Seeking School Renewal Through Partnerships

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In one of the series of Occasional Papers being issued by the Center for Educational Renewal at the University of Washington's college of education, Professor of Education John I. Goodlad lays out a philosophical framework for considering the contributions to school improvement that could be made by school-university partnerships.

Mr. Goodlad, who in 1986 launched the National Network for Educational Renewal to test the concept that such partnerships could stimulate and become central to a process of institutional renewal, argues in the paper that reform efforts targeted solely on specific problem elements of the system--such as poor student behavior and performance, or incompetent teachers--will be "doomed to failure."

The paper, "Linking Schools and Universities--Symbiotic Partnerships," Occasional Paper No. 1, is available for $3.50 per copy from the Center for Educational Renewal, College of Education, University of Washington, Seattle, Wash. 98195.

Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of [the recurring cycles of school reform] is the disjuncture between the target of the rhetoric of criticism and the targets singled out for improvement. Almost invariably, it is the institution or program--schooling, schools, teacher education, schools of education, general education--that requires attention. But it is the teacher or, ironically, the student who is to be reformed. We are led to believe that all will be well if we select brighter teachers, put them through tougher programs, and test them during their careers. Similarly, we are to give students tougher tests more often, or raise expectations for passing grades, or both.

There is something pathological about all of this. It is akin to believing that we can eliminate juvenile delinquency by incarcerating and rehabilitating delinquents. Certainly we must rehabilitate, but sociological theory has been directing our attention for decades to the malfunctioning community ecology that fosters delinquency. ...

[R]ecurring, strident attacks on schooling, teacher education, and undergraduate curricula and teaching, in the form of commission and task-force reports, are symptomatic of inadequate renewing behavior in large numbers of schools and universities. ... [R]eform proposals directed only to the rehabilitation or replacement of individuals in these settings, however accurate the diagnosis of incompetence or inadequate effort, are doomed to failure and will serve only to assure, later, still another round of similar reform proposals.

We propose an alternative paradigm embracing simultaneous individual and institutional renewal. We believe such renewal to be feasible with or without an infusion of new people--which means, of course, belief in the capability for and potentiality of renewal among those persons now perceived not to be salvageable. ...

The history of school-university collaboration is not so much replete with failure as it is short on examples of carefully crafted agreements and programs accompanied by ... individual and institutional commitment on both sides.

... For there to be a symbiotic partnership, presumably three minimum conditions must prevail: dissimilarity between or among the partners; mutual satisfaction of self-interest; and sufficient selflessness on the part of each member to assure the satisfaction of self-interests on the part of all members. Regarding partnerships between schools and universities, the first condition is clearly present. The others must be created and require resolve, commitment, planning, creativity, leadership, sacrifice, and endurance.

Surveying the history of federal aid to education, Clifton R. Wharton Jr. describes the development of national programs as "haphazard" and "sometimes almost whimsical."

In an address delivered at the annual meeting of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, he contended that the key to an effective federal policy is coherence.

Educators at all levels should challenge Presidential candidates to design cohesive programs as part of their campaign platforms, suggested Mr. Wharton, who is chairman and chief executive officer of the Teachers Insurance Annuity Association and College Retirement Equities Fund.

The federal approach today remains piecemeal, often unarticulated, and usually underfunded and inefficient. Certainly, there is no consistency of purpose, and under the current Administration, efforts to cut existing programs, foist all problems on the states or private largess--and even eliminate the Department of Education--appear to constitute the national education policy.

[W]hat we can, and should, insist on is the gathering up of the pieces of the fragmented national education "policy" and the realigning of them into a coherent and effective whole. ...

Over the next nine months education will be, no doubt, a word often mentioned in speeches as Presidential candidates criss-cross the nation in search of votes and television news "bites." ...

I want the subject to be emotional. I want the candidates, and anyone else in the public eye, to conjure up the vision of the dropout, of the functional illiterate, of the teen-age drug addict, of the need for tuition assistance, of the price we will pay for slippages in scientific education and, yes, in the study of art and literature. ...

But even if it is emotional, the message can come across clearly and thoughtfully and devoid of the usual political cant and lip service ... .

... [W]e can insist that our candidates next year--for all

decisionmaking positions affecting education--speak to the real issues affecting our schools and colleges. If asked, and even if we are not asked, we can help them formulate their proposed programs. And we can call them to task when we know they misspeak, exaggerate, or are simplistic.

Many regard television as a harmful influence on schooling, but the noted scholar and author Jacques Barzun has reversed that argument: He says that teaching techniques meant to relieve the monotony of learning may in fact have helped shape' the medium.

In a speech to the Friends of the Council for Basic Education, he identified "discontinuity" as the common denominator of both television and current teaching methods.

Producers recreate in their programs, he said, the "jittery," disconnected lessons of their childhood classrooms.

Efforts to enliven teaching and make education more entertaining, he argued, belie the nature of learning. Following are excerpts from the speech, which was reprinted in the fall issue of Basic Education: Issues, Answers & Facts:

The deeper question is whether television by its nature disables learning.

It looks as if it does, because its formula is: discontinuity. An expert has said that the image on the screen must change every 18 seconds, if not sooner.

... I would venture the paradox that our jittery television is as it is, because of influence from the schools. ...

Why do I say this? Because during the last 50 years, nearly everything done in school has tended toward the discontinuous, the incoherent, the jiggly.

... The pupil must be continually lured by bright externals, and, during distractions, fed in small mouthfuls. Nothing must last long, nothing must look systematic. You recognize at once the principle of a television show or commercial. I think my paradox is correct: Television programs are put together by the products of our schools for the products of our schools. Remember that television came later than the modern school. ...

Beginning with the small child's workbook, what is expected is the rapid filling-in of blanks with disconnected items of information. Knowing is no longer the ability to summon up an organized view of some topic; it is the ability to recognize separate, discontinuous particles. ...

But it is a great mistake to implant the idea that learning can be steadily exciting, or that excitement is a good frame of mind for acquiring knowledge and overcoming difficulties. Developing a genuine interest in a subject comes only after some drudgery, and only when the learner gets to the point of seeing how it hangs together--its order and continuity, not its unrelated peaks of excitement.

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