What Are Schools For?

Fall 2017
Winter 2018
Spring 2018
Class Size: 46
50% Reserved for Freshmen
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

anthropology, education

Schools are contested institutions in our country. For some, they are seen as a means for learning and mobility; for others they are “sorting machines” that maintain social inequality. While every member of our society is promised a good education, there are ongoing inequalities that are fueled by race, class, and gender. In this program we will investigate these contradictions from pedagogical, psychological, philosophical, cultural, and historical perspectives.

Central to our study will be an investigation of how children learn. To do so, we will draw insights from developmental psychology, educational philosophy, and learning theory. We will study theorists such as bell hooks, Sylvia Ashton-Warner, Paulo Freire, and Maxine Greene. We will also draw on literature, psychology, and anthropology to explore the variations in learning that are a result of culture and other environmental variables, through attention to researchers like Carol Dweck and Edward Deci. From this study, we will seek to create a framework in which we can consider questions of relevant academic content, methods of teaching, ways of learning, and overall educational aims.

In fall and winter, we will broaden our investigation of schooling by considering its role in maintaining cultural values and the purposes of education within a diverse, multicultural society. To do so we will look at the history of teacher preparation, subjects included in the curriculum, testing, the membership and role of school boards, state and federal regulations, and the reform movements of the last 20 years. We will pay special attention to the growing alignment of schooling to the values of the economy and the business community. 

In spring quarter we will focus and conclude our investigation of schooling by considering specific topics of immediate concern in public education, possibly including topics such as testing, standardization of curriculum, school funding, and government policy. We will also focus on developmental and interpersonal aspects of progressive classroom teaching in diverse contexts. 

The spring will be structured with an 8-credit core curriculum plus 4-credit or 8-credit options, for a total of 12 or 16 credits. These options will include:

  • a 4- or 8-credit fieldwork, internship, or scholarly research project
  • a 4-credit small-group study that will fulfill a teaching-endorsement requirement in Elementary, English, or Social Studies education
  • a 4-credit independent study contract that will fulfill an endorsement requirement.

In this reading-intensive program, academic and reflective writing will make up a core activity within the program. Students can expect to write often and to participate in structured writing-feedback groups; students can also expect to revise pieces to increase power and depth in academic or reflective modes. We will also spend time developing and revising this year's Academic Statement.

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

anthropology, community studies, education, literature, philosophy, and psychology


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • No Required Online Learning - No access to web tools required. Any web tools provided are optional.
Internship Opportunities:

4- or 8-credit internship possibilities in spring quarter.  Contact the faculty for more information.

Class Standing: Freshman–Senior
Class Size: 46
50% Reserved for Freshmen

Scheduled for: Day

Advertised schedule:

First class meeting: Tuesday, September 26 at 9am (Sem II C1107)

Located in: Olympia

2018-01-22This program has been extended into spring quarter.
2017-11-14This program will now accept students in all class levels.