Educational policy analysis archives

Educational policy analysis archives

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Educational policy analysis archives
Arizona State University
University of South Florida
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Special issue comprised of two book reviews.

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Educational policy analysis archives.
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Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
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Special issue comprised of two book reviews.
Lower literacies for hire : how the politics of discourse shapes Schools of thought / Craig B. Howley -- Review of Ernest R. House Professional evaluation : social impact and political consequences / Kent P. Scribner.
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1 of 12 Education Policy Analysis ArchivesVolume 2 Number 3January 24, 1994 ISSN 1068-2341A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal. Editor: Gene V Glass,Glass@ASU.EDU. College of Educ ation, Arizona State University,Tempe AZ 85287-2411 Copyright 1994, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES.Permission is hereby granted to copy any a rticle provided that EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES is credited and copies are not sold.Two Book ReviewsAbstract: This issue of the Education Policy Analysis Archives comprises two book reviews: An essay review of R. G. Brown Schools of Thought by Craig Howley and Aimee Howley, and a review of Ernest R. House, Professional Evaluation by Kent P. Scribner.Lower Literacies for Hire: How the Politics of Discourse Shapes Schools of ThoughtA Review Essay of Rexford G. Brown's Schools of Thought: How the Politics of Literacy Sh ape Thinking in the Classroom San Francisco: Jossey Bass. 1991. $28.95 (Hardcov er) $14.95 (Paperback)Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational LaboratoryU56E3@WVNVM.bitnetAimee Howley Marshall UniversityU176C@WNNVM.bitnet This is an ungenerous review of a very generous boo k, a book in which people concerned with the intellectual tenor of schooling will find much to approve. At the same time, the book will make sense to people who consider that the mos t important national project is international economic preeminence. Strange bedfellows, we think. Still, at the outset, we advise: Read this book. Schools of Thought takes on a challenge rarely met, an interpretation of policy making from the vantage of, and really on behalf of, liter ate discourse in classrooms. The chief virtue of the exposition is the sort of literacy imagined, wh ich Rexford Brown and his colleagues call a


2 of 12"literacy of thoughtfulness." This is not a literac y of profitable skills, the certitude of facts, or the safety of truisms. Instead, it cultivates meaningfu lness, attentiveness, and engagement in the human conversation as the entitlement of everyone. Fundamental to this entitlement is a conception of social justice that derives from faith in human potential. For the sake of juridical fairness however, American schooling has chained human potential to procedural due process (in this case procedures governing the provision of "equal opportunity"). Brown believes that human pot ential, realized through a true education, is at odds with the formal entitlements (and constrain ts) of procedure. Substantive fairness requires more than rear-guard policy action. It depends on f aith in children's inherent curiosity, and it encompasses communities of learning, rich classroom environments, articulate teachers, work that makes sense, good questions, and plenty of tal k about things that matter. Entanglements of Policy and Practice in Schooling In Schools of Thought Rexford Brown interweaves two themes--both about t he fate of "higher literacy" in US schools. One theme centers around the interactions of children and teachers in the culture of classrooms. It contrasts the sort of teaching and learning that take place in most classrooms in the United States with an alt ernative sort. The other theme concerns politics. Illustrating the ways that conventional p olitics orchestrated an "old" (and impoverished) literacy in basic skills, Brown calls for a more th oughtful politics to shape a new literacy. The new literacy ... goes beyond mere reading and w riting ability ... and beyond the current requirements for a high school diploma. It now includes capacities once demanded only of a privileged, college-bound elite: to think critically and creatively, solve problems, exercise judgment, and learn new sk ills and knowledge throughout a life time. (p. xii) This worthy end can, according to Brown, be achieve d through changes of a moderate degree and a manageable sort in the schools that we now know. What we need to do in order to create such "schools of thought" is to honor in dis course and in practice--both political and instructional--what Brown takes to be the fundament al premises of pedagogy: learning is active, literacy engages meaning. Accomplishing this goal, however, requires that pol icy makers and educators act on the liberal rather than the authoritarian impulses impl icit in our cultural ethos. Their political actions and professional practices must take root in "schoo ls of thought" (pp. 239-240) that put faith in human potential and democratic participation. The a lternative, based on the desire to "restrict our potential for evil" (p. 240), results in practices of schooling that Brown views as "wasteful," "prejudiced," and incapable of fitting in with the "economic and social realities" of the times (pp. 250-251, passim).The Cultivation and Diffusion of a "Higher" Literac y in America The central thesis maintains that these liberal "sc hools of thought" lead to and come from certain habits of mind. Such habits, grounded in En lightenment reason and encompassing the celebratory pluralism of the postmoderns, constitut e a "higher literacy," which Brown tentatively defines in Chapter Two of the book and illustrates elsewhere. He calls upon other commentators, with perspectives peppering an impromptu continuum from scientific realism to critical theory, to help elaborate a definition of "higher literacy." From their myriad views, Brown extracts two common featu res of what he terms "a literacy of thoughtfulness": it involves "a process of making m eaning," and it requires negotiating meaning


