Political Economy of Public Education

Fall 2016
Winter 2017
Class Size: 50
Credits per quarter

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Throughout U.S. history, a wide range of politically contested views about the nature of public life have been present. An inquiry into the nature of public life raises the following questions: What constitutes the public? Who should have access? What does the public mean for a democracy? What does it mean for education? What are the implications of neoliberal policies for public education? We further ask: What are the effects of private, state-sponsored charter schools on public education?

In this program we will analyze competing perspectives about public life and the role of the public through the institution of public education and the sociopolitical and economic contexts in which public schools exist. As a basis for our analysis, we will examine public education and schools broadly, using a macro sociopolitical and economic lens, and narrowly, using a micro school-in-community lens.

Schools are a human invention with a history. As such, schools change form and adapt in response to social and political pressures. We will examine the significant political, economic, and social tensions on what the term “public” in public education means. We will analyze historical patterns of U.S. schooling from sociopolitical and economic perspectives. This inquiry includes an investigation of the locally controlled Protestant Christian origin of public education and its effects on our contemporary, multicultural environment. We will also investigate the political and economic debates surrounding the expectations for holding public education accountable through high-stakes standardized tests and various federal initiatives. At the micro level we will analyze the school-in-community as a formal institution that socializes groups of children and youth into specific behaviors and roles. This school-level lens examines the socializing process by primarily focusing on the demographic characteristics of the people who make up the power structures of public schools and the dynamics of their interactions as power wielders.

Fall quarter provides a foundation for winter quarter advanced study, in which students will prepare and present an in-depth research paper. In our collaborative learning community, students will engage in a close reading of texts and write concise analytic essays. Writing is central to student learning in this program. Writing assignments will include text-based seminar, workshop preparations, and research papers. Students can expect to leave this program having developed academic research skills and analytical reading, writing, and speaking to participate in current political and economic debates about the purposes of public education and informed by the historical patterns that have created the present climate.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

education, political economy, and history.


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

$20 per quarter for supplemental reading and registration fees.

Class Standing: Sophomore–Senior
Class Size: 50

Scheduled for: Day

Advertised schedule:

First winter class meeting : Tuesday, January 10 at 9:30am (Lecture Hall 03)

Additional details:

Event Outside of Regular Schedule: This class will be required to attend the Northwest Teachers for Social Justice conference in Portland (Saturday, October 15, 2016).

Located in: Olympia

2016-12-07Winter fee reduced (from $50 to $20).
2016-09-19Fall fee reduced (from $35 to $20).