TC Media Center from the Office of External Affairs

Section Navigation

Arthur Wells Foshay, Who Taught the Quest for Meaning, Dead at 86

Arthur Wells Foshay, Professor Emeritus at TC, known for his attempts at making educators, especially those in secondary education, see their ultimate objective as teaching meaning and understanding, died on April 28, at the age of 86.

The cause of death was a massive chest infection.

Foshay, Professor of Education, wrote in a 1976 article, Utilizing Man's Experience: The Quest for Meaning, that "It is our failure to teach the ability to interpret that haunts us. Men make progress, personally and collectively, according to their interpretations."

Born in Oakland, California in 1912, Foshay received his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1934 and his Ed.D. from Teachers College in 1949.

From 1936 to 1946 Foshay moved through the Oakland school system as teacher, guidance counselor and then principal.

From 1949 to 1952, Foshay joined the faculty ranks of Teachers College, first as Assistant and then as Associate Professor of Education. He left the College for five years to take the post of Professor of Education and Director of the Bureau of Educational Research, at Ohio State University, in Columbus.

He returned to TC in 1957 to become the Executive Officer of the Horace Mann-Lincoln Institute of Experimentation and Associate Dean for Research and Field Services. As the Executive Officer, Foshay headed a school that was an integral part of Teachers College and associated with a group of public schools. Its aim was to test and put into practice the results of experimentation and represent "a cross section of the population of a typical American community."

In the late 1960s, Professor Foshay was a member of a team of five American researchers involved in a massive international study of secondary school achievement in mathematics. The study was sponsored by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Foshay said the "goal of American participation in the tests is to help us deal with the educational problem of developing children's intrinsic understanding of subject matter as contrasted with memorization."

Foshay was opposed to the "back-to basics movement" of the 1970s and concluded the problem in American education was not the lack of emphasis on the "Three R's," but rather a lack of understanding about the complex nature of the teaching process and even education itself. In an address at the University of Texas in Austin in 1976, Foshay said that while the Three R's are basic, they are not sufficient. "There are people who know the Three R's who remain unable to think…Let us not confuse the necessary with the sufficient. The Three R's do not offer an adequate base for living life."

Foshay also took issue with the commonly held view at the time that public school students were not learning. He said that on the whole, American elementary school students-with some exceptions-were learning as much if not more than their parents did.

In a report entitled "Curriculum for the ‘70s: An Agenda for Invention," written for the National Education Association's Center for the Study of Instruction, Foshay said that education is not merely chalk and erasers but rather an opportunity to nurture individuality.

Until his death, Foshay had been active in writing a series of articles for The Journal of Curriculum and Supervision. He had also finished his latest book, The Curriculum: Purpose, Substance, Practice, which will be published by Teachers College Press in 1999. In addition, he was actively involved in consulting with the Freeport, Long Island school system at the time of his death.

Foshay authored several other books and numerous articles in professional journals. Among his books are Education in Elementary School (1950), Children's Values, An Action Research Study (1954), Research for Curriculum Improvement (1957). He was also the editor of the Rand McNally Handbook of Education (1963).

Foshay is survived by his wife Angela Fraley Foshay, son, Wellesley Robinson Foshay, daughter, Constance Foshay Row, and four grandchildren.

previous page