Carl J. Kieck: Social Research & Ethics Statement
Statement on Social Research & Espoused Ethical Policy supported and undertaken by Carl J. Kieck, Independent Social and Educational Researcher:
Hopefully, a visit to CarlKieck.com is much more than a mundane and straightforward, routine business-related visit, for the aim of the website is also to welcome the reader warmly to join in the exciting and fulfilling world of social research.
Social research - in all its manifest forms, its unexpected and wonderful guises, however complex – informs, and renews, everything mentioned and referred to on the pages of this website.
First of all, however, we need to address the question, ‘What is Social Research?’, albeit in very simple and comprehensible terms, and would like to do so briefly in the very next section.
Definition of Social Research
Social research as such is a commonly accessible human activity that is either consciously or unconsciously undertaken by every individual, or social group, or organisation, in an attempt to make sense of the complexity of human interactions, and in order to fulfill a calling or perform a role( or roles), and this may be done either formally or informally.
When done in a formal educational context, for example, social research is concerned with describing or analysing so-called social phenomena that may impact on teaching and learning processes, within the context of other complex, concurrent organisational processes as well.
More broadly seen, the emphasis, in any form of adequate educational research, falls on the formative social forces that have a bearing on the lives of human beings, in this case students and educators, in the context of their everyday – indeed - historical existence, i.e. in relation to past events, either as isolated instances or in conjunction with others, in progressively complex social structures such as families, tribes, religious institutions, enterprises/companies, or nations.
In the Twentieth Century and beyond, particularly since the 1960s, social research has fallen prey to what may be called falsifying ‘scientistic’ idealism, chiefly inspired by the pseudo-scientific methodology of (neo-)Marxism in which researchers, unrealistically, claim to be able to make precise, or scientific, predictions.
Any extensive investigation of the largely (and normally) ‘unknown’ area of ‘academic activism’, shows that this is probably done with the ambition to exceed the proper, proscribed, and ultimately, realistically possible parameters of academic activity.
As someone who has worked quite extensively in the educational world, I would argue that ‘academe’ as a (multi-) sub-culture, observed in totality, might be described as being quirky and unique, a self-referential sphere of human activity - even - a ‘parallel reality’ dealing with theoretical abstractions, in the final analysis not suitable at all as a source to the offering of any immediate political solutions.
Approaches to social research of education that over-emphasise ideology, in order to gain wider societal influence consistent with certain political preferences and agendas, are the result of attention-seeking radicals or extremists pursuing alternative routes when representation through elective forums have proven to be unrealistic or impossible.
Other common guises in which questionable social research appear, include ‘scientistic’ objectivism (not related to the thinking of Ayn Rand, instead here meaning a misguided emulation of a quintessential natural science technique), historicism and collectivism.
Indeed, it is the polyhistor Friedrich Von Hayek (1899- 1992) who, in an essay titled “Scientism and the Study of Society” (1942-44), reminds us not only regarding the very real limitations that pertain to human episteme (broadly, the ‘totality of understanding’), but more specifically points out that epistemology for the social “sciences”, in all reality, faces very real limitations.
Therefore, to paraphrase and expand Von Hayek’s delineation of those limitations, and with the necessary caveat(s) in mind, ‘Social Research’, within the vast contemporary, early 21st Century educational terrain with its complex past and international context, can realistically and responsibly endeavour to do the following:
(a) Study and make pattern predictions in an informed manner with recourse to all available (re-) sources, in relation to the patterns surrounding, and constituted by, learners, teachers, managers and other agents having an impact, as well as their complete organisational environment(s) if possible;
(b)Furthermore, at additional levels, these pattern predictions can be made in relation to state and/or non-state actors at local, regional, national and international niveaux, in the present; or a-historically; or, historically.
Finally, when we may not be able to reach the point of being able to make an informed ‘educational pattern prediction’ based upon available evidence and analysis, we may alternatively …
(c) … be able to offer elucidating explanations of the principle (or
principles) through which an educational ‘situation’, ‘event’ or ‘result’ has been produced, supported by carefully collected evidence, and followed by cogent analysis and discussion thereof.