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Astronomy Education Review -- Astronomy Education Joins the Mainstream

Mercury Summer 2007 Table of Contents

Astronomy Education Review website home page

by Andrew Fraknoi and Sidney Wolff

What makes an area of human endeavor a profession, instead of merely a job? For generations, groups involved in the same kind of work have wrestled with this problem.

Lawyers, to take an example, have done especially well in finding ways to mark their activities as a profession. To become lawyer, you have to go to a specialized "law school," take a bar exam (the failing of which effectively bars you from being part of the profession), join the bar association, keep up with the field, swear to a code of conduct, etc. Lawyers have their own publications, use specialized language that is often unclear to the layperson, and hold conferences and workshops that only lawyers can attend.

For several decades, a number of us have been asking whether astronomy education is a profession. (See "Steps and Missteps Toward an Emerging Profession" in the September/October 2005 issue of Mercury, for example.) In some ways, we still have a long way to go in making the training of astronomy educators more than just an afterthought in the training of astronomy researchers. But in one way, we have made significant progress. There is now a journal/magazine that is devoted to the professional work of astronomy education.

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