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March 1, 1993
Vol. 50
No. 6

Celebrating 50 Years of Leadership in Education

International education. Alternative schooling. The effects of technology on education.
If those sound very much like themes for Educational Leadership, it's because they are: the themes announced for Educational Leadership in 1967–68, the Association's 25th anniversary year.
ASCD has reached 50 now, and it's tempting to thumb through old copies of the journal to see how little has changed in schools. Educators of the '90s are not the first to grapple with issues like supervisory visits (January 1945), creative teaching (December 1952), computer uses in education (April 1966), and national policy and the curriculum (November 1976).
Yet five decades have brought tremendous changes to the world in which we educate. ASCD and its members have seen three major wars, 11 U. S. presidents, and the addition of two states. We have gone from the hysteria of McCarthyism to the disintegration of the Soviet Union. American students once studied the colorful customs and holidays of their counterparts around the world; now, educators acknowledge a pressing need for global education going beyond such superficial lessons.
What have the last five decades meant specifically for ASCD? Educational Leadershipinvited a variety of longtime members and leaders to share their personal recollections about the Association: from its post-Depression beginnings through the turbulent '60s to its position in the international arena as a new century approaches.
Demographics, political leaders, and national boundaries may have changed greatly since 1943, but these authors reflect the fact that many of ASCD's earliest ideals remain constant. ASCD continues to redefine its basic values in language and actions that answer the challenges of the times. ASCD's founders might not have imagined the scope of ASCD's achievements over the last five decades, but the following authors clearly describe for us the solid foundation on which ASCD faces the next 50 years.

Asking “Why?”

When ASCD was formed in 1943, nothing seemed to be working properly. We were at war, and the Great Depression was still on our minds. It was a time to be skeptical, a time to ask why. Those who formed ASCD shared these feelings, and for 20 years after its founding the group examined the purposes of education, matching what was apparent with what was desired. ASCD members eagerly grasped every new idea and called on what they thought was the best knowledge available in child development, early learning theory, and individual and social psychology.
In particular, they attended to the ideas of Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist who was a refugee from Hitler's Germany. He found U.S. classrooms to be little dictatorships, which he thought threatened democracy. His student, Ronald Lippitt, demonstrated among elementary children the virtues of a new concept: a democratic classroom atmosphere.
In those early days, ASCD was concerned with curriculum development at the local level, as well as with the larger questions about the purposes of education. ASCD members hoped their questions would be answered through action. Since curriculum development often was done by unproductive committees, the first ASCD members applied Lewin's ideas to curriculum development through what was then called “the group process.” For more than a decade, ASCD Conventions were mainly small discussion groups that wrestled with the questions of the day. These groups had chairmen, but leadership was in the group itself. The group members were empowered, as we would say now, and the management was, in current lingo, site-based.
There is much more to the story of the professional climate of ASCD's early days, but what it amounts to is this: If those in education are to feel emboldened to try new things, everyone has to learn how to participate in the development of new approaches to education.
—Arthur W. Foshay, President, 1960–61

Who Was First?

ASCD's name change in the early years sparked a hotly contested difference of opinion over who could legitimately be called the first President of ASCD.

Hollis L. Caswell had been elected head of the Department of Supervision and Curriculum Development for 1944–46 after the Society for Curriculum Study merged with the National Education Association's Department of Supervisors and Directors of Instruction. But later in 1946, the designation “Department” was changed to “Association,” and Bess Goodykoontz became the first person elected to head the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

For many years the purists won, and Caswell's picture was not allowed in a display of ASCD presidents. It was not until 1978 that the matter was settled with formal recognition of Caswell as the founder of the Association, its guiding spirit, and its first president.

