Council for Social Foundations of Education
Education is a social process.  
Education is growth.   
Education is, not a preparation for life;   
education is life itself.   

-John Dewey  
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Introduction    Matrix     I     II     III     IV     V     VI     VII     VIII  

Standard I
Defining Foundations of Education

Foundations of Education refers to a broadly-conceived field of educational study that derives its character and methods from a number of academic disciplines, combinations of disciplines, and area studies, including: history, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, religion, political science, economics, psychology, cultural studies, gender studies, comparative and international education, educational studies, and educational policy studies. As distinct from Psychological Foundations of Education, which rely on the behavioral sciences, these Standards address the Social Foundations of Education, which rely heavily on the disciplines and methodologies of the humanities, particularly history and philosophy, and the social scienes, such as sociology and political science. The purpose of foundations study is to bring these disciplinary resources to bear in developing interpretive, normative, and critical perspectives on education, both inside and outside of schools. The interpretive perspectives use concepts and theories developed within the humanities and the social sciences to assist students in examining, understanding, and explaining education within different contexts. Foundational studies promote analysis of the intent, meaning, and effects of educational institutions, including schools. Such studies attend particularly to the diverse contexts within which educational phenomena occur, and how interpretation can vary with different historical, philosophical, and cultural perspectives. The normative perspectives assist students in examining and explaining education in light of value orientations. Foundational studies promote understanding of normative and ethical behavior in educational development and recognition of the inevitable presence of normative influences in educational thought and practice. Foundational studies probe the nature of assumptions about education and schooling. They examine the relation of policy analysis to values and the extent to which educational policymaking reflects values. Finally, they encourage students to develop their own value positions regarding education on the basis of critical study and their own reflections. The critical perspectives employ normative interpretations to assist students to develop inquiry skills, to question educational assumptions and arrangements, and to identify contradictions and inconsistencies among social and educational values, policies, and practices. In particular, the critical perspectives engage students in employing democratic values to assess educational beliefs, policies, and practices in light of their origins, influences, and consequences. Particular disciplinary studies in, e.g., the history, philosophy, or sociology of education shall be considered as study in the Foundations of Education provided the above perspectives are addressed and promoted. The objective of such study is to sharpen students’ abilities to examine, understand, and explain educational proposals, arrangements, and practices and to develop a disciplined sense of policy-oriented educational responsibility. Such study develops an awareness of education and schooling in light of their complex relations to the environing culture.

Study in Foundations of Education shall NOT be equated with “Introduction to Education” coursework unless such study clearly addresses the three perspectives indicated in this Standard and is taught by individuals specifically trained in Foundations of Education.

Discussion of Standard I

Foundations of Education study employs a number of different disciplinary perspectives to discern how schools equip young people to assume adult positions in American society. The aim of such study is not simply to describe accurately the connection between the internal organization of schools and their socializing mission. Foundations also refers to a tradition of academic inquiry that seeks to expose and make explicit the relationship between educational methods and values. Foundational inquiry compares words to deeds and intentions to consequences. In so doing it helps judge whether an action is warranted, that is, whether it is supported by reason and evidence. A foundational approach to the study of education assesses the logical connections between the educational goals we select and the means we employ to achieve them. Foundational study, therefore, contains a prescriptive as well as a descriptive dimension: to consider in tandem what schools are doing and what they ought to be doing. Such study focuses on the ways schools carry out their mission of preparing individuals to occupy productive roles in our society. A common theme is discernment of educational aims that are implied in current school practices as well as in recommendations for modifying such practices. Foundational study serves to gradually deepen the ability of prospective and veteran teachers to answer the overarching question: Why do American schools operate the way they do? From its origin in the 1930s, Foundations of Education has been subjected to a variety of interpretations and approaches. There are those who have promoted the idea that Foundations of Education should be assembled around educational issues, using the issues as curriculum-selecting and curriculum-organizing principles. Some have insisted that interdisciplinary and generalist concerns should supersede the commitments of Foundations of Education scholars to specific disciplines. Others have held to the priority of close disciplinary ties for Foundations of Education scholars. Some have promoted the desirability of curriculum liaisons between Foundations of Education scholars and teacher educators in other fields, for example, administration, counseling and guidance, urban education, and curriculum and instruction. Still others have argued for the establishment of working ties between Foundations of Education scholars and community groups and for involvement in areas of concern that go beyond the school enterprise. At the present time there are distinguished advocates for all of these approaches. The Council of Learned Societies in Education takes the official position of supporting a diversity of Foundations of Education arrangements in relation to academic, teacher-education, and community groups. This position is based on the belief that an overarching and profoundly important academic and professional purpose unifies persons who identify with the various approaches to Foundations of Education, namely, the development of interpretive, normative, and critical perspectives on education, including non-schooling enterprises. There is, moreover, a shared contemporaneous orientation among Foundations of Education scholars resulting in a deep concern for the cultural and educational consequences of present circumstances, events, and conditions. In responding to the social issues and crises of the times, Foundations of Education scholars maintain a professional and intellectual tradition which was initiated in the 1930s.

A common focus of attention on education differentiates Foundations of Education scholars from academicians in the liberal arts and sciences. Although the nature of Foundations of Education presupposes collaboration with scholars in the liberal arts and sciences, sound programs require faculty who are qualified as Foundations of Education scholars.