest policy debate with public-spirited critics, but a more comprehensive view suggests other agendas are at work.
In the 1950s, Sputnik raised fears that American public education was not keeping pace in science and technology with the schools of our enemies. In retrospect it is they who failed to compete successfully with us economically and in the race to the moon. Next came the great SAT debate in which it was alleged that declining college entrance examination scores demonstrated a decline in American education. On Further Examination (College Board, 1977), the Sandia study (Carson & Herrnstein, 1992), and, most comprehensively, the writings of Gerald Bracey (1997) convincingly argued for this analysis: ''If the standard-setting group is compared with a demographically similar group today, the mathematics scores show no decline and the verbal scores show only a small (22-point) decline'' (p. 56). Then during the 1980s, critique of public education emanating from A Nation at Risk, stirred similar emotions by alleging that Japan, among other nations, was about to surpass us economicallyâ"€ again due to the failures of our schools. Yet education had very little do with American loss of global market share in the late twentieth century and it was Japan that went into prolonged recession while the U.S. economy enjoyed its decade of greatest prosperity. Public education received no noticeable credit for this economic boom.
All this is not to claim that educators are without frailty or blame, or that the ''old common sense'' was without contradictions and denials. For example, ongoing union-board friction has eroded citizen confidence in our public schools, as have mismanagement of resources and cronyism in, particularly, urban centers. The quality of public education varies enormously, and far too many children attend schools without adequate funding, good teachers, or meaningful curriculum. These are not, however, ''manufactured'' crises: They are actual problems and, therefore, can be deliberately addressed by citizens of good will. In contrast, the Sputnik/SAT/Nation debates are chimerasâ"€ impossible to resolve because they were largely rhetorical from the outset, a variety of media hyperbole.
AN ALTERNATE ECONOMIC HISTORYâ"€ SANS EDUCATION BASHING
To best reject the myth that American education policy has been responsible for loss of global economic market share, the real nature of economic change must be understood. This rather detailed review is provided to reveal how little public education had to do with the American economics in the 1980s and 1990s. Declining market shares and unequal trade balances with Japan were minimally related with mathematics scores or phonics skills.
After World War II, the United States was in a position to structure global political, economic and military development for much of the world. The United States was involved in the war for fewer years than most nations and did not have to rebuild infrastructure such as factories and roads since World War II did not occur on American soil. Thus, the United States left the war with a stronger economy and military than other nations. Before Japan and Western Europe recovered from the war, the United States was the primary world producer of many important products such as steel, automobiles and electronic goods. Trade conditions favorable to Americans were supported by both formal and informal post-war trade policies. Marshall Plan aid, for example, required countries to sign free trade pledges. In addition to prescribing the development of Europe through the Marshall Plan, the United States became involved, often covertly, in the affairs of numerous newly independent countries. Although after World War II former European colonies in South America, Africa and Asia gained independence, most remained economically dependent by having to supply markets, labor and raw materials to America and other first world countries. An example of covert efforts used by the United States to influence economic policy internationally can be seen in the CIA's work to disrupt labor movements in Europe that were not supportive of U.S. trade policy. More dramatically, the CIA was involved in overthrowing leaders who wanted to pursue independent paths of development. Such involvement included efforts to subvert progressive governmentsâ"€ including that of democratically elected Jacob Arbenz in 1954 in Guatemalaâ"€ to protect American business holdings. As a result of these policies, the United States dominated the globe both economically and strategically by the late 1950s (Prados, 1996).
Many Americans think of that decade as the halcyon era in which even working class families could afford to buy their own homes. In fact, the standard of living was high, at least for those Americans who had a public voice. The minimum wage was relatively high in constant dollars, and there were many good industrial jobs. By the late 1960s, however, the American economy began to experience three phenomena: economic competition from newly industrialized countries, and from a recovered Europe and Asia; a balance-of-payments deficit caused, in part, by the enormous cost of the Vietnam War; and increasingly powerful working and middle class labor. To some extent, America's early success was based on being the only salesmanâ"€ the first to offer many products on the world market. Decline was inevitable as corporations in other nations offered the same exports and developed their own new products. Because American companies had experienced an easy early dominance, they were slow to make innovations. As many Americans are painfully aware, European and Japanese companies recovered from WWII and made innovations in automobiles, electronics and steel production that enabled them to gain important global market share (Madison, 1989). Also, Asian and European countries such as Japan and Germany directed little federal spending to the military and relatively more to education and infrastructure whereas the United States continued to spend heavily on the military rather than areas that return compounded benefits (Friedman, 1989, pp. 204–205).