—Alice Miel, President, 1953–54


Inheriting the Mantle

ASCD chose a fortunate time to enter the stage. The 1940s marked a period when the influential but controversial Progressive Education Association (PEA) was having a hard time surviving. It was finally disbanded, and publication of its outstanding journal ceased. Until then, PEA had been the major organization in the nation whose membership represented a true cross-section of educators: all levels, all special interests, all types of responsibility.
Luckily, ASCD was in an excellent position to inherit PEA's mantle. ASCD strongly supported progressive ideas in education, taking due account of bitter attacks against such ideas. ASCD's membership came to include a fair representation of college and university personnel who specialized in education; educators working from early childhood through adulthood; and professionals representing all functions: teaching, guidance, supervision, curriculum development, and administration.
—Alice Miel, President, 1953–54

An Innovative Spirit

Wartime restrictions on travel, personnel, meetings, and finances made ASCD's first years difficult. Yet all those needs were met in some manner, even if faithful members sometimes had to resort to passing the hat to meet expenses.
Though money was scarce for the fledgling organization, innovative ideas and practices were abundant. Through questionnaires and personal contact with members, innovative ideas and examples of practice were woven into conferences, institutes, programs, and publications.
In time, action research became an acceptable approach to problem solving and evaluation. The need for accepting and acting upon the results of one's own experience and observation became a recognized means for developing maturity. The field of early childhood education was recognized and promoted within the profession and the public eye. Discipline came to be interpreted as “self-discipline” rather than discipline from a source of autocratic, arbitrary authority.
Though ASCD had limited space and staff in those early years, we had much freedom and flexibility in organizing and carrying through our ideas. An honor roll of the educators who dedicated themselves to those ideas would carry many different names. But early leaders shared a dream of what might be in education, a dream they wove into the fabric of their lives and into the programs and practices of ASCD.
—Robert R. Leeper, Editor, Educational Leadership, 1950–78

Being Counted

When the ASCD crusade began, we were fortunate that the founders were bright, lively, optimistic people experienced in progressive education. They were dedicated to the welfare of students and determined that supervision and curriculum development be enlightened and exhilarating. When the numbers of students, staff, and facilities grew phenomenally after World War II, ASCD fought for organized curriculum development and supervision based on merit and mutual respect, not rank or power. ASCD members argued in favor of individual initiative and responsibility and against standardization, bureaucracy, censorship, and conformity.
Believing in group dynamics, caring interpersonal relationships, and action research, they created a national arena for discussion and reflective debate. The true ASCD member stood up, spoke out, and was counted whether the subject was a bland curriculum or the destructive ramifications of McCarthyism.
I believe several of my experiences represent the kinds of issues many members have been involved in through the years. I served on committees for multicultural education and the education of women. I met with black educators in Chicago in 1969 and was a charter member at the first meeting of the World Council for Curriculum and Instruction in 1970. I met with the radical caucus in Philadelphia in 1972, and I explored ideas with the futurists in 1974 and global educators in 1989.
Some have felt that ASCD hasn't adequately addressed the contributions and needs of minority groups. Others believe we are for the most part suburban- and rural-oriented, not attending to the needs of the large city. Some say we are reactive, not reflective; catering, not critical; pleasing, not penetrating.
ASCD certainly is not a perfect organization, and those of us who have shared responsibility for its efforts know it. Yet even as we seek to remedy real and perceived shortfalls, we can catalog many accomplishments in our publications and count thousands of educators who have attended institutes, seminars, and conferences.
ASCD is an organization of vibrant ideas, passionate feelings, and candid and lively expression. It was in the beginning and it is now.
—Ben Ebersole, President, 1979–80

Emphasis on People. . .

People, ideas, and participation have been vital to ASCD from the start. Rank, position, and power have not been emphasized. ASCD membership has always been open to all who shared its goals. ASCD emphasizes functions, not roles: supervision, instructional practice, and curriculum development involving everyone—including teachers, students, and parents. ASCD programs educate members, not train them. ASCD offers rich ideas not for uncritical acceptance on the basis of vigorous advocacy, political pressures, or zealous marketing but for discussion, dispute, and decision.

