Fall 2015 Education and Enrichment Section update

Deb Berke, section chair

The Ernest G. Osborne Award, sponsored by the Education and Enrichment (EE) Section, recognizes and encourages the following:

  • individuals who demonstrate excellence in teaching of family studies and distin- guished service to families through teaching at any level;
  • outstanding teachers in the field of family studies, and
  • individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in the teaching of family relationships.

In odd-numbered years, the EE Section presents the award to an NCFR member who is an outstanding educator.

Ernest G. Osborne was a three-time NCFR president and a Professor of Family at Teachers College at Columbia University who excelled at innovative teaching methods. But who is the man behind the award? How did he teach? What innovative methods did he use?

I did not have the pleasure of knowing Osborne, so I did a little research to see what I could learn. I discovered a wonderful article in the May 1965 Journal of Marriage and Family by Richard Hey titled "Ernest G. Osborne, Family Life Educator." Interestingly enough, Dr. Osborne started out earning his AB degree in zoology in 1926 and worked as a recreation club leader, sixth-grade teacher, director of recreation, and director of a family camp before earning his Ph.D. in educational psychology at Columbia University in 1937. He was known for two courses — Psychology of Family Relations and Parent Education — both of which he taught at Teachers College.

Hey (1965) provided the following description of Osborne as an educator:

[He] was seemingly unconcerned about establishing claim to originality of methods and materials, but as to his adapting and developing them, there can be no question. He organized material from various disciplines, translated research findings into concepts suitable to various levels of education and experience, and refined educational procedures to facilitate self-discovery in his students. He utilized the case history and the diary and reading reactions and, by putting them on the "installment plan" (each installment returned with written comments), made of them a vehicle for insight and understanding through meaningful dialogue. (p. 135)

Osborne believed that self-understanding and self-disclosure were key for educators, particularly those who taught about families, and he challenged his students to explore their feelings and attitudes, biases and defenses.

Throughout the years, Osborne utilized many ways to educate, including radio, television, newspapers, magazines, informal groups, and formal classrooms. He also demonstrated outstanding leadership both nationally and internationally through his work for organizations such as NCFR; UNICEF; the White House; and the China Aid Council, an affiliate of United Service to China, to name a few.

Perhaps my favorite quote of Hey's entire article is the last sentence: "It is very likely that his lasting contribution to the field of family life education in the United States is the continuing of warmth, encouragement, and acceptance which his presence over 30 years gave to this emerging field — qualities which were Ernest Osborne himself."

This sentence paints a picture of who Ernest G. Osborne was as an educator, a champion for the field, and a person. He sounds like a guy I would have enjoyed getting to know.