In the 1980s corporations sought to reduce labor costs by ''downsizing'' not only at the production level, but also at the managerial level. In the 1980s and 1990s corporate consolidation, or large companies buying up smaller ones, also contributed to middle class job loss and insecure employment. Another trend has been for employers to replace fulltime workers with benefits, with temporary or part-time workers (Ayling, 1997). Finally, more recently, investments were made in a wide range of high tech product development requiring a highly educated workforce. These efforts have ultimately benefited corporations and the GDP but have weakened the security of many workers.
Although the past decade demonstrated resoundingly that American ingenuity and expertise and corporate restructuring once again could leave economic rivals behind, no retraction of the critical allegations about education has been forthcoming. Nor has any overdue praise come to our schools and universities for their contribution to an unprecedented technological revolution and economic boom. Public education is able to make little political capital from its triumphs while its critics simply shift their ground to launch new attacks once the old ones have become conspicuously unfounded or devoid of sensation in media eyes.
Today, according to the rhetoric of officials such as Eugene Hickok, Deputy Secretary of Education, it is educators, particularly urban educators, who are allegedly bigots with excuses and low standards and it is certain politicians who heroically will ''leave no child behind'' (Hickok, 2002). The criterion for success is to be performance on standardized tests, although such tests in themselves are a narrow and inadequate measure of school success. Dropout rates, now rising for the first time in U.S. history due to high stakes high school exit exams, are doctored or hidden from viewâ"€ Texas being the most dramatic case in point (McNeil, 2000). Educators appear to be on the wrong side of the public's commonsense view of schooling and are on the defensive in explaining how what they do amounts to more than tests measure. Educators also seem unable to convince many of their constituents that children deprived to a significant degree of the basic necessities of life are, as a group, at a serious disadvantage in school. This too should be common sense. Yet even these simple assertions have gained little purchase in the public imagination when faced with the relentless repetition of popular media messages asserting a simplistic accountability defined as testing and the marginalization of poverty and neglect as merely the ''excuses'' of educators.
ATTACKING AND MANIPULATING REFORMS AND RESEARCH
Another insidious and ironic manifestation of the right's attacks is the manner in which certain of the most promising innovations of educators are restricted or banned from implementation. Reading Recovery is a case in point. Attacked from the left for its so-called ''skills'' orientation during its introduction to America, it has recently become anathema to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for being on the wrong side of the reading wars (i.e., in the whole language camp). A more accurate view is that Reading Recovery transcends these categories and is a pragmatic early intervention whose thoroughly substantiated track record documents the restoration of tens of thousands of new readers to grade level annually in the United States aloneâ"€ saving these students from eventual special education placement or testing failure due to poor literacy (Askew et al., 2002; National Data Evaluation Center, 2002; Schmitt & Gregory, 2001).
Draft guidance by the U.S. Department of Education threatened to subvert the clear intent of Congressional language in ESEA by directing funds away from pullout programs such as this. At the same time researchers professionally associated with NICHD have become enmeshed over the Internet in a letter-writing campaign to discredit Reading Recovery by selectively applying research findings and, ironically, employing qualitative research (a paradigm the NRP abjured) to turn Congress against this reform (Reading Recovery Council of North America, 2002, pp. 64–67). In its 78-page self-defense, the Reading Recovery Council of North America begins, ''Although the letter purports to be an academic debate, its motivation appears to be political. . . . The Internet letter chooses to ignore all of this easily available information in an attempt to undermine public confidence in Reading Recovery'' (p. 1).
