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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Educational Administration, Volume 50, Issue 1
I think it safe to say the task of writing this Editorial is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – after all, 50th anniversaries don’t come around very often! The Journal of Educational Administration (JEA) celebrates the start of its 50th volume with this first issue and so it has been earmarked as something special – a special issue, in fact – to serve as a record of such an achievement.
Established in 1963 by Foundation Editor W.G. (Bill) Walker at the University of New England in Australia, the Journal’s editorship was located at this institution until its move intrastate to the University of Wollongong in 2007. As from July 2011 the editorship left Australia to be located in the Hong Kong Institute of Education. The Editors of the Journal have been Bill Walker (1963-1979), Ross Thomas (1979-2011) and now Allan Walker and Philip Hallinger. My editorial connections with the Journal have actually extended over a period of almost 44 years: on my appointment to the University of New England Editor Bill Walker immediately “made” me Assistant Editor; in 1972 I became Associate Editor and then Editor seven years later.
The 44 volumes with which I have thus been associated appeared in 163 issues and these (in all modesty) provided me with sufficient practice in writing editorials to compile this final piece (my first Editorial appeared in 1971 (Vol. 9 No. 1).
The JEA was the first generalist, international journal of its kind to enter the field of educational administration. Yes, there were extant periodicals in the field but these were to be found mainly in the United States where they addressed mainly matters of concern to practising administrators in the many school systems of that great country. Although the JEA’s first issues were quite small and limited in international content, collectively they paved the way for the development of a journal of world repute as well as encouraging the establishment of many others – at first throughout the English-speaking world and then beyond those boundaries.
During the annual meeting of the Editorial Advisory Board in Denver, CO, in May 2010, the significance of the 50th volume of the Journal was realized and recognition of some kind was enthusiastically endorsed. Several “models” of a special anniversary issue were mentioned but ultimately the decision was left to me as Guest Editor to decide on a suitable publication. An appropriate celebration was also recommended, the most enthusiastic advocate of such being Patrick Forsyth of Oklahoma University. It is therefore very pleasing to be able to include a book review by him in this special issue.
In collaboration with some of the Board members I elected to compile and edit an anniversary issue that would include details of the establishment and development of the JEA through its first 50 years; analysis of the contents of the Journal’s almost-1,000 published articles; consideration of the more “controversial” themes that have been argued; and specific contributions by scholars whose work has been frequently published in the JEA and whose support for the Journal has been greatly respected and appreciated.
In view of my long association with the Journal, my extensive collection of documents accumulated during this period, together with a complete set of journals at hand, there was always a certain inevitability that I would play the role of historian and prepare the first-mentioned article. This I have done, incorporating into the title “Succeed or else” – the nature of the veiled threat to Bill Walker that the failure of this journal would be regarded most adversely. An existence of 50 years is, of course, substantial proof that Walker’s mission was accomplished but to speak of such necessarily demands an acknowledgement of the people, activities, and associations that contributed to this splendid achievement. Accordingly, whilst bemoaning my need to be selective, I have written this article under several sub-headings including, for example, early days and the foundation of the Journal, emerging themes published throughout this half century, developments in production practices, people intimately involved in establishing and elevating the Journal’s standing in the field, its association with UCEA and CCEA, and evaluations made at various stages of its life.
The first of the invited contributors to this issue, Izhar Oplatka of Tel Aviv University, has contributed several articles to the Journal (see, especially, Oplatka, 2009) and his particular expertise equips him admirably to consider the content of all articles published from 1963. Oplatka uses the same framework developed and described in his book (Oplatka, 2010) as methodological underpinning for his analysis of the 955 articles that had appeared in the JEA at the time of his research. This framework of article “location” categorizes the JEA’s publications (decade by decade) according to six legacies – empirical, practical, evaluative, training, ideological and critical. Included in his findings are the dominance of the empirical legacy, the dynamic nature of the JEA, and the “rise and fall” of several of the different topics identified. Overall, Oplatka’s analysis of this somewhat daunting number of articles enables him to illuminate the main contributions of the Journal to educational administration worldwide and to glean information about the distinctive intellectual identity of the field.
Colin Evers (University of New South Wales) and Gabriele Lakomski (University of Melbourne) responded to my invitation to contribute an article that identified the “challenging” and “divergent” ideas that have appeared in the Journal. In other words, they were asked to reflect on articles published on the nature of educational administration that serve as alternatives to the “mainstream” systems-scientific view of the field. In this article the authors identify large-scale theoretical differences in the field, discuss the merits of various epistemologies – and the ideas that lie behind them. Contrary to what many of the “advocates” of these particular ideological stances have assumed, Evers and Lakomski believe that educational administration can be studied scientifically but the model applied in systems/scientific approaches has been far too narrow. The authors offer insightful commentaries on issues that have impinged (in various ways and varying intensities) on scholarship in educational administration such as systems theory, chaos and complexity theories, ethics and postmodernism.
There are several authors who have published extensively in this journal but none as frequently as has Wayne Hoy of Ohio State University (his first of 14 articles appeared in the JEA in 1971). Asked to take this opportunity to “summarize” his contribution to educational administration by particular (but not exclusive) reference to his JEA articles, Hoy has “reviewed” his scholarly career and, in particular, traced his contributions to what he hopes one day will emerge as a theory of student achievement. Hoy has never lost sight of the “end product” of all studies in the field – the student. Accordingly, his “Odyssey” reveals an extraordinary sequence of studies constantly directed at identifying the organizational properties of schools that foster achievement for all students (regardless, for example, of other influences such as socio-economic status). Our field is very much in debt for the light he has cast on important contributors to schools (and school “climate”) such as trust, efficacy, cooperation, optimism, openness, and health.
A similar request was made to another prolific writer and frequent contributor to the JEA – Bill Mulford of the University of Tasmania whose first of 12 articles was published in 1977. Mulford provides an informative contextual section at the opening of his article that points to his professional, educational experiences prior to and after entering academe and he acknowledges the influence these were to have thereafter in his research and scholarly pursuits. For his article’s title Mulford draws on part of the title of Tyack and Cuban’s (1995) important work on public education. In similar fashion he uses “Tinkering” to describe school improvement that is generated inside rather than imposed by external authority. “Utopia” implies a focus on and acceptance of complexity and heterogeneity rather than an expectation of simplicity and homogeneity. Mulford assigns his published work to three themes – complexity, development, and being in position to provide empirical bases for improved policy and practice. A common thread running through much of his work is the importance of interrelationships between individual, organization and context particularly when seeking effective teaching of educational administration, organizational development in schools, leadership for learning and success in the principalship.
The aforementioned articles are accompanied by congratulatory messages from Michelle Young and Frank Crowther, respectively the leaders of the two most influential professional associations in our field – the University Council for Educational Administration and the Commonwealth Council for Educational Administration and Management.
So these then are the contents of this significant issue of the Journal of Educational Administration – and I conclude this, my final editorial, wondering what the next 50 years will bring!
A. Ross Thomas
Oplatka, I. (2009), “The field of educational administration: an historical overview of scholarly attempts to recognise epistemological identities, meanings and boundaries from 1960s onwards”, Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 47 No. 1, pp. 8–35
Oplatka, I. (2010), The Legacy of Educational Administration: A Historical Analysis of an Academic Field, Peter Lang, Berlin
Tyack, D. and Cuban, L. (1995), Tinkering Towards Utopia: A Century of Public School Reform, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA