Social Contexts of Education


Welcome to Social Contexts of Education! In this class we will endeavor to understand some of the primary issues in education today. Rather than taking an economic or political lens, we will approach issues from a practical viewpoint. Along the way, we will introduce different models and theories of education, but we will take the issues with all of the messiness that comes with them.

To this end, the readings are not drawn from any particular discipline, and the course will cover many different topics. In general, we will cover the history of U.S. education, the development of the current American education system, and current issues in education today. Recognizing that we won’t be able to discuss every one in depth, we will attempt to touch on all of the major issues and ground ourselves in current research as well.

This course is organized as a traditional 16-week course, and it is primarily discussion-based. This page will provide a few paragraphs to summarize what we discussed each week, and I will also provide some suggested readings as well. Use the navigation bar on the left to skip to any particular weeks.

Session 1: Intro and Education Today

This session discusses current events. It should be adapted to the times to get students thinking about current issues in education, whatever those may be.

Today, we will discuss the class overview and have some light discussion on current issues in education. Top of mind at this point is the Pandemic and how it has affected students. The readings for today included two New York Times articles: this piece by David Leonhardt and this piece by Dana Goldstein and Noam Scheiber.

The Leohardt piece illustrates how negative the Pandemic has been for students. Aside from lower test scores, we now have empirical evidence that indicates that students have lost an enormous amount of developmental time during this period. In addition, higher numbers of behavioral issues have been reported.

Looking at a separate but related topic, the Goldstein and Scheiber piece discusses teachers’ unions and how they have reacted to the recent surge in COVID cases. This is a difficult time for everyone, and teachers have been asked to go to extraordinary lengths for their students. What types of policy questions do these pieces elicit? Are they related?

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