There are other examples of reform efforts being stunted despite their promise. Specifically, The New York Times reports that performance assessment designs and integrated curricula in innovative and prestigious New York metropolitan schools have been displaced by standardized testing in that state's rush to impose conformity in testing and standards (Perez-Pena, 2001). If accountability and results were true mantras in this education reform movement, these superior manifestations of pedagogical evaluation would be promoted rather than undermined. Bilingual education has, in another instance, been used as a wedge issue in California, Arizona, Massachusetts, and other states with Ron Unz achieving success at mandating English language learner methodology through the proposition route. Page one of The New York Times read like a press release from Unz's offices in a notorious and subsequently discredited Oceanside, California example (Steinberg, 2000, p. A-1). Subsequently, Congress has reinforced Unz's agenda by replacing the Bilingual Education Act with provisions in the new English Language Acquisition Act that omit mention of native language skills, eliminate competitive grants, and allow states to impose teaching methods. The net result is a lessening of the states' accountability and freedom to act. Another targeted reform is the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The National Council on Teacher Quality (2002) in a tour de force of imbalance maintains an entire segment of its website to promulgate only critical articles about the NBPTS. Also, J. E. Stone's attack on NBPTS, self-published on the Internet in his Education Consumers Consultants Network, attained wide-spread publicity without any pretense of credible verification (Stone, 2002). Education Week and other media ran with the story as if the study had received normal vetting. The magnitude of the attack led the Education Commission of the States to sponsor an investigatory study in response (Zehr, 2002). One can only speculate as to why important media would feature work emanating from what is essentially an electronic vanity press.
Another variation is research of dubious quality that touts alternatives to public education. For example, Paul E. Peterson's heralded study of vouchers in New York City and their positive effect on African-American boys (Howell & Peterson, 2002) is an instance of advocacy research in support of privatization efforts which received wide acclaim, only to be quietly but resoundingly discredited by peers after its damage was done to the reputation of our public schools. This uncorroborated, limited study was initially treated in media as being definitive. David Myers, lead researcher for Mathematica, states, ''It is scary how many prominent thinkers in this nation of 290 million were ready to make new policy from a single study that appears to have gone from meaningful to meaningless based on whether 292 children's test scores are discounted or included'' (Winerip, 2003, p. A-27).
THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WEIGHS IN
The politics of the education establishment sometimes shares blame for these disputes as extremists on both sides have determined the shape of policy by creating a train wreck of process instead of workable compromises. As Zinn (1999) observes regarding government involvement,
But is it the aim of government to maintain order, as a referee, between two equally matched fighters? Or is it that government has some special interest in maintaining a certain kind of order, a certain distribution of power and wealth, a distribution in which government officials are not neutral referees but participants? (p. 97).
Moving beyond passive methods, the federal government is asserting its agenda in increasingly aggressive and unprecedented ways. The Report of National Reading Panel (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 1999a) was a very public early warning that federal agencies were taking it upon themselves to promulgate a narrow definition of what counts as science and bona fide research in education. The new ESEA/ NCLB supports only ''strategies and professional development that are based on scientifically based reading research.'' The NCLB defines scientifically based to mean research which ''employs systematic, empirical methods'' and uses ''experimental or quasi-experimental designs in which individuals, entities, programs, or activities are assigned to different conditions and with appropriate controls to evaluate the effects of the condition of interest, with a preference for random-assignment experiments'' (U.S. Department of Education, 2002b).
This definition threatens to roll back a generation of work broadening the field of research in education to accommodate diverse quantitative and qualitative methodologies. It makes more sense to use the highest quality studiesâ"€ including studies that use both qualitative and quantitative methodsâ"€ but this is not what the new federal law requires. Naturally, some dimensions of successful learning are generalizable across contexts while others are complex, personal and local. There is a place for experimental or quasi-experimental designs, but narrative, descriptive and qualitative studies provide different, also valuable, information. Different research foci and different research paradigms each have something to offer. No single paradigm of research is capable of presenting a whole truth or offering silver bullets for school improvement.
