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Black Doctorates Clustered in Education, Ed.D. at Risk May 13, 2008

Posted by twilightandreason in Higher Education.
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In Feburary a report on Black graduate students in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education moved me to blog on the clustering of Black graduate students in the fields of Education and Business. You can read that blog post HERE. This issue made the news again just last week when the Baltimore Times published “Fewer Blacks Earning Degrees,” an analysis of the current state of African Americans and doctoral education, written by education advocate Jayne Matthews. Click on the highlighted title to read this article in its entirety.

Early in her piece, Matthews cites the familiar statistic, that 36.5 percent of African Americans with doctorates hold those degrees in the field of education. She then goes on to explore some of the more disturbing implications of Black clustering in that field. Matthews reveals that the pursuit of the Ed.D. as a professional degree (commonly used as a stepping stone into principalships, school superintendent positions, and certain college administrative posts) has prompted a reconsideration of the necessity of pre-administrative training at the doctoral level, noting that Arthur Levine, president of the highly influential Columbia Teacher’s College, has suggested removing the dissertation component of the Ed.D., which would effectively eliminate it as a doctoral degree option, and replacing it with a professionally-oriented M.Ed. Matthew’s writes:

Arthur Levine, president of the Teachers College at Columbia University, has proposed that Ed.D. degrees be abolished and be replaced with a master’s degree in educational administration. He believes that people who aspire to be school superintendents or college administrators are wasting their time doing a research dissertation on a topic that will have little or no bearing on the job that they plan to hold.

The effect on the numbers of Black doctoral numbers would be dramatic:

Should the Levine view prevail, the black percentage of all doctoral awards would fall dramatically. If we eliminate educational doctorates from the 2006 statistics, we find that blacks earned only 4.8 percent of all doctorates in fields other than education.

While the sharp downward shift in black percentage of doctoral awards would be troubling on many levels, it would not have much of an effect on the real-life experiences of Black faculty and students on college and university campuses, where the clustering of Black doctoral degree holders in primary and secondary school administrative posts has had little or no direct impact on the number of Black instructors that undergraduate and graduate students encounter in their college classrooms.

It is possible to argue that there should already have been an M.Ed. oriented specifically toward to aspiring administrators, possibly along the lines of an M.B.A., but for education professionals rather than business professional. Then, as is the case in the field of business, the doctorate in education would be a Ph.D., oriented specifically toward those who have an interest in college-level teaching and research.

As a Black academic I have to wonder, though, whether or not the popularity of the Ed.D. among African Americans has anything to do with some institutions’ willingness to consider doing away with it. This very question may seem fraught with racial paranoia; but given the history of Black people in the academy, to ignore such a possibilty would be foolish.

Posted by Ajuan Mance