3 of 12with others (p. 35). Much of the rest of the book spins contrasts betwee n policies and practices that cultivate a literacy of thoughtfulness and those that do not. I mportant in these comparisons are the details of classroom discourse, which Brown and his research a ssociates construe as direct representations of the sorts of learning that are taking place. For example, we are introduced to Ms. Bledsoe and other aficionados of the recitation method: Ms. Bledsoe says, "This is to help us improve our w ritten and oral what?" The class isn't sure, and so she says, "Speech, our written a nd oral speech" ... "What does a predicate adjective do?" she asks. (pp. 38-39) Ms. Burden asks, "What do you notice about Houdini and Boudini?" The students make some guesses, and finally one says, "The words sound alike," and she says, "Yes, they r hyme." She says, "Someone who does a trick is a ..." and the students all chime i n at once: "Magician." When she gives directions, she says, "Do you have any questi ons?" The class replies in unison, "No, ma'am." (p. 17) The author compares this type of discourse to the m ore rare, but clearly preferable, discourse of thoughtfulness, which asks students to draw inferences, pose and solve problems, examine ideas, and construct meaning from a variety of experiences. Thoughtful discourse places students at the center of the instructional process eliciting from them performances that are relevant personally as well as culturally. Accordin g to Brown, educators know how to cultivate discourse of this sort: There are no secrets here. If you want young people to think, you ask them hard questions and let them wrestle with the answers. If you want them to analyze something or interpret it or evaluate it, you ask t hem to do so and show them how to do it with increasing skill. If you want them to kn ow how to approach interesting or difficult problems, you give them interesting or di fficult problems and help them develop a conscious repertoire of problem-solving s trategies. If you want them to think the way scientists or historians or mathemati cians do, you show them how scientists and historians and mathematicians think, and you provide opportunities for them to practice and compare those ways of thinking (p. 232) This perspective recalls the faith of progressive e ducators. Instruction for a literacy of thoughtfulness must animate students, placing them in charge of their own learning: Something about the way we teach literacy is betray ing the very spirit of literacy: the power to make meaning ... The trick is simply to pu t children in charge of their own literacy, in charge of writing and telling and read ing their own stories for their own purposes. Let them feel the power of it firsthand. (p. 90) With the progressives, Brown imagines a broader con text and purpose for the literacy of thoughtfulness. This context serves as the link bet ween the events of classroom and public life. In this way the literacy of thoughtfulness inspires not just individual sense-making but also, and probably more importantly, the collective sense-mak ing that undergirds a democracy. The connecting fiber is community; its method, dialogue ; and the outcome, "schools of thought" that enable the sorts of policy making and leadership th at "get good things done" (p. 249). Policy and School Change Schools of Thought bears the subtitle "How the Politics of Literacy S hape Literacy in the


