Harvard Educational Review
  1. Fall 1998 Issue »

    On the Theoretical Trappings of the Thesis of Anti-Theory; or, Why the Idea of Theory May Not, After All, Be All That Bad

    A Response to Gary Thomas

    Kanavillil Rajagopalan
    "A radically atheoretical posture is conceivable only in a purely theoretical world of wild fancy," writes Kanavillil Rajagopalan in response to Gary Thomas's article, "What's the Use of Theory?" published in the Spring 1997 issue of the Harvard Educational Review. While agreeing with Thomas that educators and researchers often depend too heavily on theory and that theory often does not translate into actual practice, Rajagopalan points out that Thomas's call for the complete abolition of theory does not translate into actual practice either. In fact, Rajagopalan asserts, in arguing against the use of theory in education, Thomas winds up creating a new theory--a theory of anti-theory--fraught with many of the same problems Thomas identifies in other people's theories. Rajagopalan's critique focuses on three points: first, humans may by nature be theorizing creatures, making the call for the abolition of theory impossible in reality; second, Thomas himself cannot help but fall into the trap of using and relying on the frameworks of theory to make his argument against theory; and third, Thomas's notion of "the hegemony of theory" would be more accurately written as "the hegemony of a theory"--that is, theory is not necessarily the problem, but particular theories are problematic. In the end, Rajagopalan believes that throwing out theory is not the most effective way to deal with the increased dependence on theory in education. Instead, educators must first analytically break down theories to prevent individual theories from being used as the basis for sweeping educational assertions, and then "push a number of theories to flourish and proliferate, trying to make each theory hegemonic."

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    Fall 1998 Issue

    Abstracts

    Reporting Ethnography to Informants
    Reba N. Page, Yvette J. Samson, Michele D. Crockett
    On the Theoretical Trappings of the Thesis of Anti-Theory; or, Why the Idea of Theory May Not, After All, Be All That Bad
    A Response to Gary Thomas
    Kanavillil Rajagopalan
    From the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to Hopwood
    The Educational Plight and Struggle of Mexican Americans in the Southwest
    Guadalupe San Miguel, Jr., Richard R. Valencia
    Voices Inside Schools - Teacher as Rain Dancer
    Simon Hole
    Book Review - Will Teach for Food edited by Cary Nelson
    Robert P. Engvall

    Book Notes

    The Role of State Departments of Education in Complex School Reform
    By Susan Follett Lusi

    Improving America's Schools
    Edited by Eric A. Hanushek and Dale W. Jorgenson

    Orly's Draw-a-Story

    Locked in the Cabinet
    By Robert B. Reich

    Journeys of Women in Science and Engineering
    By Susan A. Ambrose, Kristin L. Dunkle, Barbara B. Lazarus, Indira Nair, and Deborah A. Harkus

    The Curriculum Studies Reader
    Edited by David J. Flinders and Stephen J. Thornton

    First Person, First Peoples
    By Andrew Garrod and Colleen Larimore

    Historical Dictionary of Women's Education in the United States
    Edited by Linda Eisenmann

    I Don't Want to Talk About It
    By Terrence Real

    Randomized Experiments for Planning and Evaluation
    By Robert R. Boruch

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