2015 AERA Division B
Curriculum Studies Lifetime Achievement Award
Introduction by Bill Ayers, University of Illinois, Chicago
It’s my distinct honor to introduce you to two dazzling scholars [Craig Kridel and Henry Giroux] and intellectuals—and now Curriculum Studies Lifetime Achievement Award Winners. I’ve known each of them for as long as I've been in the field, and I've admired and been deeply influenced by each.
Even so, I was entirely unprepared for the deluge of materials—including letters and testimonials, artifacts and dispatches, but beginning with luminous and staggeringly weighty CV’s—that fell onto my desk.
Both are giants, each an inspiration, not just to me, but to generations of students and scholars and engaged citizens. That inspiration flows in part, I suspect, from the example they provide to the rest of us of wildly successful careers that grew, not from following the rules or driving along the predictable and well-worn paths, but rather from jumping the barriers and heading off-road, pursuing their own passions and projects, their own ethical ambitions—their callings. The willingness of each to dance out on a limb, to challenge rather than to confirm what the powerful or the conventional have to say, their active and conscious resistance to orthodoxy or dogma or easy formulas of any kind marks them as engaged intellectuals and propulsive teachers.
And, yes, their profiles and contributions are dramatically different from one another, and, yes, the extraordinary presence of each in the field is evident in quite different registers, but such is Curriculum Studies—not an anomaly at all, but rather a phenomenon to be entirely expected and even embraced.
Still, with all their diversity and divergence both are consummate teachers, risk-takers, barrier-breakers, genre-benders. Both ground their work in moral and political commitments, and both journey quite intentionally toward democracy, justice, a world of more joy and more love for more people more of the time.
Craig Kridel is the E.S. Gambrell Professor of Educational Studies and Curator of the Museum of Education at the University of South Carolina. He does philosophical, historical, and biographical research; he's an artist and an archivist, a musician and a performer who plays the ancient serpent beautifully, and he’s described again and again by those who know him and his efforts as a renaissance scholar. With all that he is also entirely unassuming.
His brilliant treatment of the Eight Year Study, his insightful portrayals of major figures and books in curriculum history, his dazzling curatorial work at the McKissick Museum of Education, his collections, exhibits, and forums, and his landmark work on biographical research is now joined by a massive study of Black high schools during the progressive era, work that promises to reconstruct substantial aspects of curriculum history as it counters the “epistemic violence” inherent in the neglect and exclusion of African American experiences and philosophies.
Craig Kridel has a synoptic vision of Curriculum Studies that is generous and caring, generative, wise, and humane. His modesty and authentic humility is matched by and contrasts with his prodigious and singular contribution: the preservation and expansion of our collective memory. Without Craig Kridel the field would be anemic and impoverished; with him we have an expanded sense of our complexity and depth, our energy and our contradictions, a gathering confidence in our intellectual possibilities and our moral purposes.
“Researching Needs: A Career of Service”
Speech delivered by Craig Kridel
Thank you, Bill, your comments are much, much too generous.
And thank you, Ming Fang; actually, thank you for bringing such vitality to Division B. I have never seen such energy at a Division B business meeting. It is certainly a great time to be in Curriculum Studies, and I attribute so much of this to your hard work during these past years.
People like me do not end up in places like this. And what I mean is that I have devoted my career to service—not just as an archivist or curator (or, as is the case this evening, as photographer). My entire career has been devoted to service. My primary research activity—documentary editing, which I take quite seriously—is the ultimate form of service as is biography and writing biographical vignette. So for me to receive this award, someone had to do quite a bit of research into my career in order to prepare a nomination—a life of service can be important, but it’s not public and NEVER conspicuous. Thank you Bill Schubert, friend and teacher. You know me well enough to know how uncomfortable I am at this moment accepting this award. You also know me well enough to know how much this means to me.
While I could spend the rest of my allocated time thanking people, I would like to recognize just a few who I see in the audience. As a graduate student I was fortunate to be welcomed into a very interesting community of doctoral students. They weren’t quite certain what I was doing and, at times, neither was I, but they were always supportive, and such bonds are never broken. I see Janet Miller, Bob Bullough, and Alan Wieder; there are others who are not attending AERA—Paul Shaker, Michael Olivas, Nicolae Sacalis, Cynthia Hardy, Jim Finkelstein—all part of my family . . . . as well as another family member in the audience—Kris Kridel. Thank you all for many years of advice and guidance which I have very much appreciated.
I would like to recognize a few who are no longer with us: Paul Klohr and Maxine Greene, both meant so much to me and, in their own way, embraced a profound spirit of service to the field, and two others who I have never had the opportunity to mention publicly and who were also so important to me: Ted Brameld and Harold Taylor. My work is not derivative or defined by these individuals but certainly guided and inspired by them.
I wish to make one research-related point during my remaining time. I would maintain that a mantra of Division B has been that we research our academic interests—our passions. We tell our doctoral students and we tell one another that only those topics that elicit our strongest interests are the ones that lead to productive scholarship. And that is certainly true; however, perhaps there could be an addendum to the selection of research topics in curriculum studies. My projects never started off as interests. They quickly became lifelong research passions, but not originally. In fact, in 1985 I attended the Chicago AERA meeting and made some very disparagingly remarks about the Eight Year Study and, from the audience, I was criticized (rather brutally). And I remember thinking why does everyone talk about this project with such great reverence: they can’t spell the director’s name correctly and the descriptions are so elementary and, often, contradictory. “Someone needs to look into this and really study this project.” My academic work on the Eight Year Study didn’t start off as an interest—it was a NEED, a need in order to continue those conversations that I had been part of. It became a lifelong interest—as it did for those out in the audience—Bullough, Schubert, and others—as we continued our talks about various educational and cultural themes. But the topic began as a fundamental need in order to further and continue an important and ongoing discussion.
Similarly, with the Black High School Study; albeit, the Progressive Education Association did not deal with issues of African American education as much as we would have wished. But during those research presentations that I had attended, when the PEA was being criticized, I was always sitting there thinking “but what about William A. Robinson and the Black High School Study. Someone needs to look into that.” For years I was saying that. And I thought that, if another researcher doesn’t take on this topic, then, after wrapping up my Eight Year Study work, I will. And I did. And after over 150 interview sessions with over 250 former teachers and students between the ages of 80 and 102, it has become an interest—a passionate interest. But it didn’t start that way; it was a need.
So, please continue to follow your interests. But also consider putting aside one project that grows out of a conversation from here, or another curriculum conference, where, as a group, the discussion takes you to a stopping point where you say, or think, “this needs to be researched.” And take it upon yourself to do that. As is the case with any “community in the making,” there are always needs to be explored and explained as we forge common beliefs and visions. I think there will always be a place in curriculum studies to follow academic interests and to embark on undefined research adventures. But I urge you, especially at this point in the life of Division B, to take on that topic that has stopped the conversation of a group, when it is implied that “someone needs to look into this.”
I hope you know how much this award means to me. Thank you.
2015 AERA Curriculum Studies
Lifetime Achievement Award co-recipient Henry Giroux