My Response to the Provost’s Proposal to Create a School of Education
By Steven Jay Gross, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy
Studies, College of Education
I am writing in response to the Provost’s proposal. I am deeply concerned about changing from a college of education to a school of education and even more perplexed at the idea of ending our three departments in favor of having one.
First I must say that the proposed change from our College of Education to a School of Education gives me pause. It may mean little to the larger world, but words do matter and I believe that here at Temple the change will signify a diminished stature and that will have ramifications not only for us but more importantly for our students. What’s more, I wonder how it is that our status as a college needs to end now. Clearly these are challenging times but we’ve been a college since 1919. The College was created in the year that the nation faced the great influenza pandemic, ten years later came the stock market crash and the start of the Great Depression. We survived all of that and everything coming afterwards including World War II. There were times when Temple could not meet its payroll and yet the College of Education carried on. I can’t help but wonder what it is about the current challenge that makes things so much worse. Of course, we are not asked to go out of existence, but make no mistake, when we are no longer a college, something important will be lost and once gone, it will not come back.
But what troubles me even more than the loss of our status as a college is the loss of our three departments. These are our homes, where we organize our disciplines. Some argue that departments behave as silos, dividing people just when we need to work more closely together. Let’s examine this critique against the recent past.
Here are four pretty clear examples of our ability to work across departmental lines:
● The success of the Ph.D. program was due to fine leadership and an interdepartmental spirit of working for the common good of our students.
● The Urban Education program was able to add two secondary appointments with colleagues from the CITE department.
● Larry Kraft and his committee have done wonderful work in helping us to globalize our College community.
● Our teacher education program was transformed in order to respond to significant changes in state regulations. This was accomplished through the hard work and cooperation of every department in the College.
These are just four examples of many showing our current ability to work together. In my opinion, there really are no silos to break down. We come together as a community because that is who we are and because the College has reached a point of productive development. We can thank the faculty, staff, department chairs, and the Dean and his office for our success. This is the highest degree of interdepartmental cooperation I have seen in my thirteen years at Temple. Our departments do important work and we have a proven track record of working beyond our departments every time the need arises. It seems to me that eliminating our three departments would add no new strengths and would damage our ability to innovate, thereby weakening our position at a critical time.
It may seem that this is simply a message from a colleague who is afraid of change but nothing could be further from the truth. I have spent my career either studying deep innovation in education or helping to lead such efforts. In the end, initiating and sustaining lasting change takes time and usually combines perceived needs from all levels of an organization. It rarely works as a top-down, or a purely bottom-up process and it requires a shared sense of need. At this time I see little need to change our status from college to school and I see even less advantage to eliminating our three departments. •