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EDFS 255 – SCHOOL AS A SOCIAL INSTITUTION

The University of Vermont


College of Education and Social Services
Summer 2011
3 graduate credits

Instructor: Connie Krosney, Ed. D. July 5 – 15, 4:00 – 8:30 p.m.


Telephone: 802-658-3764 Tuesday through Friday, and
Monday through Friday
email: connie.krosney@gmail.com and/or constance.krosney@uvm.edu

Please note: 1. Readings should be completed in advance of course dates. Books


are available through the UVM bookstore, and articles and
chapters are available online.
2. The final paper and self evaluation are due one week after the end
of class sessions, on July 22rd.

Introduction:

Looking back over the last thirty years, we see a fairly long stretch of time during
which public education has been under siege. Commission reports, the media, and even
town meetings have seemed dominated by concerns about almost every aspect of
education in the United States, currently fueled by a new administration in Washington.
Sixteen years ago in Vermont, Act 60, since modified, attempted to address inequities in
funding. More recently, No Child Left Behind has inspired a renewed passion for
standardized tests and test scores, concerns about special education costs and issues have
spiraled upwards, and media images of our schools as failing have undermined what
public confidence remained. Indeed, there are many theorists, journalists, and politicians
who worry about an attack on the very nature and existence of public education. Yet the
challenges we face are much more deeply rooted than may be apparent, and can, many
researchers believe, be traced to some basic contradictions and tensions in our societal
structure. In Vermont, we have seen some fairly substantial attempts to “restructure,”
“revision,” and to change schools; some of these efforts have included service learning
and internships, individualized plans for all students, and professional learning
communities. Strangely, when one enters a school, one is likely to find the environment
very familiar, echoing our own school experiences from years past. Even though some of
the tones have been altered, the language has certainly become more specialized, and the
funding is less certain and more complex, the school still seems like the school.

We continue to be unclear and unsure about what we want and expect from our
schools. What is (and should be) the relationship between school and society, between
the school and the local community it serves, between the school and the state, between
the school and the federal government? Are we giving superficial answers to very deep
questions, ones we are afraid or unable to consider? Should we expect our schools to
offer meaning to the lives of young people, or even to help and encourage them in their
own searches for meaning? Should our schools prepare young people for the society and

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social world as it is, to participate as economic individuals, or should the schools help
them to envision a better world? Should schools somehow prepare the young to fight
terrorism, to become rich, to reach for the stars, to lead fulfilling lives, to participate in
happy families? Questions arise related to school (and societal) purpose in terms of
preparation for/participation in work in the local, national, and global economy, in a
democratic society, and in a community. More questions arise about the meaning of
moral and social preparation for adulthood, individual self-realization and development,
and fulfillment of intellectual and other potentialities, including those required for
meaningful relationships.

Recent national pressures have resulted in Vermont’s use of standardized tests


(such as the NECAP for students and Praxis I & II for new educators) to measure student
learning, teacher competence, and school success. There have been ambitious efforts,
and many education professionals doubt that they are appropriate, or even relevant, to
respond to the challenge of the deep questions we face. Education is sometimes defined
and (hopefully) experienced as a forum for the “Great Conversation.” In this course, we
will center our own Great Conversation on purpose, policy, and practice, and attempt to
find both meaningful and applicable insights and understandings to some of the deep
questions which face us as educators, parents, and citizens in a democratic society. The
school’s role as a social institution, that is, as an instrument of maintenance and/or
change of the society, will be our major focus.

You have already, perhaps unknowingly, many of the tools of sociological


analysis in terms of language, experience, knowledge, and insights. We will use these
tools and add to them in our exploration and examination of education in the United
States.

Course Goals:

1. Increase awareness and understanding of the relationships among selected


educational purposes, policies, and practices, and the forces operating in this society;
2. Gain understanding and knowledge of different sociological perspectives, and the
ability to apply these perspectives to the analysis of education;
3. Increase knowledge of critical issues in education, including those surrounding
diversity, policy and law, equity, and school purpose;
4. Develop and articulate an understanding of social class and other issues affecting
societal and educational challenges, and an understanding of courses of action
possible to work towards a social vision.

Required Readings (books to be purchased are *asterisked):

Bambara, Toni Cade (1972). The Lesson, from Gorilla My Love. New York: Vintage.
(online)

*deMarrais, K. and LeCompte, M. (1999-3rd edition). The Way Schools Work. White
Plains, NY: Longman.

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Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. (selection) New York: Continuum. (online)

*Hesse, H. (1953/1988). Beneath the Wheel. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Kohn, A. (2004). NCLB and the Effort to Privatize Public Education, in Meier, D. &
Wood, G. (editors) (2004). Many Children Left Behind: How the No Child Left Behind
Act is Damaging Our Children and Our Schools. Boston: Beacon Press. pp. 79-97
(online)

*Kozol, J. (2005). The Shame of the Nation. New York: Crown. (selections) (Chapters 1,
2, 4, 10, 11, 12)

McIntosh, P. (1987). White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. From White
Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences
through Work in Women’s Studies. Center for Research on Women, Wellesley College.
(online)

Noddings, N. (2007). When School Reform Goes Wrong. New York: Teachers College
Press. pp. 64-72 (online)

*Purpel, D., & McLaurin, W. (2004). Reflections on the Moral & Spiritual Crisis in
Education. New York: Peter Lang. (selections) (Book 1: Chapters 1, 3, 6; Book 2,
Chapters 1, 2, 3, 5)

*Rothstein, R. (2004). Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational
Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap. Washington: Economic Policy
Institute.

Sadker, D. (2002). An Educator’s Primer on the Gender War. Phi Delta Kappan (Vol.
84, No. 3)

Additional articles may be distributed by the instructor.

Choose ONE of the following books for small group presentations:


Au, W. (2009). Unequal by Design: High-Stakes Testing and the Standardization of
Inequality. New York: Routledge.
Ayers, R., and Ayers, W. (2011). Teaching the Taboo: Courage and Imagination in the
Classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.
Bolgatz, J. (2005). Talking Race in the Classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.

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Course Requirements:

I. Complete all readings; come to class prepared to discuss the readings and
other assignments.

II. Small Group Presentation: scheduled throughout the course. Each student
will be part of a small group which will present one of the optional readings
(above) to the rest of the class. These presentations should be interactive, and
aimed at getting the whole group to think about, understand, and discuss the
author’s key questions and main points, especially as related to course
concepts. Some limited planning time will be incorporated into the sessions.

III. Written assignments:


All written work to be submitted should be typed or word-processed, using 12
pt. font, with 1” margins. All work should be proofread and revised before
submission Evaluation of written work will be based upon clarity of
expression, appropriate use of the ideas/positions of others, appropriate use of
accepted form/format, and the development, support, and justification of a
position or an idea. Students are encouraged to write in the first person, and
should avoid, except if writing a letter, the second person. Quotations or
paraphrases should be correctly documented/cited, using APA style.

Each student will keep an Academic Journal, in which s/he reacts and
responds to seminar readings, activities, and discussions. While these will not
be collected, they will form the basis of the two “Readings Response” papers
due during the course, and the Letter of Learning. (see below)

A. Readings Response #1: due Friday, July 8


Drawing upon your academic journal, write a 5-6 page response to the
readings of the first week of the course. What has been particularly exciting
and/or challenging for you, and why? Have you found yourself thinking
differently? You may keep this informal, but be sure to respond to each of the
readings.

B. Reaction to Beneath the Wheel: due Monday, July 11


In your academic journal, consider these questions: What do you see as
“school purpose” in this system? Is the purpose of schools here explicit or
implicit, and how do you know this? Are schools in this system “effective?”
How does this relate to our schools and society? In what ways does this
novel increase your understanding of our schools and the issues we’ve been
discussing? What questions does the novel raise for you? Your responses will
help to inform our in class dialogue.

C. Readings Response #2: due Friday, July 15

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Again drawing upon your academic journal, write a 6-8 page response to the
readings of the second week of the course. What has been particularly exciting
and/or challenging for you, and why? Have you found yourself thinking
differently about schools, or about the relationship of school and society?
What questions remain for you to delve into more deeply?

D. Creative Expression: due Friday, July 15


At the term’s last class, each student will share/perform a creative expression
of what s/he has learned during the seminar, or highlights. Someone might
write a song and perform it, or create a performance piece (pantomime or
spoken), or write a poem or story, or create a visual representation. Hopefully,
this will allow each person to explore a different “intelligence” or way of
communicating, and be both fun and moving for the group.

E. “Final” Paper: due Friday, July 22, by email: connie.krosney@gmail.com

Choose either option #1 or option #2

Option #1: Vision (or Purpel) Paper. Write an 8-10 page essay responding
to the following questions:
a. What is your current vision of the purpose of education? How does your
vision relate to that of David Purpel, and to other course authors?
b. Prophecize, in Purpel’s sense, about the future of American education and
society. Where and how will you, as an educator-prophet, shine your
light? What sorts of policies need to take shape?
c. What actions will you commit to take within the next two years to bring
your vision to light (practice)?
Of primary importance here is your vision and what you will do to gain
progress towards it.

Option #2: Critical Issues Paper. Write a 9-12 page paper on a critical
social, political, or economic educational issue of your choice. Some
examples of topics are: equitable funding, gender bias, anti-racism education,
multicultural education, social class issues in schools and/or the curriculum,
public versus private schooling, education for students with disabling
conditions and/or special needs, sexual orientation issues in schools, educating
toward social justice. Students may, of course, choose another topic, but must
have instructor approval before July 15th. The paper may be organized as
follows, or should include all the features here:
a. Define and describe the issue (2-3 pp.). Why is this a critical issue? What is
the problem? What are the major points of contention? Make specific
reference to readings from our course that inspired or challenged your
thinking about the issue, as well as the research you have read.
b. How do you, as a critical theorist and/or sociologist of education, interpret
the issue? What questions do you bring to this (or any) issue? (4-5 pp.)

