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Associate Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education from 1968 to 1976, Arthur Powell brings special knowledge to an intriguing question: Can a profession also be a valid liberal art? Harvard’s strenuous attempt to have it both ways is traced in this first serious history of a major school of education.
The Uncertain Profession reviews the specific choices and concerns that have faced professors and administrators at Harvard since education was first taught in 1891. This case study of one university’s experience is framed by larger issues: Is education a proper university subject? What educational roles are most important? Should the focus be on theory or on practice? How are education professionals developed? What are the central tasks education could reasonably perform in American society?
The university’s function in relation to the primary and secondary schools has never been clear cut, and dilemmas inherent in the attempt to professionalize schoolteaching are numerous and far-reaching. Arthur Powell’s engrossing account of Harvard’s struggle will help to clarify the issues and provoke new debate on the role of education in modern society.