1. The Jeffersonian Era—the “seeds” of the American public education system in the principles of Classical Liberalism

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EDUC101, Social Foundations of Education

Mid-Term Review of Content and Concepts

As we reached mid-semester and you prepare for your midterm essay, it is helpful to look back at the journey through American education history and contemporary implications we have done so far—here is a list of key themes, theories and concepts that we have addressed up to this point. Please review these as you prepare to write your essay.

Recall the major eras of education change we discussed and the way they presented particular socio-economic, political and ideological frameworks for the changes that took place at the time in the educational approaches/system of those times. This important because educational change always reflects the major issues of the time and is often catered to reflect particular needs, both local and national.

Historical chronology—the major ‘education eras’ and their implications:

  1. The Jeffersonian Era—the “seeds” of the American public education system in the principles of Classical Liberalism
  2. The Common School Era (central figure: Horace Mann)—the beginning of mandatory public education; contemporary implications for unequal funding of schools and its consequences for student achievement and well-being.
  3. The Progressive Era (central figure: John Dewey); two interpretations of progressive education (“democratic development” and “social efficiency”); contemporary implications for organization of schooling: academic tracking/ability grouping; progressive vs. traditional education debates over pedagogical approaches; E.D. Hirsh and Deborah Maier).  
  4. The Civil Rights Era: Melba Patillo Beals in Warriors Don’t Cry; contemporary implications for the perpetuation of de facto segregation in schools (film Little Rock High, 50 Years Later), racial stratification (John Ogbu’s article in barriers and responses).

Throughout these major eras, we addressed major themes, theories and concepts that help us analyze and understand the varied experiences within the U.S. educational system:

Multiple purposes of education and schooling: historically, education has been ascribed multiple roles. Among them, we talked about:

  1. Competing Aims of Education (as captured by David Labaree): Democratic Equality, Economic Efficiency; Social Mobility).    
  2. personal enlightenment and emancipation (Plato’s Allegory of the Cave; Mike Rose, Why School)
  3. preparation of “the masses” for participation in the democratic process, following the gear-changing ideology of classical liberalism (Thomas Jefferson’s vision and the 6 tenets of classical liberalism; Mike Rose, Why School?).
  4. unifying power over differing values and social control over drastically changing demographics, as well as development of human capital for economic success and offering the possibility of equity by being the “great equalizer”( Horace Mann, in the Common School Era and his ability to “sell” education to all the constituencies according to what they wanted from public education)
  5. emancipation of historically oppressed, excluded and marginalized groups (background for Warriors Don’t Cry, Melba Patillo Beals)
  6. democratic development vs. social efficiency—the two major trends emerging out of the Progressive Erathe first, manifested through the child-centered education advocated by John Dewey, the second leaving us the legacy of the organization of schools and classrooms based on the popular principles of scientific management (including the legacy of IQ and ability testing of students so they can be prepared for the best social roles “suitable” for their “abilities”à a utopian, stable, efficient society)  
  7. 2.     Multiple identities versus categories: while individuals with common characteristics share certain experiences, there is also wide variation of experiences withincategories, as different characteristics intersect with each other in the wider structures of society
    1.  intersectionality: the intersections of race, class and gender in Ain’t No Makin’ It and how these variable did not lead to the exact same outcomes for everyone in the Macleod’s study but true social mobility was difficult, even for the Brothers. Similarly, the concluding chapter of The Long Shadow, shows how the outcomes were not similar for everyone but true mobility was difficult. Conversely, Whiteness and utter poverty may also intersect in a complex dynamic where the privilege of Whiteness is shadowed by SES marginalization and disadvantage--(Cass, Held Captive: Child Poverty in America, McGillis,, Film: Children of the Mountain)
    2. Individuals are not solely defined by class (or race, or gender, or language, etc.) but their identities are the result of complex intersections among these social locations and effective, culturally-responsive education keeps this in consideration
    3. 3.     Social Mobility versus Social Reproduction:  we have looked at the contrast between popular meritocratic views of society such as achievement ideology and larger, structural or institutional forces that influence individual agency (human action)à in general social reproduction is a more dominant pattern than social mobility. sadow
      1. a.      The notion of social class (film People like us: Social Class in America—excerpts on Moodle) and how the United States is often self-portrayed as a “classless” society, or one in which everyone is “middle class;” there are multiple reasons behind this narrative we tell ourselves
      2. b.     Social class as greatly structuring one’s set of opportunities and experiences (a “box of constraints” we all live in, and some “boxes” are bigger than others and just and effective education tries to break barriers and make “smaller boxes” bigger, to offer greater opportunity to all youth). This does not mean that all individuals in a social class are alike, but that individuals and groups who vary in wealth do confront different material and historical conditions (in turn, these conditions impact our understanding of the world and position in it—see also the concept of habitus below).  
      3. c.      The notion of race, as socially constructed to serve the interest of dominant groups and perpetuate social hierarchies, rather than having a significant, tangible biological component; racial stratification and what facilitates its perpetuation (John Ogbu’s Overcoming Racial Barriers to Equal Access).
      4. d.     The notion of racism as found not only in personal or attitudinal expressions (which many of us learned to recognize, avoid and fight against), but also at institutional levels and embedded in the social structure in ways that can become invisible, unless specifically challenged

                                                                          i.      John Ogbu’s structural (tangible, material, explicit) and expressive (related to beliefs and mentality) barriers based on race (John Ogbu, Overcoming Racial Barriers to Equal Access).  

