P.D.K. Seeks Expanded Role in Shaping National Policy

By Lynn Olson — September 24, 1986 3 min read

Phi Delta Kappa, the professional education fraternity that produce Phi Delta Kappan magazine and the yearly Gallup Poll on education, plans to expand its role in the shaping of national education policy.

P.D.K. will make a “conscious effort,” according to its executive director, Lowell C. Rose, to be on the “very cutting edge of issues and problems that are facing education.”

The new focus was prompted by a report released last month by the group’s “Futures Committee” that concluded the organization had “not even begun to realize its full potential” for influencing American education.

A “ ‘quantum leap’ forward is required” for the organization to become a “potentially pre-eminent national force in education in the United States” and the “very best professional organization in the entire field of education,” stated the report, “Phi Delta Kappa: 2000 and Beyond.”

Jack Frymier--chairman of the seven-member committee, created a year ago by P.D.K.'S board of aid the fraternity is not making the “significant difference” in the field that it probably could.

But he noted that P.D.K., with more than 630 local chapters, 130,000 members, and an annual budget of approximately $3 million, is in “superb shape economically and fiscally.”

“It’s in very sound condition,” said Mr. Rose, also a senior fellow at P.D.K. “It’s growing steadily. It’s a large organization. It typically has a lot of respect around the country.”

Remain Neutral

Historically, Phi Delta Kappa has not taken a stand on controversial education issues. It does not lobby for or represent a particular interest group.

Such an approach does not characterize the rest of the education community, Mr. Rose noted, describing education groups as increasingly fragmented.

“Many of the organizations have particular constituencies they have to serve, and those constituencies have very specific interests they have to meet,” he said. “Phi Delta Kappa as an organization only has one goal and one thing that members expect of us, and that goal is I quality education for all children.”

Noting that P.D.K.'s membership covers a range of educators, including teachers, administrators, researchers, and university professors, Mr. Frymier said the organization hopes to serve a “unifying service.”

He said the organization will continue to work “very very hard to maintain its neutrality.”

Mr. Rose added: “We have no intent or desire to advance positions. . . . What we’d really like to do is to provide the information and the data that will serve to focus the debate and discussion that leads to the resolution of problems.”

That will mean an expansion of the workshops, training sessions, and written materials that P.D.K. already provides, he said, as well as the development of some new endeavors.

The “overriding sense of mission” for the organization will remain the same, according to the report: “to help individual professionals develop and learn and grow.”

‘Think Big’

The report includes several Ideas for changing the organization’s activities in five areas-school and professional improvement, public policy about education, public understanding and awareness of education, education research, and international understanding of education.

Among other proposals, the report suggests that:

  • An “Educator Exchange Program” be created, so that public-school teachers and college or university professors could exchange places for a semester or an academic year.
  • A specialized “SWAT” team be established to help P.O.K.'S members deal with problems that affect schools and require a policy response, such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
  • Kits be developed to aid local civic groups in assessing the strengths, weaknesses, needs, problems, and possibilities of education in their communities.
  • Research projects in which Phi Delta Kappa International and local chapters would collaborate be launched.
  • An “Educational Peace Corps” of retired P.D.K. members who would work with schools in other countries be instituted.
  • “We were trying to stimulate the imagination of the members and of the officers to encourage them to think big,” Mr. Frymier said. “In many ways, we were not as imaginative as we should have been.”

    The report will be discussed at the organization’s seven district conferences this fall. Based on reaction and comments gathered at those meeting:s, the board in January will frame a blueprint to guide the organization’s development for the next 10 to 15 years.

    The society’s biennial council, which meets in October 1987 in Louisville, Ky., must approve the :statement before it can become organizational policy.

    Mr. Rose said he did not anticipate that the new activities would require a substantial dues increase in the near future. P.D.K. members now pay an average of $30 a year.

    Members of the Futures Committee were:

    Anne Campbell, former state superintendent of education in Nebraska; David Carter, assistant provost for academic affairs at the University of Connecticut; David Clark. former dean of the school of education at Indiana University; Mr. Frymier, committee chairman and former professor of education at Iowa State University; Arliss Roaden, executive secretary of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission; Ralph Tyler, former professor of education at the University of Chicago; and Brenda Youngblood, a counselor for students with substance abuse problems in Hazelwood, Mo.

    A version of this article appeared in the September 24, 1986 edition of Education Week as P.D.K. Seeks Expanded Role in Shaping National Policy