—O.L. Davis, President, 1982–83

. . . and Ideas

The true ASCD member believes students should be treated with dignity, their efforts with appreciation, and their expressions—whether controversial or commonplace—with respect. Only through in-depth examination of various points of view is significant learning likely to occur. Censorship, intimidation, and regimentation are antithetical to constructive learning.

—Ben Ebersole, President, 1979–80


ASCD Tested

The mettle of ASCD as an organization and of its members was tested by two critical social realities: segregation and McCarthyism.
ASCD faced a difficult internal problem with respect to segregation, because ASCD had always been open to men and women of all races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds. Black educators attended and participated in the national conferences and served on national committees and commissions.
But in the South of the '40s and '50s, segregation ruled. ASCD state affiliates in the South and even in the border states often encountered laws that mandated strict segregation as to meeting places, hotels, restaurants, and transportation. State and regional units also had to reckon with power groups in state government, education bureaucracies, and the mass media.
During this era, ASCD nationally maintained steady pressure toward elimination of segregation practices in all units, taking into account the problems facing members in states where segregation was enforced. ASCD national resolutions supporting Civil Rights were passed in 1947, 1948, 1950, 1952, and 1954. Unlike many other organizations, ASCD was swift and unequivocal in support when the Brown v. Board of Education decision was announced.
In 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy came on the national scene with reckless charges that Communists “thoroughly infested” high places in American government. McCarthy disciples took up the chorus and decried modern education as un-American, subversive, godless, and a Communist conspiracy. Many education organizations remained timidly silent for fear of attacks by local and national reactionaries. But repeatedly from 1947 onward, ASCD supported anti-censorship resolutions for freedom for teachers and students and the examination of controversial issues in schools.
The 1953 Yearbook, of which I was editor and chairman, came out at the height of the McCarthy hysteria. Forces Affecting American Education named unfair individuals and groups and described local conflicts. Reactions to it were swift and, for an ASCD Yearbook, unprecedented. A prominent prelate led the onslaught by condemning the Yearbook as “having a strong affinity in its outlook to the philosophy of Communism.” Hostile reviews from right-wing magazines were read into the Congressional record, and letters threatened libel suits. What the book actually supported were the values of the democratic way of life. It specifically opposed indoctrination, authoritarianism, and party lines of either left or right being forced on students.
The storm passed. ASCD's support for democratic human relations and opposition to segregation and support for the use of intelligence and opposition to censorship date from the '40s and '50s. They represent ASCD's broad concern for social realities and social forces through the early years, and they have persisted throughout the history of the organization.
—William Van Til, President, 1961–62

Democracy in Action

The Michigan ASCD and national ASCD I joined in 1949 had some clearly defined values, centering around the beliefs that we should educate students to be effective members of a democratic society and that we should promote democracy in education. What really impressed me was that democratic values were actually practiced, not just mouthed. Here I was—a mere newcomer to teaching (my third year)—yet I was made welcome to the Association by older, experienced administrators and university professors. Parents, community members, and students were also active participants in programs of the 1950s.
ASCD—through its publications and Annual Conference speakers—was always willing to say why we needed to make radical changes in education and how such changes might be achieved. ASCD was always open to member ideas, and the national headquarters and local unit often solicited ideas for critical self-examination. For example, every conference session regularly used various evaluation forms and the publications invited feedback on programs and operations. This didn't happen with the other educational organizations to which I belonged then (nor has it happened since). No other national organization has an independent group of people elected to see how well it lives up to its values, policies, and constitution as ASCD does with its Review Council.
I've cited just some of the key qualities that make me optimistic about ASCD's future. I believe ASCD will continue to be a major force for good education forever if the organization continues to keep a clear focus on its values; maintains open membership for all; fosters education for democracy and democracy in education; welcomes members' ideas and participation; deals with the real issues facing our schools in a bold, proactive manner; and continues its critical self-analysis.
—Delmo Della-Dora, President, 1975–76

By the Numbers

ASCD membership in 1943 numbered only in the hundreds. At last count, membership was 141,000.

