English

Foreword by Alan G. RyanUniversity of SaskatchewanThroughout his long and distinguished career, Ernest House has continuously stressed the moral responsibility of evaluators. His social activist perspective has time and again alerted us to the dangers of being seduced by the agendas of those in power. (It was this stance that made him a particularly appropriate keynote speaker for Saskatchewan's first CES annual conference; he is well versed in Saskatchewan's history of co-operatives and social initiatives.) In his keynote address, he points out that the current political climate in the United States presents a threat to the independence and utility of evaluation, that is, the threat of becoming a servant of the power elite. Using Janice Gross Stein's analysis of the cult of efficiency, he shows how political fundamentalism and methodological fundamentalism are intimately linked. As he wrote over 25 years ago in his monograph The Logic of Evaluative Argument (1977): "There are those who try to force simplicity atop the complexities of life and thereby eradicate ambiguity... Often in positions of power, they impose arbitrary definitions of reality for the sake of action" (p. 47).But House has never been one to wring his hands at the hopelessness of a situation. His prescription for evaluators in the face of such forces is for us to confront the political exigencies head on. We need to challenge simplistic assumptions that impose artificial limits on evaluation questions and methodological approaches. In the extended example from his own work, he takes us through an alternative role for the evaluator, a sort of Transactional Evaluation approach (Rippey, 1973), but one that is updated through a sophisticated perception of the political forces at work in the study being undertaken. In so doing, he makes clear that the responsibilities of the profession of evaluation go far beyond any accountability model.

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