4 of 12Classroom," suggesting several features of the auth or's approach to policy making. First, it advertises his reluctance to endorse the technocrat ic account of policy making: policy making that pretends to neutral expertise comes at a price too high for a nation that wishes to remain democratic. Second, Brown represents the political realm as plu ralistic ("politics" is plural). Various "schools of thought" engage in reasonable dialogue through democratic institutions. In this context, more careful thinking will surely improve policy making, and hence, schooling itself. Third, and most clearly, Brown holds to the view th at, however life in the modernist world forces itself into policies, what politics does (i. e., "make laws" [p. 58]) is extraordinarily influential in schools. Brown, in fact, uses the te rm "overdetermination" (p. 162) to highlight the extent of this influence. How policy influences school practice. Policy maker s design policies to influence matters directly: language stipulates thus-and-so, so be it and so it is. Lyotard (1984/1979) refers to such speech as "performative," with the speech and the a ct coinciding by virtue of the speaker's authority. Nonetheless, laws, judgments, and execut ive orders of various sorts comprise very complicated communications. And it would be foolish to regard their pronouncement as causing the earth to move. No; what policies do is exact performances from rea lity, over time, by establishing an ought-to-be. Performances determined to be out of s tep with such an oughtto-be are exhorted to change. Whatever the fate of particular policies, t he fate of policy making depends on a public that believes that a certain kind of discourse-po licies--can produce improvement. Brown's analysis focuses on the rhetorical force an d limitations of policy making rather than on the power relationships that determine the substance of policy. The language of legislative and board policy is eve rywhere the same ... [It] suggests ... a world in which people and things can be contr olled and measured ... This is an extremely important way of thinking and talking abo ut the world but it is not the only way. We do not talk to our children or our lov ed ones or our friends in this way; we do not talk about art in this way, or about hist ory or literature. We do not discover or learn in this way. (p. 157) Why, then, should policy making be necessary? The p ublic nature of schooling is the circumstance that engenders the need for policy mak ing: Public schooling, precisely because it is a public responsibility, will always involve a conflict between the laws of the land (which create the institution) and the laws of learning (which are the core of the practice that t he institution houses). (p. 148) The contradictions of policy and learning emerge in this analysis with the force of metaphysical necessity. Though Brown does not say that policy making causes what he and his colleagues observed so widely (a schooling to deaden the minds of children), policy language makes a clear appearance in classrooms. The author and his collea gues call this language "talkinbout," and they claim it dominates classroom discourse: In most schools, the language of the classroom is p rimarily a language about the process of teaching something, it is not itself a l anguage of learning. "Talkinbout" is ... an adult reconstruction after the fact of an ex perience that the student is not allowed to have firsthand. It is a rumor about lear ning. (p. 234) Parents routinely observe the effects of talkinbout They ask their child, "What happened in


