The Rising Price of Objectivity

The Rising Price of Objectivity Philanthropy, Government, and the Future of Education Research

Michael J. Feuer, Foreword by Ellen Condliffe Lagemann
paper, 208 Pages
Pub. Date: November 2016
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-957-0
Price: $32.00

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In The Rising Price of Objectivity, Michael J. Feuer describes what he sees as a “perfect storm” gathering in the sea of education research. He notes the convergence of three important trends: first, the rise in strategic education philanthropy; second, the decline in federal funding, in part due to ideologically contested priorities; and third, the growing influence of nonacademic think tanks operating outside the constraints of university-based research. Together, he cautions, the combination of these forces threatens scientific research generally, and in particular, jeopardizes the effort to generate independent, credible evidence that is needed to inform and guide our efforts to improve education. 


Michael Feuer has spent decades during his career evaluating, protecting, and explaining social science research in the service of policy communities. He is one of our best commentators on the august but elusive ideal of objectivity. Everyone concerned about the relationship between advocacy and independent research should read this book. — Carl Kaestle, university professor emeritus of education, history, and public policy, Brown University

Michael Feuer has shed light on a serious challenge to the independent inquiry needed to inform effective government decision making in this area. Drawing on his unique perspective as an education scholar, economist, and former research executive, Feuer proposes promising remedies and steers clear of the ideological warfare that has polarized most education policy debates. — Dale Russakoff, author of The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?

The Rising Price of Objectivity is a cogently written, insightful, and witty analysis of how important it is to get the funding of education research right and what forces and factors make that such a challenging task. Readers will likely have some of their preconceptions confirmed and others challenged in a way that sparks the kind of rigorous thinking this topic so deserves. — Diana Hess, dean and Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Education

The Rising Price of Objectivity is a useful resource for understanding the state of education research funding, including how current trends are likely to shift the demands of researchers, institutions, and organizations. — Kamden Strunk, Teachers College Record

This book is a refreshing contrast to the rhetoric and blame that are often attributed to educational research and policy. — Julie Chami, University of Chicago Press

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About the Author

Michael J. Feuer is a native of New York City. He attended public schools in Jamaica and then went to Queens College, where he majored in English, dabbled in radio, and edited the student newspaper. After living and studying in Israel (during the period that included the 1973 Yom Kippur War) and teaching English in Paris, he returned to Philadelphia for his MA and PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. His career has included five years on the faculty of Drexel University, seven years at the congressional Office of Technology Assessment and seventeen years at the National Academy of Sciences; he is now completing his sixth year as dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the George Washington University. Feuer was elected to the National Academy of Education in 2003 and to its presidency in 2013. He has published in economics, policy, education, and philosophy journals and books, and has had reviews, essays, and poems in various newspapers and magazines. His first book, Moderating the Debate, was published by Harvard Education Press in 2006. Feuer lives in Washington with his wife, Regine, a physician specializing in addiction. Their two grown children live and work in the DC area.