Just as I was leaving the University of Georgia after spending a one-year sabbatical leave in the fall of 1985 and the spring and summer of 1986, a position in science education opened up at Florida State University (FSU). Infamously the program at FSU had been placed on suspension following intensive internal conflict associated with “which brand of science education was appropriate.” Basically, one group of science educators was blurring the boundaries between science and other disciplines and it appeared to some influential faculty from the sciences and some science educators that there was a deemphasis on science and an increasing emphasis on “soft” education. Stanley Marshall, president of the University and former science educator, was involved with key faculty in science education and the sciences in shutting down science education in the College of Education and transferring it to the College of Arts and Sciences. Obviously there were winners and losers and the matter was eventually resolved in the courts. As well as suspending the PhD program, staff were re-assigned, some left, and the College of Education was barely involved in middle and high school science teacher education.
However, with the announcement of a new senior position, FSU had decided it was time to redevelop science education at FSU, a place where in the recent past, they were renowned for their work in science curriculum development. Even though I was leaving the University of Georgia to return to WAIT, Russell Yeany, then the Head of Science Education, advised me to throw my hat into the ring as far as the position at FSU was concerned. He argued that I could not decline a position unless it was offered, and I could not accept a position unless I applied and received an offer. Also, I would not know if I were competitive for positions like this unless I applied. This all made sense to me and I applied. Before I left to return to Australia I received the first of many calls to come for an interview. Initially I resisted the invitation to interview for the position but eventually decided to go through with an interview.
When I received an offer as full professor, to begin in January 1987, I spoke with my colleagues in SMEC and eventually made an appointment to speak with the Director of WAIT, Don Watts, who I knew quite well as a sportsman/tennis player. Our meeting was very pleasant as he congratulated me, shook my hand, and wished me well. He assured me that he could not offer me a position that would come close to the offer I had. I have often wondered whether this was or was not the case! Obviously, this would be a good way to rid yourself of somebody you would prefer to see elsewhere :-). It was a tactic I was to experience at Florida State University just a couple of years later when my Dean said much the same thing to a faculty person who he really did want to move on…
And so it was that in January 1987 I resigned from my “dream position” at my alma mater in Perth, Western Australia and moved to the United States to take up a position in Tallahassee, Florida – in a program that suffered with the stigma of having been shut down/suspended.
Soon after I left WAIT, Don Watts, led a movement that changed the name (and expanded the function) of WAIT to Curtin University of Technology – the first of the Institutes of Technology in Australia to command university status.