Unfortunately, this highly limited and intellectually naive concept of research is now actively driving policy. In a continuing example, based on supposed ''scientific'' studies, the superiority of English-only immersion is being touted by critics of bilingual education (Crawford, 2002). Buttressed by the government's new interest in defining the ''science of education,'' this view of how ESL (English as a second language) students should be educated has become federal policy, despite the research-supported merit of bilingual education (Wiese & Garcia, 1998; Wiley, 1996). Moving forward to set the stage for further federal narrowing of the definition of educational research, HR 3801 currently contemplates a revised appointment process for the commissioner of education statistics via the director of a new ''Academy of Education Sciences.'' The director would award the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) contracts and grants as well. The conclusion seems inescapable that there is a federal imperative for the government to shape and define educational research in a manner that in the past would have been seen as wholly inappropriate. Even Diane Ravitch demurs stating, ''These are both agencies that are truth-telling agenciesâ"€ assessment and statisticsâ"€ and both should be insulated to the maximum extent possible from any political controls'' (Olson, 2002, p. 24).
THE LARGER CONTEXT
The elements of the attacks on public education come into clearer focus when seen as part of a broad political movement with goals far beyond education reform. There is a need in the right's movement to discredit, for example, the representatives and terminology of their opponents. ''Liberal'' has largely been removed from the congratulatory vocabulary of politicians and the term ''progressive'' seems scheduled to follow this fate. Along with the term will go the reputation of its most prominent intellectual advocate, John Dewey. A recent vehicle for this purge in the literature of education is Diane Ravitch's Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms (2000). The content of this volume and its treatment by the press and the scholarly community represent a case study of the cultural struggles in which education is enmeshed. Reviews of Left Back separate into the popular and the scholarly. While the former (in the New Yorker, The New York Times, etc.) were almost universally positive and written by journalists or noneducators, the latter in Educational Researcher (Wraga, 2001), The American Prospect (Tyack, 2000), The New York Review of Books (Ryan, 2001), The Journal of Curriculum Studies (Shaker, 2004), Teachers College Record (Goetz, 2002), were the work of scholars and educators and ranged from negative to damning. Ravitch, they assert, misrepresents the content of primary source material, perpetrates historical presentism, slants her arguments, oversimplifies, and distorts the record. She sets up an indefensibly broad definition of progressive education and then proceeds to take apart the straw man of her own construction. Likewise, she mischaracterizes John Dewey by identifying him with positions he abhorred and then attacks the Dewey of her imagination. For example,
The insidious anti-intellectualism that riddles this book, and which is manifest in selective reading, oversimplification, and slanting of the historic record, and in reliance on rhetorical tactics, ultimately undermines Ravitch's glorification of the academic curriculum and denigration of progressive education (Wraga, 2001, p. 38).
More significant than the ideology of her views is that all this takes place because Ravitch, although viewed as a scholar and not a journalist, operates today outside of the normal checks and balances of education scholarship. Through her notoriety and foundation support, she has credibility and access to publication that bypasses (if not transcends) the world of academic journals and meetings. Left Back is the most dramatic recent example of the interdiction of mainstream education scholarship as it is displaced from its limited, but legitimate, role in the public education debate by a new brand of punditry. This faux scholarship wears the trappings of legitimacy, but passes through none of the normal channels of scrutiny and peer review. More significantly, Left Back embodies the new form the education debate is taking. The misrepresentations and dubious analyses of the book make it difficult to evaluate as a scholarly historical work. If social efficiency theorists and mental measurement extremists can be defined as progressive educators; if progressives are those who limited access to education for the American underclass; if Dewey was ''locked in dualisms, the famous 'either-ors' that he so often wrote about'' (Ravitch, 2000, p. 40); if these analyses of Ravitch are accurate, then previous scholarship in such matters, including particularly that of her mentor, Lawrence Cremin, is discredited resoundingly (Shaker, 2004). Dewey welcomed conflict and controversy in the pursuit of growth and understanding. The attacks of Left Back, however, do not appear to be so intended.