5 of 12school today?" And the child claims, "Nothing." A l ittle probing will usually elicit some answer: "Well, tell me what you did in math today." The ans wer: "Chapter seven." Further query: "And what was chapter seven about?" Further answer: "I d on't know--math, what do you think?" Talkinbout is an evasion. It does not entail explic ation. It denies mystery. It starves, rather than feeds, curiosity. It dwells on the rules for c ompleting "work," but the work itself is a kind of detritus sloughed off by children and teachers and, certainly, administrators in the process of showing up for endless (i.e., pointless) labors at school. Despite the ubiquity of talkinbout, good teachers e xist everywhere. But a good policy for school reform is much harder to find (p. 246). Brow n is keenly aware that both the performative language of bad policy and the thinking it embodies ultimately wend their way into classroom discourse and thinking, thereby, with considerable irony, fostering thoughtless, bad practice. How policy should influence practice. The alternati ve for Brown is to fashion policy that takes better account of the nature of learning. He suggests that the nature of learning is pretty much self-evident. Learning is individualistic, it happens in surprising ways, and attempts to regiment it inevitably end up frustrating it. Polic ies therefore need to create rich environments in which learning can thrive. A few more desiderata co mbine to create the conditions for success: community (cf. Sergiovanni, 1993), excellent leader ship, and willpower (p. 251). Brown finds the model of this rich environment faci litated by good policy in Canada. The penultimate chapter examines Ontario's policy and p ractice in considerable detail. It is as Chance the Gardener (Kosinski, 1970) avers: "All is well i n the garden, so long as the roots are not severed." There, inquiry, whole-language learning, creativity, critical thinking skills, experiential learning, self-esteem, responsibility, multicultura l respect, and care for the earth nourish a healthy pluralistic society. The book's appendices include excerpts from the relevant Ontario policies. It does seem, to a US citizen, a bit too good to be true. The impression is not dispelled, as Brown provides no compelling explanation for how th e prevailing ethos in Ontario has yielded such a feat. Leadership, willpower, and community d o not seem sufficient. Severed Roots, Depleted Soil It is a mistake to suppose, as Brown seems to, that policy making and politics--whether partisan politicking, political philosophizing, or the actual organization of society--are nearly identical. In particular, Brown's analysis ignores the possibility that either the political economy or the cultural ethos may operate so as to determin e both educational policy and practice, good and bad. In this case, the concordance of policy an d common, thoughtless practice would be not so much a story of communicative blundering but of clear translation of political will in the things that are done and the motives for doing them There is less doubt than ever about what such thing s and such motives may be. For a full decade we have heard about international risks to U S business, the security interest represented by "competitiveness," and the importance of being N umber One. We have national goals that enthrone mathematics and science over other ways of knowing--and the reason lies not in their intellectual worthiness but in their presumed value to profit-making. These rumors of value represent a material reality; they are not just rhe torical errors. And yet, this is the ideological climate in which B rown suggests that failure to cultivate a literacy of thoughtfulness is an oversight that lea dership, willpower, community, and good policy will remedy. Unfortunately, the American polity doe s not provide a soil well suited to such a venture (which is, perhaps, why social justice in g eneral fares better north of the border). In the classic vision of the American polity, the i ntention of policy (executive order, statutory and case law, and a vast opus of bureaucr atia, existing at all corporate levels, public and private) is to restrain harmful action. Ample profi t requires this vision, and so we play the golden


6 of 12rule close to the chest: Don't undo your competitor in ways that you don't want to be undone yourself. (The spiritual version is: Avoid the appe arance of evil.) The idea that we might nurture public institutions for a positive public good, though often asserted in theory and mainly by academics (cf. Bat eson, 1989), gets an inhospitable reception in the US. It is considered unworkable, philosophicall y and spiritually unwise. If humans possess an evil nature, after all, avoiding the appearance of evil is about as much as we can reasonably expect. There is no reason, under this regimen, to expect that we can convince powerful interests to ask for a literacy of thoughtfulness. Better to harness greed. Herein is the dilemma of public education, not in t he vagaries of how, when, and why policy is made, nor in the words of which it may co nsist. Public schooling serves as an innoculation against public disorder. As Brown note s, schooling's chief virtues consist of uniformity and efficiency. Even the "thinking-skill s curriculum" represents to students a reality quite different from one they encounter when engage d by "more thoughtful instruction." Thinkingskills instruction is founded on the nati onal interest curriculum, so that certain views of history, society, the arts, religion, and human aspiration must prevail. The values that inhere are definitely not those of the "pluralistic societ y" that Canadians seem willing to hazard. Brown appears not to appreciate the significance of the unremitting instrumentality of the aims to which Americans aspire in their schooling. Even when corporate entities (public or private) bless a school system with ample resources devotion to an instrumental vision will necessarily frustrate the development of a literacy of thoughtfulness. Brown seems oblivious to this essential contradiction. Yet this contradictio n confounds an optimistic reading of educational policy making.The Sky Above and the Mud Below Although Schools of Thought takes a generous view of policy making and the Ame rican political economy, it is less forgiving of actual t eachers. One is not always sure what to make of the narrations about teachers. For instance, Ms. Fr ancis, the excellent teacher in the troubled urban district of Chapter Four, is presented in a s uch a way that many readers are sure to overlook her virtues. The AfricanAmerican educato rs in the very poor "Daviston" district (in Chapter Two) come off even worse; somehow, perhaps in the oblivion of their nature, they have embraced an outdated, snowflake curriculum. Brown's propensity to forgive policy making, while at the same time faulting individual teachers, may represent a kind of epistemic sleight of hand. We think this shortcoming proceeds from two features of the argument-its unwitting p osition on human nature and its intentional optimism. Brown examines in great detail the conditions of th oughtless education and misguided policy making, but he is reluctant to acknowledge a material reality that would explain these conditions. Despite his progressive rhetoric to the contrary, this reluctance inevitably devolves to the view that human beings possess an immutable nat ure in which evil lurks, awaiting the moment for havoc. This evil need not be beastly, ju st stupid. Brown has no choice: He must conclude that individual teachers, administrators, and policy makers-most of them thoughtless--are personally responsible for current conditions. This conclusion would, of course, prove troublesome to his argument if it were brought to the surface, since Brown is counting on these very individuals to effect change. But if it is human nature to languish in stupor, then to cultivate a l iteracy of thoughtfulness must surely be a mission of arduous, perhaps impossible, redemption. Yet Brown assures us it is a simple matter. And herein lies his optimism, which is clearly asse rted in the last chapter: "We know how to develop a literacy of thoughtfulness" (p. 232). This assertion presents difficulties even to the faithful (among whom we would count ourselves). Wha t "know-how" pertains? Which of us