ASCD has established 53 American and 9 international affiliates in Europe, the Caribbean, Canada, and the Far East.

Making Connections

ASCD's history embraces the coming of age of both curriculum and supervision. By studying the programs of annual meetings and the vast array of publications produced under the ASCD umbrella, one could come close to providing a 50-year history of curriculum and instruction in the United States. Because ASCD embraced both from the outset, it became the professional organization tying together two fields of educational study and practice. Now, 50 years later, we are endeavoring to do what ASCD has done from the outset: connect the university and the school.

—John Goodlad

From the first Annual Conference Program...

The annual dues of $4 entitle you to a subscription to Educational Leadership—the official ASCD Journal—a copy of the current yearbook, and all other privileges of membership. (Membership dues for persons whose salaries are less than $1200 a year are $2.)... ASCD members are welcome to register for the conference for no fee. Nonmembers may register for the entire convention, or any single session, for $1.

March 1946


1962 Yearbook

I have often been asked to explain the enormous impact of ASCD's 1962 Yearbook—Perceiving, Behaving, Becoming—which was one of the most successful in ASCD's history and is still influential some 30 years later.
I believe the answer lies in how the yearbook was produced. It is a demonstration of what can happen when educators examine their fundamental assumptions. When teachers are given the freedom to examine their basic assumptions, and are supported as true professionals in the process, they can produce exciting and ingenious inventions. The 1962 Yearbook is such an invention.
Four humanistic psychologists and educators were each invited to write a paper on self-actualization, that is, to describe what a fully functioning, supremely healthy human being would be like. Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Earl Kelley, and I were those authors. With our papers in hand, the Yearbook Committee asked, “If this is what supremely healthy human beings are like, what are the implications for educational theory and practice?” The answers they found appeared in the remainder of the book.
Perceiving, Behaving, Becoming was an instant success, and has long remained an ASCD best-seller. It has sold more than 100,000 copies, and it marked the beginning of two decades of interest in humanistic approaches to education.
Though we're currently seeing dozens of revolutionary breakthroughs in areas such as the brain and how it works, our educational system is still falling behind the best of what we know. Vouchers, computers, and testing programs are mere extensions of outdated concepts.
To close the gap between current practice and the best we know requires the invention and infusion of new ideas. Perhaps the success of the process that led to Perceiving, Behaving, Becoming has an important message for today's educational reformers.
—Arthur W. Combs, President, 1966–67

Decency in Education

In March 1967, I sat in a side balcony of Dallas's Memorial Auditorium and listened to Carl Rogers' eloquent explanation of education that would enable all students to fulfill their potential for human fulfillment. His words were filled with hope for an America that would transform the promises in our Constitution into universal realities. All learners could be treated as human beings worthy of respect.
As the convention proceeded, Sid Jourard and Art Combs delivered major addresses advocating decency in education. Their words were compiled into a booklet sought by thousands, just one of the first ASCD publications to address such an important issue. In 1977, Art Combs, Gordon Cawelti, Morrel Clute, Laurabeth Hicks, Geneva Gay, and I compiled a book describing some of the ways of increasing human decency in the classroom. In the '60s and '70s, I spoke to some of the first racially integrated professional education meetings. In those tense settings I could argue more fully for human decency because I was supported by ASCD colleagues. I am continually reminded of ASCD's strength and noble foundations as I travel throughout the world and see people using ASCD materials telling the why and how of humane education practices.
—David Aspy, frequent contributor, Educational Leadership

From the first Issue of Educational Leadership...

In selecting the title Educational Leadership, the Publications Committee had no thought of implying that its readers constitute in any exclusive sense the leadership of American education....

The term leader as used to guide the affairs of this magazine will refer to all who in marked degree demonstrate two abilities in education—the ability to help their fellows see ahead those things that need to be done and the ability to help their fellows find the energy enthusiastically to do those things. The potential capacity for leadership as thus defined is infinitely greater than had been realized in the conduct of educational affairs—at least such is the faith that supports this publication.

