JITE v32n3 - At Issue - The End of Technology Education: A Response to Theodore Lewis and Karen F. Zuga

Volume 32, Number 3
Spring 1995

FROM THE EDITOR: This "At Issue" includes two essays. In the first essay, Stephen Petrina responds to previous "At Issue" essays by Theodore Lewis and Karen Zuga . Petrina expresses his concerns about the points made in their essays and extends the discussion by arguing for a critical examination of the outcomes of technology education. In the second essay, Charles Linnell argues for more curricular emphasis on issues related to the appropriateness of technologies for different societies and cultures. Responses to these or previous "At Issue" essays are encouraged. Instructions for authors are provided in the "Bits & Pieces" section of each issue of the Journal.

The End of Technology Education: A Response to Theodore Lewis and Karen F. Zuga

Stephen Petrina
North Carolina State University

Revisiting the Dialogue

This essay was inspired by the dialogue begun by Theodore Lewis' ( 1994 ) "Limits on Change to Technology Education Curriculum" and the response by Karen Zuga, "Whose Authenticity?" ( 1994 ). Based on a scholarly argument, Dr. Lewis made the claim that the subject of technology education is, and ought to remain, "industrial technology" ( p. 21 ). This claim ought to be seriously considered, he argued, for the pragmatic reason of recognizing the limits of a profession of post-industrial arts teachers and its history. Acknowledging "industrial" technology as the limit of a profession of post-industrial arts educators' grasp, said Lewis, would be a move toward "authenticity" ( p. 22 ). It is important to note that for Lewis to associate authenticity with industrial technology, he had to claim a normative identity for technology educators as constructed from his reading of the contemporary landscape and the historical record.

Dr. Zuga responded with a counter reading of the historical record and the contentious question "Whose authenticity?" ( p. 79 ). Zuga suggested that by raising this question in an historical context of gender, "authentic" alternatives to "industrial" technology come into focus. For example, through the work of women in elementary school curriculum, industrial education during the early decades of this century included studies of food and textile technologies. Women selected different technologies than men to get different points across in industrial education. Zuga contended that analysis of the past in its segmented parts reveals identities maligned with "industrial" technology. Any claim to authenticity, as Zuga argued, has to come to terms with this and other identities segregated and marginalized by the profession ( Petrina & Volk, in press ).

(Re)visioning the Dialogue

This essay is far from a "Rest In Peace" eulogy for technology education. It is, in fact, aligned with recent philosophic inquiries into the ends of education and knowledge ( Fuller, 1993 ; Kulp, 1992 ). My intentions are twofold: (1) to situate a dialogue within a context of axiology and epistemology; and (2) to encourage studies in class, gender, labor, and race (i.e., cultural politics and values) in technology education narrowly, and industrial education broadly. Lewis was right to move the dialogue to grounds of "authenticity," and Zuga was apt to ask "Whose authenticity?" Now I ask, whose authenticity toward what (and whose) end?

Axiology entails inquiry into ends, and in the Deweyan sense, ends are ends-in-view or values. Epistemology deals with means--knowledge and methods. The ends and means of knowledge are dialectically related. Based on this context, the important questions become: Toward what end are we committing technology education? Whose end and why? What means (i.e., knowledge and technologies) have we chosen to move us in that direction? Should we be heading in that direction? What is and what ought to be the nature of knowledge in technology education? How should this knowledge be organized, what ought to be selected for teaching, and for what end?

Knowledge and the 'End" of Technology Education

As Lewis suggested, knowledge in technology education is "practical" in nature ( Lewis, 1991, 1993, 1994 ). Contending approaches for organizing and selecting practical knowledge range from the disciplinary to the contextual ( Petrina, 1993 ). This knowledge has been and remains a disciplinary focus on technical means or process, skill, system, and technique ( DeVore, 1968 ; Towers, Lux, & Ray, 1966 ). Generally, teacher educators advocate a selection of knowledge from finely divided taxonomies of technical means and the teaching of the practical knowledge of using the industrial machines, techniques, and tools. This narrow organization of practical knowledge and uncritical selection from its pool of industrial technologies--the means--is commensurate with the end in view.

The end of technology education with widest public appeal is assimilation in the use of high technologies for a competitive economy, or economic competition. This end aligned technology education with conservative and corporate rhetoric of the 1980s. Technological literacy as an end is nebulous by design; its referent being whatever is taught. Each had consequences of legitimating all and any curriculum means (i.e., disciplines, high-tech equipment, modules, technical methods) while maintaining authenticity to "industrial" technology. Each mutually reinforces the other and cannot be dismissed as impotent.

Legitimizing discourse on economic competition and technological literacy detracted from the realities of what is being selected and taught in the technology education classrooms and what is at stake. While ends and means are beginning to come under critical examination (e.g., Hultgren, 1992 ; Lewis & Gagel, 1992 ; O'Riley & Gaskell, in press ), they have not been connected through scholarly discourse.

In Historical Context of Class, Gender, Labor, and Race

With the evidence still out on ownership, but not influence, industrial education was a curriculum negotiated into the schools for , and continued to be populated by , the working class. The mobility and status of working class curriculum in the schools reflected mobility and status of the working class outside the schools. With few exceptions, industrial educators during the 1900s and 1910s designed their curriculum with biases of class, gender, and race and maintained it in forms of manual training and vocational education ( Cohen, 1968 ; Finkelstein, 1991 ). Agricultural and industrial labor was for boys and taught by men; domestic labor was for girls and taught by women. By the 1920s, junior high working class boys were, by and large, tracked into industrial arts and girls into home economics, with curricular ends that were pre-vocational.