7 of 12possesses it? And where does it come from? In fact, the policies, practices, and kinds of rese arch that prevail stand as contradictions to the assertion. Though Schools of Thought demonstrat es well the connection between policy making and practice, it could just as easily demons trate a similar relationship between research and policy making. There is no basis to believe tha t each discourse has a direct or invariable effect on the other. As a result, the "know-how" of a thoughtful literacy might be tangential to its practice. More pointedly, it is unclear where or ho w such know-how might arise in isolation from its routine practice. How to develop, widely, a lit eracy of thoughtfulness remains an open question. But prevailing opinion about such a literacy is wel l known: Americans have never thought it wise or feasible. If we are beginning to find it expedient, then a literacy of thoughtfulness is in trouble. It is troublesome indeed that some people and some entities, having discovered an economic value in problem-solving and creativity sk ills, now affirm the value of a "higher" literacy as a feature of schooling, when they did n ot previously. All higher literacies are not created equal, as Schools of Thought makes very clear; and a literacy of thoughtfulness cannot be designed to se rve instrumental ends. Such a teleology destroys thoughtfulness, principally by putting off -limits certain objects of critique. If instruction disrespects the mind and its power of free self-dev elopment and elaboration, it will not constitute a literacy of thoughtfulness. Instead we will have computer literacy, information literacy, and creativity literacy--a proliferation of lower liter acies that may elevate the language of "talkinbout" to new heights but must inevitably detour meaning.Bait and Switch Nevertheless, the book sabotages its own argument b y tolerating an instrumental teleology. This is indeed a flaw, and one fatal to the book's credibility. If the solution to a mindless system of education is a thoughtfulness engendered by comm unity, then such a solution cannot come to us readymade. Either we have a democracy that cho oses the premises on which it constructs nationhood (and education for participation in that nationhood) or we have something other than a democracy that responds predictably to the viciss itudes of a world economy. We simply cannot mix and match. Yet, Brown's argument suggests we do just that, taking the agenda of business (i.e., an instrumental literacy of problem-solving) and using it to cultivate a thoughtful literacy that promotes the democratic ideal. We suspect, however, that Brown's error was formal, not substantive. He seems to have made the unfortunate choice to subordinate the logi c of his argument to a compelling rhetoric. After all, his goal was to do something other than preach to the choir. Yet the rhetorical device he used--bait and switch--was particularly discordant in a book whose ostensible message was the developmental import (in both a personal and social sense) of thoughtful dialogue. Bait and switch is just not thoughtful discourse. Rather, it imposes a social epistemology of "thinkinbout" that bypasses the heart of the matter in much the s ame way that "talkinbout" obscures what is essential about learning.Ethnography as Rhetoric In the end, Brown's discourse of "thinkinbout" affr onts the reader in ways that belie his central thesis. This is a book that not only shelte rs the reader (and itself) from the critique that i t ought to be making but one that uses language to mi srepresent its purposes. Just when we come to the conclusion that we are about to encounter th e results of an ethnographic study, we find ourselves face to face with the interpretive commen ts of one of the researchers. What can we make of the claim that the study summarizes finding s from 650 hours of interviews and


