The National Research Council’s (NRC) recent report, Scientific Research in Education, issues an important call for increased scientific rigor within educational research. There is more at stake in the question of how to achieve good, scientific educational research than just science and how it can best be done in a community of educational researchers, however. The meaning and aims of education itself are at issue. I set out here to delineate the implicit conception of education underlying the NRC report, namely education as intervention. I will show how the committee conceives education as an instrumental intervention for solving social problems and achieving specific predetermined goals. Importantly, this understanding of education allows certain approaches to scientific research to rise to the top as most trustworthy and valuable. Specific methodological approaches to studying education, particularly causal analysis by random experiment, logically follow as recommendations for examining education as intervention. Suggesting that educationists may not agree on this premise, I draw attention to one recently emphasized alternative, the postmodern notion of education as bildung. I will show how education as bildung is incompatible with NRC proposals for scientifically studying education. This alternative and the lack of consensus on the best conception of education calls into doubt the generalizability and legitimacy of NRC supported research.
Philosophical Studies in Education
Ohio Valley Philosophy of Education Society
McGough, Sarah M. The National Research Council Recommendations: Education as Intervention? Philosophical Studies in Education, 36 (2005). pp 135-145.