About Ernest L. Boyer
Ernest L. Boyer, Sr.
A Leader of Educators, An Educator of Leaders
1928 - 1995
ERNEST BOYER WAS A TRUE "WORDSMITH." He revered both the oral and written language and, through the words he spoke and wrote, he clarified his ideas and transmitted them to as many people as he could. 1-le significantly shaped the policy debates of his time, largely by finding the common ground and making new connections-between people, between institutions, between political ideologies, between countries.
The first Carnegie report published during his tenure was an essay he wrote with Arthur Levine in 1981 called A Quest for Common Learning: The Aims of General Education. The essay proposed that general education at the college level become more integrated, stressing "those experiences, relationships, and ethical concerns that are common to all of us simply by virtue of our membership in the human family at a particular moment in history." This call for greater integrations and connections between the disciplines was to be a recurring theme in his other reports through the years.
In 1983, Boyer's first comprehensive study at The Carnegie Foundation, High School: A Report on Secondary Education in America, was published by Harper & Row and was praised nationally as a landmark analysis of the disturbing academic practices in the nation's public high schools. It helped shape the debate of the emerging school reform movement not just by earmarking the problems, but also by making specific recommendations for improvement. Boyer knew that by stressing excellence for all students, by raising expectation and graduation requirements, by making teacher training more rigorous, and by lengthening and restructuring the school day, we could save our public high schools and create a more meaningful learning experience for our students.
Ernest Boyer found the good with the bad in high schools, and his words echo today: "Our schools have adjusted successfully to a host of new demands. They now serve more students from different racial, cultural, and social backgrounds. They have responded to enrollment declines and budget cuts. Experimental programs, such as magnet schools, have been introduced, and public schools are now educating vast numbers of handicapped students who previously were locked out. There remains, however, a large, even alarming gap between school achievement and the task to be accomplished."
Boyer insisted that "high school" should stand for something, that our schools should cease giving credit for mall-style electives or "business math," that they should establish a solid core curriculum of four years of English, with a greater emphasis on writing, two years of algebra, and history in place of "social studies," and that they should toughen standards. He argued that students needed smaller schools because "too often when students 'drop out,' no one noticed that they had, in fact, 'dropped in."'