About Ernest L. Boyer
Ernest L. Boyer, Sr.
A Leader of Educators, An Educator of Leaders
1928 - 1995
ERNEST BOYER CONTINUED to look for ways institutions of higher learning could strengthen the spirit of community. In 1990, The Carnegie Foundation released Campus Life: In Search of Community. Realizing that every student comes to college with his or her own special skills and interests, Boyer saw that the old ideal of a special campus community was disappearing. But, the report argued, "if a balance can be struck between individual interests and shared concerns, a strong learning community will result. We believe the six principles highlighted in this report-purposefulness, openness, justice, discipline, caring, and celebration-can form the foundation on which a vital community of learning can be built. Now, more than ever, colleges and universities should be guided by a larger vision."
Boyer's dedication to improving postsecondary institutions was again called into play as he examined the subject further in the groundbreaking 1990 study, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate, published by The Carnegie Foundation. In it, Boyer wrote: "At the very heart of the current debate [about higher education] the single concern around which all others pivot-is the issue of faculty time. What's really being called into question is the reward system and the key issue is this: what activities of the professoriate are most highly prized? After all, it's futile to talk about improving the quality of teaching if; in the end, faculties are not given recognition for the time they spend with students.
"In the current climate, students all too often are the losers," he added. "Today, undergraduates are aggressively recruited. In the glossy brochures, they're assured that teaching is important, that a spirit of community pervades the campus, and that general education is the core of the undergraduate experience. But the reality is that, on far too many campuses, teaching is not well rewarded, and faculty who spend too much time counseling and' advising students may diminish their prospects for tenure and promotion."
This highly influential study sparked debate in faculty and administrative circles on campuses nationwide. Campus-wide seminars were organized around the topic. The report became a Carnegie Foundation bestseller and continues to shape the debate about the meaning of scholarship.
BUT SOMETHING ELSE had been on Ernie Boyer's mind for a long time. "Education is a seamless web," he liked to say. "One level of learning relates to every other." For years he had argued that the most promising prospects for true education reform lie in the first years of life and of learning. "What we urgently need is a plan of action," he frequently said in challenging the nation. "If little children do not have a good beginning, it's almost impossible to compensate later on."
Under President Bush, Boyer had been appointed to the National Education Goals Panel established to examine how to reach the nation's six education goals outlined at the historic 1989 Education Summit in Charlottesville, Virginia, which he'd also attended as a participant. Boyer was named Chair of the Advisory Panel on School Readiness. By 1991 he had his own answer for the country on how it could reach the first national education goal that all children would come to school "ready to learn" by the year 2000. His report, Ready to Learn: A Mandate for the Nation, published by The Carnegie Foundation, called for ensuring that all children have a healthy start, empowered parents, quality preschool, a responsive workplace for parents, television as a teacher, neighbor-hoods for learning, and connections across the generations, "all of the forces that have such a profound impact on children's lives and shape their readiness to learn." This, he said, is, without question, the right of every child.
Ready to Learn also called for the initiation of programs to educate parents of preschool children in every state; the guarantee of a Head Start preschool experience for all low-income children in the nation; the creation of preschool learning and health centers in poor neighborhoods; television networks that would set time aside each week for quality preschool educational programming; the neighborhood as a place for learning for young people; and connecting the generations to teach and rejuvenate each other.