Alternately, something else may be at play as a new type of education scholarship has emerged that is delivered in unconventional ways, funded through unorthodox sources, motivated by non-academic purposes, and supported through direct access to media and political organizations. This tactic has shown up in fields other than education with similar results. For example, tobacco-sponsored research presented without identification has, for example, entered the literature through book publication (Guterman, 2002). This method has the advantage of avoiding scholarly critique and, with sponsorship concealed, ducking scrutiny for bias. Intelligent design, one recent alternative to the theory of evolution, was wrapped in the credibility of Baylor University's Polanyi Institute until the university forcefully separated its scientific voice from other, distinct and theological traditions (McMurtrie, 2001). We also now know that the pharmaceutical industry has, through its advertising agencies, been commissioning ''advocacy'' research of dubious merit to promote its products (Kolata, 2001). Neoconservatives, particularly, allege the left pioneered these techniques and are now reaping what they have sowed. Today, however, it is the funding and passion of the right that threatens public education through its advocacy initiatives.
AN ALTERNATE REALITY TO SUPPORT THE NEW COMMON SENSE
According to calculations made by the Washington Post, [Richard Mellon] Scaife gave more than $200 million to conservative institutions between 1974 and 1992 in an attempt to influence government policy and train personnel. (Brock, 2002, p. 80)
A parallel world of journals, experts, foundations, and organizations has emerged in education over the past twenty years that is gradually rising in prominence and effectiveness, particularly among media and political audiences. Correspondingly, the original structures that have organically developed during the last century out of the need of educators to meet for debate and discussion, as well as the individuals who have risen to prominence through these entities, are increasingly marginalized. These independent and institutional voices are heard within professional circles, but are absent from the public sphere. At meetings of political leaders such as those of the Education Commission of the States, in prominent media such as The New York Times op-ed page, and even in official government documents such as the ''summary'' of The Report of the National Reading Panel (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 1999a), a counterestablishment of authority holds sway. The message may be brittle and attack-oriented, but evidently it has made good media, attracted politicians, and kept the education establishment on the defensive. Foundation support has been forthcoming and by the sheer volume and repetition of consistent messages the right has gone a long way toward redefining the conventional wisdom about public education (Shaker & Heilman, 2002).
Some specifics of the new common sense of education include the following: Standardized tests are the sine qua non of assessing school quality; our public schools are failed and cynical institutions; teachers are self-interested unionists; education faculty are woolly apologists for the status quo; explanations of school problemsâ"€ including the impact of poverty on childrenâ"€ are only ''excuses''; there is no correlation between school quality and school funding; the punitive imposition of high stakes tests and centralized standards will ''shape up'' malingering students and teachers; research in education should exclusively follow certain quantitative models; voucher advocates are the true sponsors of minority advancement; etc. Those who question this new conventional wisdom in community forums do so today at their own peril. ''Conservative modernization has radically reshaped the commonsense of society'' (Apple, 2001, p. 194) and it has done so while creating a structure that institutionalizes its messages.
There are numerous examples of these new institutions. Among journals there are Education Next and Texas Education Review. There are centers, think tanks, and research organizations such as the Cato Institute, Center for Education Reform, Center for Policy Studies, Center for School Change, Heartland Institute, Hudson Institute, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Mackinaw Center for Public Policy, Center for Research on Education Outcomes and the Pacific Research Institute. Foundations such as Abell, Heritage, Bradley, and Fordham support or themselves conduct such work. The insinuation of the right wing into the U.S. Department of Education (2002c) is particularly evident on their links page ''Where to Go'' explaining, ''Many of these government and non-profit groups can provide useful information about education.'' The department then hotlinks citizens to a list, the vast majority of which are organizations engaged in partisan ''research'' and policy such as the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, The Heritage Foundation, Mathematically Correct, National Council on Teacher Quality, Pacific Research Institute, and the Core Knowledge Foundation. Most recently word has come of an impending ''deaccession'' of much of the research archived in the Department of Education's Web site and the paring down of ERIC. Few expect such unwelcome editorial work to be in any sense objective.