8 of 12 observations when we are presented with a teacher w ho is "very dapper and intelligent" (p. 45) and a principal who is "always on the prowl"? (p. 7 9). How can we evaluate an argument, like the one below, that pits kindergarten children against policy makers? While the state tries to reform schooling by imposi ng new mandates, the kindergarten people aim to reform schooling from wi thin. They envision children so empowered by their early education experiences that they will not tolerate minimumfocused instruction in the later grades. This is an interesting idea. Which side will win--the basic-skills curriculum, or the kids who h ave already gone beyond it at an early age and will not settle for the old routine? (p. 11) In the gap between rhetoric and ethnography this bo ok loses both its explanatory power and its force of conviction. Stories that compare w hat is with what ought to be usually compel passion, but not this one. Here, in an inoffensive telling, the loyal opposition provides demurrals and commentary; we are told that these will suffice As sympathetic readers we have few options. Either we abandon our own critical sensibilities an d swallow what Brown tells us, or we dismiss his thesis along with his antics. References Bateson, M. C. (1989). Composing a life New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press. Brown, R. (1993). Schools of thought: How the politics of literacy sh ape thinking in the classroom San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Kosinski, J. (1970). Being there New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Lyotard, J. (1984). The postmodern condition: A report on knowledge (G. Bennington & B. Massumi, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Mi nnesota Press. (Original work published 1979)Sergiovanni, T. (1993, April). Organizations or com munities? Changing the metaphor changes the theory. Paper presented at the annual meeting o f the American Educational Research Association, Atlanta, GA. Review of Ernest R. House Professional Evaluation: Social Impact and Political ConsequencesNewbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications, 1993 $24.95Kent P. Scribner Arizona State Evaluation has evolved from part-time work for coll ege professors to a full fledged profession. The 3,000 member American Evaluation As sociation sees formal program evaluation playing a central role in policy making in the futu re. Ernest R. House, Professor of Education at


