Caution Reigns in Education, Sizer Says
A "new mood of skepticism" toward educational reform has replaced the "almost utopian" optimism of educators during the early 1960's, Ed School dean Theodore R. Sizer said last week.
In his annual report to President Pusey, Sizer, who is working this term under a Guggenheim Fellowship at the University of Bristol in England, said that today's overriding mood is "cautious, contentious, and unsure."
He suggested that gradual educational reform through the revision of public school curricula was not meeting "the demands of an increasingly revolutionary society."
"We begin to suspect that the materials of instruction are of secondary importance, that the conditions and settings for learning must be sound and humane before any formal curriculum can have meaning," Sizer explained.
"Educational reform, many of us now ruefully understand," he continued, "must be the handmaiden of general social and cultural reform, and often the latter should precede the former."
But because of sharply declining Federal and private support, the Ed School can no longer, as it did in the mid-sixties, simply add new programs to accommodate the shift in perspective. Federal aid, for example, which was nearly four-and-a-half million dollars in 1967, was down to $2.67 million last year, Sizer said.
Budget plans "assume the worst," he said, explaining that he expects the financial belt-tightening to continue at least through the next two years. On the basis of a "crisis 'base budget' for the immediate future,"-half of which would go to centralized services such as library operations and University overhead-the student-Faculty ratio, now one of the lowest of the Harvard Graduate Schools at 7-1, would likely increase. Furthermore, notes Sizer, there would be "little room for experiment and growth."
Yet even in "times of fiscal difficulty," he added, "we must not forget how to take risks: Universities that do are not proper stewards of their resources."
It was in this temper that the school's Committee on Academic Policy last Fall called for a "division of labor" among the nation's graduate schools of education, with the Harvard Ed School looking more extensively and specifically at social problems in education. The intention. Sizer said is to consolidate Harvard's current 21 separate degree programs into as few as five or six.
At least one group at the School, led by professor Fletcher Watson, a research associate in the Center for Studies in Education and Development, will still focus on curricular reform in the public schools, subject by subject. But the main thrust will now be in researching children's development, "individually and within society." Sizer said, and "how to intervene humanely"in their growth. Administrative posts and other positions of "leverage" in public education will increasingly be the ones the School hopes to fill.
Sizer also reported that as a result of intensive recruitment of non-white students-mainly blacks, chicanos, and American Indians-following the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, the minority group enrollment has risen from two per cent to 11 per cent. Largely at the instigation of the subsequently formed Black Student Union, a Center for Urban Studies was established in the Spring of 1969. The Center is still seeking permanent funding, but has already been instrumental in setting up a new inner-city teacher training site in Roxbury to join those in Cambridge and Newton.