Additionally, in a troubling use of federal monies, the American Board for Certification and Teacher Excellence launched an alternative to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards for Certification of Teacher Excellence through a $5 million grant from the U. S. Department of Education to the National Council on Teacher Quality and the Education Leaders Council (National Council on Teacher Quality, 2002). This has been followed by a dramatic infusion of Department of Education support during lean budgetary times, as ABCTE received $35 million in late 2003 just as NCLB funding was being reduced. ABCTE programs now seek also to certify new teachers, primarily through a teacher testing approach (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, 2003). We can find warnings of the impact of these organizations in words such as these:
While it is possible to conduct high quality social science research in private think tanks and research centers, it is necessary that the studies be subjected to an internal review process that has integrity and that they be scrutinized by qualified and disinterested external reviewers. . . The way in which Mackinac Center sponsored research characteristically frames questions is biased and the methodology employed of little social science merit. (Cookson, Molnar, & Embree, 2001)
Scholars in reading have been asserting that such manipulations and misrepresentations have invaded federal agencies and their documents, signaling a new level of success by the modernizers of the right. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Report of the National Reading Panel (National Institute of Child Health and Human De- velopment, 1999b) and its accompanying summary are cases in point. Writing in Phi Delta Kappan and Language Arts, Elaine Garan (2001a, 2001b, 2001c, 2001d) launched a series of expose´s regarding the composition of the National Reading Panel, its curious definition of research (Cunningham, 2001), its suppression of dissent (Yatvin, 2001), and the outright distortions of its summary materials (Yatvin, 2003):
Widmeyer Communications, the powerful Washington, D.C., public relations firm hired by the government to promote the panel's work . . . had represented McGraw-Hill and the Business Roundtable among its most prominent clients. ''They wrote the introduction to the final report,'' says NRP member Joanne Yatvin. ''And they wrote the summary, and prepared the video, and did the press release.'' (Metcalf, 2002, p. 21)
This approach allowed further manipulation of the Report's message and the obscuring of minority views. Garan (2001a) cites a list of clear contradictions between the 600-page Reports of the Subgroups (of NRP) and the 34-page summary. In every case a significant bias is introduced in favor of ''systematic phonics instruction'' (p. 506). The creation of policy and the manipulation of the policy-making environment by self-interested partiesâ"€ a phenomenon we have seen rising in the energy and environmental fieldsâ"€ is also increasingly the order of the day in education, particularly at the federal level. In cases such as this, federal agencies are not only assuming ideologically charged positions, but are caught up in attempts to control the methods of research and the process of academic debate. Partisan officials employing industry lobbyists to define the study of education and to steer business to textbook and test publishers, among other profit-oriented parties, subsume the laborious quest of educational researchers for standards of inquiry and verification.
Kenneth Howe (2002) sees these phenomena as part of a marketing strategy for partisan views that ''jettisons'' educational research as a source of objective information. Instead, advocates, in a manner unbridled by professional ethics, use research, or bowdlerized research, as a ''spruced up form of testimonial'' (p. 34). Peer review is an early victim of this approach since it must either be manipulated by creating a sham process, or bypassed by being discredited as a legitimizing technique. We see both strategies operating among advocates of the right: the parallel world of foundations, publications, and think tanks can and does provide peer review for one another's projects. Alternately, the NRP summary example illustrates how to transcend peer influence by working directly with public relations firms who define the popular media debate; by shaping the politics of decision-making; and by leaving most academicians on the fringesâ"€ dialoguing with one another, outside of the public's view.
The ink was hardly dry on Howe's challenge when Chester E. Finn, Jr. (2002) responded with ''The Limits of Peer Review'' which argues that, though ''helpful,'' peer review is corruptible and not a ''supreme arbiter of the truth'' or ''deserv[ing] to be deified as the one true god of education research'' (p. 30). His theatrical and dichotomizing style may be more revealing than his message as he goes on to assert that
Second and third opinions are frequently beneficial. But let's not pretend that there's something neutral, objective, or scientific about them . . . key decisions should stay with the cognizant editor, funder or consumer. (p. 34)
Yielding decisions to ''outsiders,'' Finn argues, ''may compromise [editors' and funders'] own publication's or organization's mission or blur its focus.'' The Fordham Foundation, he goes on, ''sees its research mission as engaging in rather than refereeing arguments about education policy'' (p. 34). One has to appreciate Finn's candor, even as confidence in his publications ebbs. Since positive science functions imperfectly in education (as well as medical circles, as he argues) one is justified in setting aside the subterfuge and knowingly using scientific forms to package advocacy. In the same issue of Education Week, Douglas B. Reeves (2002), while enumerating the limitations of scientific certainty in educational research, concludes with this more temperate assessment:
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