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Alice Miel, 91, Leader in Field of Curriculum Development, Dies

Alice Marie Miel, Emeritus Professor of Education at Teachers College, who dedicated her life to curriculum development across the United States, Afghanistan, Puerto Rico, Japan, Uganda, and Tanzania, died on Saturday, January 31, 1998, at the North Florida Regional Medical Center in Gainesville. She was 91. Her brother, Homer Miel, said the cause of death was a massive cerebral hemorrhage.

Professor Miel, who published more than ten major works in her career, wrote her milestone in understanding curriculum improvement in Changing the Curriculum: A Social Process, published in 1946. At the time Miel suggested that educational leaders should provide for change through curriculum. She wrote that "continuous attention to curriculum-planning should prevent crystallization of curriculum practice." Ahead of times, Miel called for "group solidarity and heterogeneity" in curriculum development. She said, "strive for a condition of diversity within unity" and "utilize unique contributions of individuals and minority groups."

Miel's influence in international education was recognized during her tenure as chairperson of the of the American Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. In her 1968 paper "Toward International Cooperation in Education, Professor Miel called for the broad effort "of cooperating with fellow educators in other nations to make education itself a strong force for improvement of living everywhere on this earth."

Earlier in her career, Professor Miel played an important role in the development of a teacher education and a textbook project in Afghanistan and was a Teachers College consultant in restructuring the new educational system in post-war Japan. According to Frances Schoonmaker, Professor of Education at Teachers College, Miel was deeply affected by her time in Japan and the experience there had a profound impact on her teaching career. In fact, the World Council for Curriculum Instruction, which was originally housed at Teachers College, was an outgrowth of Miel's contact with international graduate students and her effort to promote the concept that education should be an instrument to build a world community and intercultural understanding.

The World Council for Curriculum Instruction is now located at the University of Cincinnati which holds a world conference every three years in different parts of the globe. This year the conference will take place in Bangkok Thailand where the "Miel Lecture," in Professor Alice Miel's honor, will be delivered.

Professor Miel coined the term of "social educator" in her book, More than Social Studies, published in 1957, for the teacher who structures his/her "classroom and school as a particualr setting in which children can experience democratic living." Within this setting, Miel adds, teachers must help children to organize their in-school and out-of-school experience into learning that has social usefulness."

She was also in the forefront of urging instructional leaders to involve teachers in decision making and innovation in curriculum development. Writing in the February 1967 edition of Impact on "Changing Curriculum," Miel said that "In late years even instructional leaders have often had little to say in the matter of innovation. This has meant no voice for teachers, let alone opportunities for children to participate in their own learning."

Miel was an outspoken advocate for suburbia's children, who, she believed, were being deprived of the "rich diversity of American life." In a 4-year landmark study published in 1967 called The Shortchanged Children of Suburbia, Miel found that the average suburban child "does not know and never has known a Negro his own age," that it is "highly unusual" for him to know someone economically underprivileged, and that he is "confused" about religious differences and even his own religion. The late Fred M. Hechinger, who was the Education Editor of The New York Times at the time, wrote the foreword to the text. He said that "the analysis of the problems of enclaves of affluent homogeneity . . . puts a spotlight on the schools. What is happening in the classrooms is of vital importance to the future of the children in them and the communities which these children will build in the future."

According to Gary A. Griffin, Professor of Education at Teachers College, Miel played an important role in connecting Teachers College with schools in and across the country. For example, when Teachers College became involved in the Study of the Washington D.C. Public Schools, Professor Miel's chairmanship of the Task Force on Elementary Education provided a model for other task forces. This was an example of Miel's combining instruction, research, and the field of study in a way in which all those involved derived the greatest benefit.

Professor Miel was born in Six Lakes, Michigan, and began her teaching career in elementary and secondary schools at Ann Arbor, where she became a principal. She was also a K-12 curriculum coordinator at the Mt. Pleasant Public School system in Michigan.

She received her A.B. and A.M. from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Professor Miel went on to doctoral studies in education from Teachers College and taught there until her retirement in 1971. During her career at Teachers College she was the chairperson of the Department of Curriculum and Teaching from 1960-1967.

Fours years before her retirement, Teachers College set up "Project Milestone, " an endeavor whose major outcomes would be to be a "relook, a revitalization, and a recommitment to the central themes" of Professor Miel's thinking through the years.

Among the strands of her career which were celebrated were her interest in education for diversity, leadership, world fellowship, and social learning.

At the time, the President of Teachers College, John H. Fischer (President from 1962-1974), wrote that "Project Milestone" is an "honor well deserved from her colleagues, students, and friends, for she has contributed a very special quality of leadership to our profession."

Professor Miel was the recipient of numerous awards. She received the Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service and citations from the Dewey Society, the American Educational Research Association and the World Council for Curriculum Instruction, of which she was a co-founder. Miel was president and a member of the Executive Committee of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) and a member of the Association for Childhood Education.

Professor Miel is survived by her brothers Homer Miel of Stanton, Michigan, and Lucas S. Miel of Destin, Michigan.

Teacher College is a graduate school devoted to education both in and out of the classroom. It is an affiliate of Columbia University but retains its legal and financial independence. In 1996 and 1997 listings of "Best Graduate Schools" from the editors of U.S News & World Report, Teachers College was ranked as the number one graduate school of education in America.

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