9 of 12the University of Colorado-Boulder, in Professional Evaluation: Social Impact and Politica l Consequences tackles the complex contextual and philosophical issues that promise to shape the future of the field. In the opinion of some, evaluation is an idealized problemsolving sequence. Evaluators are expected, according to this view, to a) identif y a problem, b) generate and implement alternatives, c) evaluate these alternatives, and d ) adopt those results that promise a solution, or a t least amelioration of the problem (Shadish, Cook an d Leviton 1991). Although evaluation is often characterized by such academic or even scient ific roots, it has evolved, in the past thirty years, from a purely academic pursuit into a field with many of the trappings that attend other professions (Austin, 1981). Not fully professionali zed, evaluation operates with many economic and social constraints characteristic of profession s such as law and medicine. It is this characterization of evaluation as a scie nce with its consequent prescriptions for social problem solving with which House takes issue Evaluators attempts to find definitive solutions, or to solve social problems through the practical application of scientific or quasi-scientific techniques have been a disappointm ent, according to House. House offers evaluators a different aspiration. "At its best, th e evaluation of educational and social programs aspires to be an institution for democratizing publ ic decisions by making programs and policies more open to public scrutiny and deliberation" (p.1 ). Prior to 1965, evaluation was a sideline activity e ngaged in by academics as extra-mural consulting (p.15). With the Great Society education legislation (ESEA 1965), mandated evaluations were required of most government funded programs, and formal evaluation as a profession was launched. The form of evaluation mec hanisms changed dramatically since 1965. In theory, though not necessarily in practice, eval uations have moved toward "multiple methods, criteria, measures, perspectives, audiences, and in terests" (p. vii). As the need for evaluation grows, so does the notion of evaluation itself. Today, evaluation, broadly defined, stretches from internal evaluation offices in large bureaucracies to special evaluators hired and attac hed to a program. Evaluation has, in fact, become an integrated part of everyday life in large organizations. The rapid growth of the field forced early evaluators to confront the many struct ural and contextual dilemmas embedded in their work. House's assertion that it is impossible for evaluat ion to escape the divergent value systems at work in any organization is widely held by later stage evaluation theorists. He favors generating evaluation questions and issues of inter est by actively engaging the program's stakeholders. House rejects the notion that evaluat ions are commissioned by purely rational interests and carried out by an impartial third par ty. He holds that evaluation can be neither value free nor devoid of political effects. Instead, it i s argued, evaluation is a function of the context i n which it exists. Evaluation does not stand above po litics, judging with impartial objectivity; it is a part of politics itself. In this light, House's a rgument that developments in evaluation coincide with the development of advanced capitalism becomes quite intriguing. House argues that advanced capitalism has broken do wn the major traditional institutions of society : the church, the family, and the local community. These traditional frameworks, which have historically served as the basis for personal and public decisions, have become weakened. Hence, in place of the legitimating power previousl y afforded by such traditional institutions, society at large has looked to the profession of ev aluation, with its aura of scientific authority, to legitimate and inform government actions. A plurali stic and non-traditional populace seeks the legitimation of actions that can no longer be judge d by reference to common religious beliefs or shared values. Formal evaluation then, is a new for m of cultural authority, providing "objectivity" to decisions. Decisions arising from evaluations are believed to be based upon scientific or scholarly authority (p. 19). Governme nts, in turn, legitimize an evaluation by designating it "official."


10 of 12 Providing legitimacy to a system of power enhances the system's order, stability and continuity. According to House, maintenance of the system is evaluation's fundamental role As House put it, "Although governments are capable of making decisions based on their own political authority, justified by elections and bac ked by force of arms, it is much easier to govern through voluntary acceptance of the populace attain ed by persuasion" (p.18). Evaluation then, provides widespread demonstrations of governmental impartiality and fairness in adjudicating competing interests. Professional Evaluation: Social Impact and Politica l Consequences provides the reader with considerable historical and contextual backgro und of the field. Chapter One, "Trends," outlines structural and conceptual changes in the f ield. Chapter Two examines "Evaluation as an Institution and Profession." In Chapter Three, Hous e describes the relationship between "Government and Evaluation." In Chapters Four and F ive, House provides a working example of evaluation in higher education in which he addresse s higher education accountability, strengths and weaknesses of program reviews, and public accou ntability. House then examines "Evaluation as a Discipline," the authority structure of discip lines, disciplinary change, and evaluation as a possible "transdiscipline." House continues by acknowledging the supportive rel ationship with the social sciences enjoyed by evaluation in the United States. He desc ribes how evaluation has had the institutional support, ideas, and research methods provided by th e U.S. social sciences and has incorporated their strongest, healthiest qualities as well. "U.S evaluation would not be nearly as effective and powerful as it is without its social science founda tion" (p.113). In Chapters Seven and Eight, House examines the ine scapable interaction between "Social Justice" and "Methodology." House, a leader in issu es of social justice within the field of evaluation, asserts that "No problem is more diffic ult and complex than that of how values are embedded within the research methodologies that we employ" (p.127). The importance of these issues is reinforced in Chapter Nine where House ex amines the difficulties in conducting "Evaluations in Multicultural Societies." House dis cusses the interplay between nationalism and ethnicity, minority rights and stakeholder evaluati on in terms of the liberal democracy in which we live. He identifies the liberal multicultural id eal as a balance between respect for different cultural identities and for the common bond that ma kes them a society (p.151). Finally, House provides the reader his interpretati on of "Professional Ethics" in evaluation. The most alarming ethical fallacies, according to H ouse, are those of ". . clientism (overwillingness to please the client), contractual ism (following the written contract absolutely, whatever the situation), managerialism (taking mana gers of programs as the sole beneficiaries of the evaluation), methodologicalism (in which follow ing acceptable research methods is believed to be sufficient for ethical performance), relativi sm (the collection of data from participants in the study and acceptance of everyone's opinions equally ) and pluralism/elitism ( presentation, in the study, of opinions and values of participants in so me unspecified way)" (p.168). In general, House takes issue with evaluations which fail to ad opt a democratic stance. He emphasizes that evaluations must solicit the "... opinions and crit eria of those not powerful and make sure that these are included as well" (p.170). House views th e inclusion of the interests of all as the evaluator's most fundamental ethical obligation. House provides the reader with a rich study of the evolution of the field and the governmental and economic structures which promise to shape its future. Evaluation itself is described as a powerful social force with great pot ential for influence. House warns that society before evaluation is not the same as society afterw ard. He contends that frequently many relevant interests are not represented in an evaluation. It is this, "... frequent disregard for the public interest," which leads House to conclude that a pro gram evaluation gone awry is worse than no evaluation at all (p.171). House introduces the book with a sort of executive summary of the major points which he