                                                                       ii.      The Long Shadow, where Black females and males had significantly lower rates of mobility due to the structural barriers they encounter

  1. 4.     Schools as participants in social reproduction: how schools can reinforce the social differences students bring with them, perpetuating their position in society. We have looked at several interpretations:
    1. a.      Talking about college education as the only “mobility regime” ignores the reality that the truly disadvantaged have disproportionally lower access to 4-year colleges and the 2-year programs are not truly mobility stepping stones. Consider the second “mobility regime” through access to stable blue-collar jobs that are often inaccessible to Black men (The Long Shadow)
    2. b.     Economic reproduction theory, or “schooled by social class” (Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis in MacLeod, Ch. 2—remember the spectrum of social reproduction theories on the board from determinism to human agency). Important concepts:

                                                                          i.      The correspondence principle, by which school structures and intentions correspond to those of society, ensuring that students end up in similar class positions as those of their parents

                                                                       ii.      Issues of school funding—the political nature of school finance based on property taxes and the implication unequal funding has for student learning and opportunities; film Children in America’s Schools and shorter videos on Moodle about the funding crisis and its connection to high school drop-out rates

  1. c.       Habitus and different forms of capital—cultural and social (Pierre Bourdieu in MacLeod, Ch. 2)

                                                                          i.      Habitus (MacLeod, Ch. 2)

                                                                       ii.      Cultural capital (MacLeod, Ch. 2)—schools are structured to value certain cultural manifestations and personal upbringing over others, with particular emphasis on the culture of those who occupy the most powerful social positions; all students come to school with cultural capital, but some come with one that is more congruent with that which the schools value and emphasize: the higher the congruence between the two, the higher the likelihood of academic success (cultural (in)compatibility theory); cultural capital is a reflection of experiences, rather than a reflection of some kind of deficit that causes some students to be “at-risk” (Sonia Nieto’s Toward an Understanding School Achievement); the burden of change and learning is not all on the shoulders of students, but schools and teachers too need to adapt their teaching to the cultural understandings and experiences of students to value them

  1. 1.     Basil Bernstein and Shirley Brice Heath’s linguistic cultural capital, as an important link in the process of social reproduction: interactional styles and ways of organizing and presenting thoughts differ according to cultural assumptions—restricted and elaborated codes (MacLeod, Ch. 2; Lisa Delpit’s The Silenced Dialogue); historical patterns of language development (Black English origins and components (Smitherman, From Africa to the New World and into the Space Age); impact of non-standard language perceptions (Purcell-Gates, As Soon as She Opened Her Mouth)  
  2. 2.      Dominant cultural capital can be learned to give access to the culture of power and thus making the “rules of game” explicit without demeaning a student’s existing capital (Lisa Delpit’s The Silenced Dialogue)

                                                                     iii.      Social capital (Coleman and Hoeffer, Human Capital and Social Capital; Lareau, Social Class and Parent Involvement in Schooling)—the ways relationships and networks within a family and outside it can impact a student’s opportunities

  1. 1.     mentoring relationships between adults and children, the formation of trust and the means by which cultural capital is learned; the difference between structural and functional deficiencies in social capital and impact on the child’s development—the structure of a single-parent family does not automatically place a child at worse disadvantage in the formation of social capital than functional situation where both parents are present but so busy with work that they have very little time for the child. Positive mentorship for healthy development is possible even in the absence of traditional family unit, depending on the approach; even when positive relationships are present and cultural capital is transmitted, the kind of capital may not be valued by schools
  2. 2.     Outside the family, social capital—networks—differ by social class and disadvantages students whose networks are not as congruent with interactions with teachers and school officials (Lareau, Social Class and Parent Involvement in Schooling).
  3. 3.     Outside the family, social capital in the form of peer groups that can counter success rather than support it (recall the Hallway Hangers and the impact that their peer group had on the formation of their habitus and chances for academic achievement).
  4. 5.     Issues of Resistance to Dominant Manifestations of Schooling and Education

                                                                          i.      Student resistance as political stance (Henry Giroux in MacLeod, Ch. 2)

                                                                       ii.      Voluntary versus Involuntary minorities responses to schools and drawbacks/shortcomings of this interpretation of school achievement; dual frame of reference

  1. 1.     Voluntary Minorities: Immigrant Youth and their divergent trajectories of success and the factors that lead to that; “less than optimal schools”; “triple segregation” for immigrant youth by race, class and language.
  2. 2.     Institutional and expressive responses to inequality and how they manifest themselves in schools (John Ogbu, Overcoming Racial Barriers to Equal Access); oppositional identity; cultural inversion among involuntary minorities
  3. 6.     Changes at School Level
    1. a.      Culturally relevant pedagogy that keeps in mind students’ identities (Delpit, The Silent Dialogue; Victoria Purcell-Gates, As Soon as She Opened Her Mouth
    2. b.     “Deficit” vs. “Difference” Approaches
    3. c.      Considering the histories of languages spoken by students as historically-emergent, as political (infused with power) and as positioning social markers
    4. d.     Considering Funding disparities and their impact

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