The hope of American education, perhaps the hope of America itself, lies in the fullest possible development and utilization of the capacity for leadership throughout its total ranks. It is to the realization of this hope that Educational Leadership will seek to contribute.

October 1944




Answering the Calls

I came to ASCD in August 1965, when the staff numbered 20 and membership was just over 10,000. Comprehensive membership was $15, and conference registration cost $10.
I remember that Washington was bathed in August heat as I approached the building of the National Education Association on 16th St., N.W. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development was housed there along with 33 other educational organizations. As I entered the ASCD offices, I was struck by the crowded conditions: desks everywhere and small private offices for a few. I had come from Wisconsin to be “Associate Secretary” responsible for committees, councils, task forces, and commissions. ASCD was a young adult in those days, and curriculum as a field of study wasn't much older.
One particular memory I have is of a group that had persistently called the office throughout 1966. They gathered at the Annual Conference in San Francisco, and out of their meeting emerged a quest for ASCD's involvement in international cooperation in education. A new commission with that name was formed, and a world conference was subsequently held in Asilomar, California. In addition, the World Council for Curriculum and Instruction was started. ASCD's renewed commitment to the world as its home opened up possibilities for recreating democracy in a time when Sputnik had many educational implications.
—Louise Berman ASCD Staff Member, 1965–67

Open to All

The late '50s and '60s saw a modest increase in minority attendance at ASCD Annual Conferences. Their presence and visibility became more noticeable as diverse people were included as presenters on conference programs and as candidates on election ballots.
But as blacks increased their attendance, they began to voice the complaint that ASCD was not sensitive to their concerns. The ASCD Black Caucus was formed to challenge the status quo. With the approval of the Executive Council, the Executive Director and staff provided meeting space and assistance to the group.
Several issues concerning group members were also championed by white members. By joining forces, they were able to cultivate minority leadership to successfully compete in large-scale elections. In 1968, a special committee was appointed to develop a broad-based strategy to recruit minority members. Minorities were actively recruited to write for ASCD publications, and ASCD published much information on human relations. Key resolutions affirmed the organization's position. Publications such as Feeling, Valuing, and the Art of Growing and Dare to Care/Dare to Act: Racism and Education spoke volumes about the Association's commitment.
The first black to serve as ASCD president was Alvin D. Loving (1971–72), and four other blacks have been elected since that time. Last year Gene Carter became the Association's first black Executive Director. From all indications, his strong leadership skills and sensitivity to the need for diversity indicate continued positive growth for ASCD.
—Phil Robinson, President, 1984–85

Conferences . . . Crucial Issues . . .

Annual conferences are peak experiences in our professional lives. Those of us who attend feel inspired as we confront new frontiers in educational thought. The glow follows us home, where we try to recruit kindred believers. But too often, we're hampered by local issues, prejudices, politics, and administrative problems. We have to be satisfied with relatively small efforts for improvement.

ASCD has seen astonishing growth in 50 years, yet many perceive that schools have declined during that time. Now is no time for ASCD to rest on its laurels. This perceived stagnation can be turned around when ASCD's tremendous resources and vitality are brought to bear on the crucial issues.

—Glenys G. Unruh, President, 1974–75

. . . and Group Thinking

The new association began to experiment with new ways of conducting conferences. Group thinking was the watch-word of the day. Small-group discussion and hands-on experiences began to replace a considerable amount of sitting and listening to speeches, which characterized previous conferences.

—Alice Miel, President, 1953–54

The First Conference

Writing just before my 90th birthday is challenging, but I recall how William Alexander, a fellow doctoral student, wrote to me about a small group of people, mostly educators specializing in the planning of the curriculum for the schools. With Hollis L. Caswell's leadership, they had formed an organization, now known as ASCD.

Bill wrote that the group planned to hold its first National Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, in March of 1946. It was a wonderful experience, and my attendance at the Annual Conventions continued for more than 40 years. Why? The meetings bring together thousands of professional people who constantly seek to improve the education program provided by schools and universities. Long live ASCD!

