Photo Friday: “Transforming These Empty Piles of Stone” at the Office of Education

Ernest L. Boyer uses a pointer to explain a chart about new educational strategies for the federal government.

Ernest L. Boyer at a press conference discussing new educational strategies from the federal government. – BCA

In 1977, Ernie Boyer made the transition from the chancellorship of the State University of New York to the U.S. Office of Education in Washington, D.C., where he served for two years as Commissioner of Education under President Jimmy Carter.

Ever an innovative thinker, Boyer brought a number of changes and new priorities to the “OE,” as the Office of Education was often called by its employees. Today’s Photo Friday highlights some of those changes.

Early in his time at OE, Boyer delivered a talk titled “The United States Office of Education: Reflections and Reaffirmation.” The talk, given during American Education Week in November 1977, traced the growth and development of the OE throughout American history and articulated some key changes for the future.

Here’s a taste of Boyer’s speech:

The United States Office of Education has, [throughout its history], become one of the most diversified, most complicated, and most consequential institutions in this Nation. And every day those of you assembled here come to work at something called “OE,” transforming these empty piles of stone into a living institution. . . .

But here I must strike a more somber note. For it is quite clear to me that the Office of Education — as an institution — also faces problems. Since arriving here I’ve met confusion about the mission of the office. I sensed that many of our colleagues feel trapped in bureaucratic boxes. I’ve also sensed that all too often talents are not fully used. Good ideas go unnoticed, or worse still — they are suppressed. Most seriously, perhaps, we don’t have effective ways to communicate with one another. And we do not develop fully the professional abilities of our staff.

These symptoms are not uncommon to bureaucracies. They are found everywhere. But while OE has its share of problems it has something else as well. We have here a high aspiration for our agency, a reservoir of talent, [and] an eagerness to work for self-improvement, and these are precious assets which also give us special strength.

To read Boyer’s complete address, click here.


Scholarship Spotlight: Themed Issue of Christian Higher Education Journal on Ernest L. Boyer

Editor’s Note: This “Scholarship Spotlight” is the first of what we hope will become a regular or semi-regular series of posts on the site. The goal with these posts is to highlight scholarly projects that utilize (in part or fully) the resources of the Boyer Center Archives, particularly the digital collection. Stay tuned for future entries in this series!

Christian Higher Education journal

Christian Higher Education journal

Creative Calls for Coherence: Ernest L. Boyer and Christian Higher Education” was the theme for a special 2014 issue of Christian Higher Education, a peer-reviewed scholarly journal focused on issues and problems in contemporary Christian higher education. Published by Taylor & Francis, the issue is available online for free.

Guest edited by Taylor University scholar Todd C. Ream, the special issue explores Boyer’s considerable influence on education, especially Christian higher education.

The issue focuses on Boyer’s “creative call for coherence.” As explained in a preview for the issue:

[Boyer’s creative call for coherence], or his compulsion to draw together the frayed intellectual and/or social threads defining our society, offers a powerful means of assessing his significant impact on education. Although anecdotal evidence indicates Boyer’s ideas influenced a number of Christian colleges and universities, no systematic efforts come to terms with this influence.  This theme issue attempts to provide some basic frameworks for further research efforts while also looking at the impact Boyer’s Christian college experiences had upon him.

The first half of this issue seeks to introduce Boyer’s life, his faith, and the influence of Christian higher education on him. The second half of this issue is topical in nature and explores Boyer’s influence on some critical dimensions of the lives of Christian colleges and universities.

In his opening article, Ream highlights the work of the Boyer Center Archives in preserving and making accessible Boyer’s intellectual legacy:

Although Boyer passed away almost 20 years ago, his work continues to receive considerable interest absent a biography of him in any form. Most of Boyer’s publicly accessible works are found in reports published by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For example, in Creating Campus Community: In Search of Ernest Boyer’s Legacy (Jossey-Bass, 2002), William M. McDonald and associates reviewed the impact Boyer’s reports had on how educators now design both curricular and cocurricular learning communities. In a comparable sense, John Braxton, William Luckey, and Patricia Helland’s Institutionalizing a Broader View of Scholarship Through Boyer’s Four Domains (Jossey-Bass, 2002) considers the impact of the ideas Boyer offered in Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1990).