Black children were placed in circumstances similar to working class whites, with the added burden of segregation. After Reconstruction in the South, the Hampton-Tuskegee model advocated by Booker T. Washington was used for the industrial education of junior and senior high school students ( Anderson, 1982 ). In short, the Hampton-Tuskegee model focused on manual labor with tools and machines, its dignity, practical knowledge, and proper work attitudes. Whites generally approved the model's ideological function and accepted it as appropriate for "Negro" education. Until the 1960s there were separate and unequal black and white systems of industrial education operating within a separate and unequal social structure in the U.S ( Anderson, 1982 ). The "end" of black and white industrial education was a reliable laboring class as transitional to full democratic participation.

Connected to its Means, But for Whom

How should practical knowledge be organized and what ought to be selected to serve working class ends? This was the question debated by Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois, and John Dewey and David Snedden, during the first two decades of this century. About the same time, home economists Ellen Richards and Marion Talbot voiced disagreements over industrial education for women. But for the most part during the twentieth century, industrial educators, in policy and practice, committed to ideologies of commercialism, materialism, and scientism and aligned their points of view--their knowledge--with businessmen and industrialists. Commitments and ends were aligned with commercial and material values.

Neither Washington nor DuBois was a winner in their debate over the "end" of the industrial education of Negroes at the turn of this century. The Hampton-Tuskegee model failed to empower black students with the political theory to negotiate labor relations and prejudices. The liberal arts model failed to empower students to use sociological theory to challenge everyday problems of labor and technology. Reflecting on a forty year period of industrial education, DuBois ( 1932 ) reasoned during the Depression that practical knowledge and the liberal arts would be empowering when united toward a cultural end. Practical knowledge without social theory was naive; theoretical knowledge removed from everyday problems was sterile. As Arnold Hill, DuBois' contemporary, said of industrial educators, "[t]hey will have to expose students to social practice as well as social theory" ( 1935, p. 31 ). Without deliberate linking of social practice and theory, education failed to serve working class Americans, both black and white.

Similar conclusions were reached about the organization and end of practical knowledge in home economics. During deliberations at the turn of the century, Ellen Richards' view that home economics ought to help improve (i.e., make scientific) the practical tasks and technologies of the home dominated the field ( Brown, 1985, p. 367 ). Home economics for girls eventually became like industrial arts for the boys: a finely divided taxonomy in manipulating tools, materials, and techniques with a pre-vocational end. As one home economist concluded during the Depression, ignoring "sociology, economics, and psychology … doesn't seem to be the right way out of the difficulty when the things with which they deal are of such great importance" ( Bane, 1933, p. 380 ).

Of course, John Dewey's argument against the narrowly organized means of industrial education that were aligned with the end of an "industrial regime" is legendary ( Dewey, 1915 ; Wirth, 1972 ). As he said, differences between him and advocates of practical knowledge organized on manipulating tools, machines, and techniques were political and social. Dewey understood well that knowledge was not neutral and there were real differences in partisanship toward its ends--in values.

In the Deweyan argument for industrial education, technologies would be critically selected for their "disclosive power" ( Blacker, 1994, p. 309 ). Technologies were to be selected to disclose insights into contexts, which were dialectically linked to understanding technology and oneself. They were not automatically overlooked for their craft, factory, farm, or kitchen context ( Blacker, 1993, 1994 ). In this case, the non-industrial technologies would have tremendous disclosive power to provide insight into the conditions of farm or home life and ecology and gender in society. For Dewey, industrial education entailed the critical selection of practical knowledge, via disclosive technologies, contextually organized for the end of "liberalizing" the minds of working class children. To dismiss technologies because they do not fall into someone's industrial or high-tech taxonomy is to misunderstand the nature of technology and the end of general education.

Envisioning the Dialogue

Given its premises, Lewis' conclusion that there is something authentic about our relationship with industrial technology legitimates a gender-biased and historically entrenched curriculum and practice. His conclusion supports familiar views ( Swanson, 1983 ) held by industrial educators over the past century. However well argued, Lewis' claim loses its discursive power when set against history (as Zuga countered) and axiology, as I argued.

A hard lesson to be learned is that the way we organize practical knowledge, the technologies we select to teach and our relationship to these technologies, are academic and political matters. It matters that we organize practical knowledge in broad cultural contexts and critically select technologies, that may or may not be "industrial," for their power to disclose insights into aesthetic, cultural, and social life. Everyday technologies of the factory, farm, and home can be used to disclose realities of class, gender, race, and labor. Gradually through junior high school and beyond, our relationship to technologies can become critical, interpretive, and weary of oppressive characteristics. These would be turns from our past and an ideology of technological progress.

The "end" of technology education should be publicly renegotiated and realigned with a vision of ecology, freedom, justice, and labor for a better world. Realignment would entail a turn toward our past and stark realities of social progress. There was an historical identity forged between the working class and technology education. Ought this have something to do with constructing authenticity, limits, and vision?


Petrina is Assistant Professor, Department of Occupational Education, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina.


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Reference Citation: Petrina, S. (1995). The end of technology education: A response to Theodore Lewis and Karen F. Zuga. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education , 32(3), 75-82.