In September 2006, Edmund W. Gordon convened a study group designed to build on his earlier work on supplementary education (Gordon, Bridglall, & Meroe, 2005). Gordon, among us, has the longest experience laboring to find approaches to education most likely to fulfill the goals that were assigned to schooling, particularly for the populations that keep not being served by schooling as it has evolved. In 2006, I had been working as guest editor on a special issue of the Teachers College Record (Varenne, 2007a). In that issue I brought together a group of young anthropologists who explored what a broad view of education might yield. I also published an attempt to ground in modern social and cultural theory Cremin’s insight that education, taken comprehensively, is a matter of ongoing “deliberation.” I invited Gordon to write some comments for the issue. I was honored when Gordon asked me to join him in directing the Study Group in Comprehensive Education that he was convening. In October 2007, we held the second meeting of this study group. At that meeting, the papers included in this collection were first presented and discussed.
In his 2005 volume, Gordon had focused on the range of programs designed by any number of non-school based institutions to help with academic achievement as measured by schools. In the special issue of the Teachers College Record, I explored the theoretical foundations for a theory of education that directly faced the reality that most personal transformations are the product of familial, communal, and indeed personal, work that mostly proceeds outside direct political controls. Ethnographic papers about people in various situations around the world illustrated what can be revealed about education when one refocuses attention away from schooling and its problematics.
The papers for this Volume Two explore what we know and, more importantly, what we need to investigate about education taken comprehensively. The papers are more than reviews of research. And they are not research reports. Rather, they are suggestions for further research on the basis of what we know we do not quite know about people educating themselves. All the papers are “opinionated”---though many opinions and points of view are represented. They are also “disciplined” both in the sense that they are all grounded in disciplines with long traditions of investigation into all these matters, and in the sense that they are systematic arguments for particular forms of future research. Finally, all the papers address questions of burning public concern, from intelligence to language use, from the measures of learning to the attempts to change health behavior---among many other matters. Together, the papers present the kind of interdisciplinary collaboration that does not seek an artificial common ground and erases the significant differences that give life to discipline. Instead the papers are an occasion when all readers are challenged by what others are saying–and thus educate themselves about future transformations in their own work.
The papers are grouped into two rough categories, though most do something of what the others focus on. The first set of papers address difficulties and possibilities as authors deeply grounded in their academic disciplines seek to face education more comprehensively than the disciplines have often done. Some of the authors hail from developmental or counseling psychology (Chatterji, Iyengar, Koh, Martinez); Others from anthropology (McDermott, Varenne) and philosophy (McClintock). They ask the fundamental questions. What is the relationship between intelligence, education and human effectiveness (Martinez)? What are the variables to consider when investigating the outcomes of all educational programs (Chatterji, Iyengar, & Koh)? Is ‘learning’ really such an outcome (McDermott)? What, after all, do we talk about when we talk about education, and from whom might we learn the possibilities and pitfalls of attempting definitions (McClintock)?
The second set of papers focuses on matters of direct public concerns with practical areas of everyday life. How, where, when, and with whom do we learn about health (Walkley)? technology (Kleifgen and Kinzer)? science (Becker, Echeverria, & Page)? the multiplicity of languages around us (Garcia)? art (Baldacchino)? Music and mathematics (Wolf)? The authors are all grounded in a variety of disciplines: anthropology (Walkley), sociology, sociolinguistics and linguistics (Garcia, Kleifgen, Kinzer), curriculum and organizational theory (Becker, Echeverria, Page, Wolf), art theory (Baldacchino), developmental and counseling psychology (Gordon, Vergara). What is most interesting here is that all the authors address matters of profound public concern about which the school, in any of its forms, cannot do very much. Consider for example all matters relating to health. Consider how all knowledge about, say, cancer, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, etc., evolves so fast that it can never be captured even by the most up-to-date textbook. As for science and math, we have now come to realize that they are discussed, taught, and learned, in many settings–including churches! Most significantly, what is taught there can more or less directly challenge, or support, what schools must teach. Religious people have long complained that schooling undercut their teachings. The time has now come for school people to complain about religion undercutting their teachings! Similarly, in matters of technology, art, popular culture, etc., it is clear that schooling will never quite capture what peers, journalists, publicists, etc., also teach. Researchers into educational processes, and even if they are primarily concerned with schools and similar institutions, must confront all this.