However, until recently a considerable number of Boyer’s ideas remained inaccessible to the general public. Initially, Boyer’s unpublished papers were housed in Princeton, New Jersey, under the care of the Carnegie Foundation. In the late 1990s, those materials (primarily comprised of large numbers of speeches and letters) were transferred to Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Over the last several years, officials at Messiah have labored to make those items available to the public via a digitized archive system.

The completion of this process proves to be of considerable benefit to a number of groups, with one such group being scholars concerned with the well-being of Christian higher education.

Several articles in the issue, including Taylor University historian Drew Moser’s “Ernest L. Boyer and the American Christian College: Historical Considerations,” draw extensively on material from the archives.

The full table of contents for the issue includes:

  • Todd C. Ream, “Creative Calls for Coherence: Ernest L. Boyer and Christian Higher Education”
  • Paul S. Boyer, “Ernest L. Boyer’s Career in the Context of Post-World War II American Education”
  • Douglas Jacobsen & Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen, “The Religious Roots of Ernest L. Boyer’s Educational Vision: A Theology of Public Pietism”
  • Drew Moser, “Ernest L. Boyer and the American Christian College: Historical Considerations”
  • Cynthia A. Wells, “Renewing Our Shared Purpose: Considering Ernest L. Boyer’s General Education Vision for Christian Colleges and Universities”
  • C. Skip Trudeau & Timothy W. Herrmann, “Ernest L. Boyer, the Christian College, and the Uneasy Tension between the Curriculum and the Cocurriculum”
  • David I. Smith, Joonyong Um, & Claudia D. Beversluis, “The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in a Christian Context”

The Life of Martin Luther King: An Educational Imperative

Martin Luther King, Jr. acknowledging the crowd gathered in Washington, D.C.

Today we Americans observe a federal holiday in remembrance of one of the greatest forces for peace and justice that ever lived.  Yes, for a lot of people the best thing about today is having a day off work or school.  I won’t deny that is a nice perk.  I mean, who doesn’t love a three-day weekend? No one.  However, amongst the extra errands you may be running to get a head start on the work week, or the extra relaxing you may be enjoying to recuperate from the hectic weekend, we should all carve out a few minutes of our day to remember the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.  To remember how he lived so fearlessly for a cause of equality which he pursued tirelessly.  To remember the words he spoke so eloquently.  To remember that the echoes of his words still ring today, and that some are hearing his words for the first time.

In 1988, Ernest Boyer spoke at a conference sponsored by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday Commission in Washington, D.C.  The conference was organized to discuss meaningful ways to infuse the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. in school curriculums across the nation. Boyer delivered a speech entitled “The Life of Martin Luther King: An Educational Imperative.”

To Boyer, incorporating the memory of Martin Luther King into the nation’s classrooms was a crucial necessity – and served as a way to expose students to the civil rights movement in the United States, the understanding and power of nonviolence, and reverence for the written and spoken word.  Not doing so would mean Martin Luther King, Jr. Day would “be a time when we remember only the symbols, not the substance of his work.”

Boyer’s speech outlined three specific reasons why school curriculums should include a study on Martin Luther King, Jr.:

1.) A study of Dr. King’s life, work, and legacy introduce students to the 20th century freedom movement in the United States.

2.) Dr. King’s legacy lives on today through the words he spoke and penned.  He has left the world a multitude of literary devices within his speeches and letters that teachers should tap into and incorporate in lessons.  Boyer never stopped triumphing the centrality of language, and for him, Dr. King’s lasting words can teach students that “language is a sacred trust.”

3.) Students that understand Dr. King learn that what you learn in life influences how you live.  Education has the power to teach morality. Education has the power to inspire service.  Education has the power to fuel mission.  The life of Martin Luther King, Jr., better than most, highlights these human imperatives.

In short, Boyer said it quite simply with one sentence in his speech: “No student in America’s schools can be considered well educated if he or she does not learn about this nation’s long and agonizing crusade for civil rights…”

Photo courtesy of The Seattle Times gallery on Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.