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[T]he future of social foundations of education is already intertwined with cultural studies in education. (Steve Tozer, 2001, p. 304)
This essay situates Cultural Studies in Education (CSE) as "in-the-making" (Ockman, 2000). Its tale is of contradictory tendencies at one of the primary sites where CSE is being articulated, educational foundations. I focus, hence, not so much on what is CSE as where is CSE (Schwarz, 1994). (1)
To explore the "fit" of cultural studies with the organization and culture of schools of education, I look at what cultural studies is doing in terms of processes of making and unmaking via a case study of a programmatic effort to rethink educational foundations. (2) My site is Ohio State University. My interest is in contradictory processes of incorporation and exclusion, affirmation of the new accompanied by elaboration of tradition, and normalizing as well as oppositional desires. The final section probes the resources CSE offers for generating a better location for educational foundations in current debates and intellectual currents, particularly claims to a "post-foundational" era.
Cultural Studies in Schools of Education:
A Case Study
Wright (1997, 2000, 2004) delineates the convergences and divergences between cultural studies and cultural studies in education in terms of social justice, power relations, national and racial identifications and identities, social difference and diversity, and popular culture. While Wright is most useful in situating CSE in relation to Cultural Studies across the university, my focus is on what happens at the intersection of cultural studies and colleges or schools or departments of education. To this end, I draw on the files of the quite cantankerous history of efforts to rethink foundational studies in education at Ohio State University. I'll begin that history backwards, with the rather drawn out approval at the University level.
1998, University Level Approval: The CSE program was approved in early 1998 after a protracted struggle based on concern that a "subspecialization" in CSE would preempt any program that might develop in arts and sciences. (3) Key in the approval process was a letter from Bob Donmoyer, Director of the School of Educational Policy and Leadership, to the Office of Academic Affairs. Donmoyer argued that as "education is a public policy field rather than an academic discipline," educating people who take on very different sorts of jobs as is typical of the professional schools, co-existence should be no problem. The Donmoyer letter went on to use Giroux to delineate defining properties of CSE. These included an argument for interdisciplinarity and media studies in the training of teachers as well as a rejection of the
professionalization of educators and the alienating and often elitist discourse of professionalism and sanitized expertise. Instead [CSE] argues for educators who self-consciously produce knowledge and power-related discourse that must be examined in relation to both the conditions of their construction and their social effect. (Giroux, 1997, pp. 236-237)
As well, the Donmoyer letter noted the long-term uses in critical educational studies of the Birmingham Center's work, e.g., Paul Willis, Angela McRobbie, and others. It also questioned traditional assumptions about whose claims get privileged as origin and turf by using Handel Wright's (1997) argument that the history of cultural studies could as well be positioned in adult education, cultural centers and folk schools as Birmingham. Several sites of a cultural studies approach to education were listed as well as journals and book series as a way to "situate our institution in the vanguard of an emerging movement within the education field." (4)
1990-1995, The Canon Wars in Education: To get to this place of University approval was no small feat. Beginning in 1990, spurred by various administrative restructuring initiatives and incentives at the University level, cost efficiencies and shifts in intellectual currents, efforts began to rethink foundations by combining faculty across several areas. On one side was the Humanistic Foundations program with its disciplinary matrix of philosophy and history. As its name indicates, in spite of a late 1980s addition of comparative studies of education, its historical alignment for several decades had been with the humanities as opposed to a more social science perspective. On the other side was a mix of curriculum and instruction, critical studies of technology and media, gender and education, qualitative research and multiculturalism. Both sides went round after round with one another in the attempt to create an expanded sense of foundational studies within a context of educational leadership.
Inclusion/exclusion moves were much in evidence. In an early 1990s memo to the Dean on restructuring, those of us on the side of the "mix" suggested renaming our Department from Educational Policy and Leadership to the Department of Cultural and Policy Studies. Naming our program Cultural Foundations, after deciding that Critical Studies was not inclusive enough given personnel involved, we came to "cultural studies" only after communication with Humanistic Foundations broke down around who owned the term "foundations."
Our move from Critical Studies to Cultural Foundations to, finally, Cultural Studies, is much about the academic micropolitics of "what's in a name." The struggle between the discipline oriented foundational studies program at OSU and the assemblage of cross-disciplinary fields and programs resulted in a rather protracted set of hearings as part of the College's general restructuring. Toward the end of that five-year struggle, in a May, 1995 presentation to the College Curriculum Committee, I made the following statement:
The shifting curricular terrain and identity of this thing called "foundations" is part of the culture wars going on across universities regarding the traditional canon and the contest for center, as formerly marginalized perspectives vie for legitimacy. The struggle over the canon is a struggle between margins and centers, some "others" against a master narrative that is now being threatened. The contest over the term "foundations" is at the center of the canon wars in education; we would not expect this to NOT be a high affect issue. Our argument is that fear of losing centrality is at the root of the affect around the "foundations" issue. As the culture wars have played out in other areas, maintaining the status quo under the guise of some "sensible" compromise against the unworthy upstarts is a way of holding on. The suggestion of Humanistic Foundations that if they don't own the term, no one does, we see as a last ditch effort to hang on to intellectual and resource hegemony, a kind of voluntary giving up of the term on the part of scholars whose centrality is now being threatened.
This became known as my "tank girl" (5) speech and resulted in the College Curriculum Committee deciding that neither program area was allowed to use the term foundations in its title. (6) Issues of viability, program duplication and course redundancy as well as what might best serve the long-term interests of the College went out the window; what mattered was "judicious expansion and strengthening" on the basis of the "traditional collective's" criteria (Reagan, 1990, p. 11). And so we ended up with two foundational studies areas in our School, one called Cultural Studies in …