EDUCATIONAL POLICY / January-March 2001BETTY MALEN Generating Interest in Interest Groups

Abstract

Drawing on the articles assembled for this yearbook and related writings, this commentary identifies some of the issues that warrant consideration as we work to understand interest group politics more fully. The commentary discusses the importance of situating interest groups at the center of the Politics of Educa-tion Association (PEA) research agenda and highlights ways to enhance our understanding of the who, the how, and the so what of interest group politics. THIS YEARBOOK directs attention to an important but understudied aspect of the politics of education, namely the interest groups that regularly or inter-mittently seek to influence education policies and practices. Drawing on the preceding articles and related writings, this article sets forth, in broad brush fashion, some of the issues that warrant consideration as we work to under-stand interest group politics more fully.1 What follows is a topical, not a theo-retical, synthesis. The daunting task of lending conceptual coherence to the diverse articles and offering conceptual guidance to those who wish to sys-tematically examine interest groups is taken up by Hanne Mawhinney in the final article of this volume. The present article is confined to the more modest task of discussing the importance of situating interest groups at the center of the Politics of Education Association (PEA) research agenda and highlight-ing ways to enhance our understanding of the who, the how, and the so what of interest group politics. Many of the observations offered are speculative, in part because, as con-tributors to this volume make clear, the empirical base on education-related interest groups is fragile and fragmented. All the observations are suggestive because the literature on interest groups is selectively applied, not compre-hensively reviewed. Although limited in these and other ways, hopefully thi

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