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Again, use the readings from the course, and the additional readings you
have done, to inform your interpretation.
c. Create a course of action you can/will take to address the issue and/or case
you have described, either from your current position or from a position
you hope to hold in the near future. What are the obstacles? Who are your
allies? Show how your plan responds to and uses course concepts (3-4 pp.)
Papers must cite a minimum of 3 additional resources (academic journal
articles, chapters, books) in addition to at least some (say, three) of the core
seminar readings, as appropriate.
F. Letter of Learning (self-evaluation): due Friday, July 22
Reflect upon your learning as a result of this seminar. What was most
important, most transformative, most surprising to you? How have you
changed as a person involved in education as a result of the reading, writing,
and discussing in which you have engaged in the seminar? Have you been
inspired to change anything in your professional life? If not, why not? This
letter should be 2-3 pp. long, and should be written to me (Dear Connie). The
idea here is to reflect upon your own learning!

IV. Journal, Participation, Self-Evaluation, and Attendance


A. Each student will keep an academic journal for the course in which s/he
reacts to course readings, discussions, and other activities and events. There
should be entries on each required reading, and questions recorded which
might be raised during the class. At the end of the course, each student will
present a creative project based upon the learning as recorded in the journal.
B. Students are expected to be active participants. The course is based upon
dialogue and discussion. In order to be “informed” class members, students
must be current with the readings and assignments. A large part of
participation is active and engaged listening, enthusiasm, and preparation.
C. Students are expected to attend all classes, and to be punctual. If you are
unable to attend any sessions, you may be required to submit additional work,
and you should be aware that attendance is part of your grade. It is your
responsibility to make arrangements with me to make up for any absences.

V. Re-cap of Assessment
Value
A. Readings Response #1 20%
C. Readings Response #2 20%
D. Vision/Critical Issues paper 25%
E. Small Group Presentation 10%
F. Letter of Learning 10%
G. Participation, Creative Expression 15%

Course Schedule (preliminary, changes possible):

July 5 Introduction to the Course

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In class: review of syllabus
purpose brainstorm
video: Freedom, other
determine small groups on choice readings
Reading due: deMarrais & LeCompte, Chapters 1 (theory) and 2 (social
organization)
Writing due: Academic Journal

July 6 Wearing Ourselves


In class: video: Boys
Reading due: deMarrais & LeCompte, Chapter 5 (social class)
Freire, McIntosh, Bambara (all online)
Writing due: Academic Journal

July 7 Equal Opportunity for All?


In class: video: Off-Track
Story: “I go along…”
Reading due: Rothstein (whole book)
Writing due: Academic Journal

July 8 Inequality, Rage, & Despair


In class: Video (Princess) and art activity
Reading due: Kozol, Chapters 1, 2, 4, 10-12
deMarrais & LeCompte, Chapter 7 (ethnic minorities)
Writing due: Reading Response #1

July 11 Knowledge and Control


In class: Small group: Bolgatz
Reading due: Hesse, whole book
deMarrais & LeCompte, Chapter 6 (what is taught)
Writing due: Academic Journal

July 12 Gender as a Lens


In class: videos: Killing Us Softly III
EMF video
Box activity
Reading due: Sadker article (online)
deMarrais & LeCompte, Chapter 7 (gender)
Writing due: Academic Journal
:
July 13 Redefining: Choose a., b., c., d., or e.
In class: Video: Closing the Achievement Gap
Small group: Au
Reading due: Noddings, pp. 64-72 (online)
Kohn, pp. 79-97
Writing due: Academic Journal

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July 14 Moral, Spiritual, and Democratic Crisis
In class: Small group: Ayers
Reading due: Purpel, Book I, Chapters 1, 3, 6
Writing due: Academic Journal

July 15 Diversity, Unity, Respect, Tolerance, Affirmation, Celebration: This is


not the End, but the Beginning
In class: Baldwin video (selections)
Creative Expressions
Reading due: Purpel, Book II, Chapters 1, 2, 3, 5
Rethinking Schools piece (to be handed out)
Writing due: Reading Response #2
Bring self-addressed envelope for return of work.

Office Hours and Telephone: I am always glad to meet with students either
individually or in small groups to discuss concerns about course materials, concepts, or
ideas, or just to get to know each other better. As I am not on campus except for the time
of our course, we will need to schedule these meetings in advance. I may be reached at
my home number: 658-3764. There is voice mail on this number, and I try to return calls
promptly. I check email regularly and will answer brief questions on email very quickly:
connie.krosney@gmail.com