11 of 12 later explores in detail. In a field awash with opa que and flaccid prose, House consistently produces the most limpid exposition to be found. He illustrates many of the major points of his work by drawing on his broad experience. While some may argue that House overstates the importance of the social and political context in w hich evaluation takes place in his arguments, others, this reviewer among them, will applaud his ability as a practitioner and theorist to construct a rich and convincing intellectual histor y of the emerging profession of evaluation. References Austin, D. (1981). "The Development of Clinical Soc iology." Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 17, 347-350. House, E. R. (1993). Professional Evaluation: Social Impact and Politic al Consequences Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications.Shadish, W. R. Jr., T.D. Cook and L. C. Leviton. (1 991). Foundations of Program Evaluation Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publications.Copyright 1994 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesEPAA can be accessed either by visiting one of its seve ral archived forms or by subscribing to the LISTSERV known as EPAA at (To sub scribe, send an email letter to whose sole contents are SUB EPAA y our-name.) As articles are published by the Archives they are sent immediately to the EPAA subscribers and simultaneously archived in three forms. Articles ar e archived on EPAA as individual files under the name of the author and the Volume and article number. For e xample, the article by Stephen Kemmis in Volume 1, Number 1 of the Archives can be retrieved by sending an e-mail letter to LI and making the single line in the letter read GET KEMMIS V1N1 F=MAIL. For a table of contents of the entire ARCHIVES, send the following e-mail message to LIST INDEX EPAA F=MAIL, that is, send an e-mail letter and make its single line read INDEX EPAA F=MAIL. The World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is To receive a publication guide for submitting artic les, see the EPAA World Wide Web site or send an e-mail letter to and include the single l ine GET EPAA PUBGUIDE F=MAIL. It will be sent to you by return e-mail. General questions about ap propriateness of topics or particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, or reach him at College of Education, Arizona Sta te University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2411. (602-965-2692)Editorial Board John Andrew Coulson Alan Davis Mark E. Thomas F. Alison I. Arlen Gullickson Ernest R.


12 of 12Aimee Craig B. Howley u56e3@wvnvm.bitnet William Richard M. Jaeger Benjamin Thomas Dewayne Mary P. Les Susan Bobbitt Anne L. Hugh G. Richard C. Anthony G. Rud Dennis Jay Robert Robert T.


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