—Gaylen Saylor, President, 1965–66


Still the Same?

Newtimers say the world is different now with new technology, shifts in population and ethnic origin, cuts in school salaries and materials, and Total Quality Management bottom-line thinking.
Yet oldtimers with perspective realize things haven't changed as much as it seems. We longtime ASCD members hear new terms for familiar concepts: restructuring for reorganizing; site-based for decentralization; outcome-based for performance objectives; career ladder for merit rewards; portfolio assessment for comprehensive testing; at-risk for disadvantaged; individual study plans for individualizing.
At a time when central staffs are shrinking, site-based management is in vogue, specialized schools are proliferating, and national testing is becoming a reality, members old and new can take heart in ASCD's continuing mission.
ASCD is not a research body, not an agency that develops curriculum, not a supervisory certification agency, and not a welfare union for a tier of professionals. It is an association with people and interests in all these areas. ASCD begins the next 50 years with ideals that have served it well. We believe in promoting creativity and individuality while creating schools that are communities of learners. We look for a balance among academics, aesthetics, and athletics. We believe subjects are the means and not the ends of education. Short-range objectives should be consistent with long-range goals, and all educators should share a passion for teaching and learning, with dignity and respect for all.
In the last 50 years, ASCD has done much good for many people. True believers and crusaders worked to help make it a quality and helpful organization, and others will carry that torch. With renewed vigor, much more can—and will—be done in our classrooms. After all, that is the moment of truth. All of ASCD's articles, research, institutes, and materials are of no avail if they do not result in more and better learning in the classroom.
—Ben Ebersole, President, 1979–80

Looking to the Next 50 Years

In 1943, when the United States was focused on our nation's extraordinary involvement in World War II, few could have foreseen that world leadership of the United States would continue through the end of the Cold War, and we would one day see democracy emerging throughout the world. Likewise, few could have predicted that the establishment of a new curriculum group in 1943 would create one of the premier leadership organizations in education.
  • establishing national standards and expectations for achievement for all of America's children,
  • developing strategies for integrating curriculum and technology,
  • developing systems for authentic assessment of student learning at local and national levels,
  • creating programs and practices for improving students' capacities to create and construct meaning and to enhance student achievement,
  • establishing systemic change strategies and strategies for Total Quality Management and leadership,
  • reforming governance and decision-making structures,
  • designing programs for professional enhancement that facilitate the creation of learning communities for the development of empowered educators,
  • enhancing opportunities for lifelong learning for students,
  • designing programs to enable parents and communities to work together to ensure school readiness, and
  • designing structures for interagency and intergovernmental cooperation in the welfare of all children.
Through the internal restructuring efforts currently under way within the Association; the changes being proposed in governance, nominations, and resolutions; and our Board of Directors' and Executive Council's enhanced commitment to strategic planning, internationalization, and influence and advocacy at national and international levels, ASCD stands as the single organization with the greatest potential for impact on education and for reestablishing our nation's covenant to care for children.
We can also enhance our capacity for leadership by creating alliances with organizations and individuals of similar values in order to provide greater leverage to our initiatives and expand our resources. Within this context, it is especially appropriate that the conference theme for our 50th year is “Creating Learning Communities: A Call for Bold Alliances and Commitments.”
Just as the United States established alliances with other countries and made lasting commitments in 1943 to bring an end to World War II, ASCD has an opportunity to forge new alliances using the knowledge now available in systems thinking, interdisciplinary teaching, cognitive research, constructivist theory, and other approaches critical to educational redesign and restructuring.
As an international organization committed to “developing leadership for quality in education for all students”, we now have the opportunity to boldly address those issues that will enhance our capacity to play a vital role in the renewal and reinvention of education in our nation. It is most fitting that in our 50th year, we recommit ourselves as an organization to providing educational vision and leadership in a world where democratic forms of government may thrive.
—Stephanie Pace Marshall, President, 1992–93

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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