EDB 604-50 Social Issues in Education, Fall 2015

Department of Curriculum and Foundations
Social Issues In Education – EDB 604-50, Fall 2015

Professor: David Backer, PhD
emails: david.backer@gmail.com;  d.backer@csuohio.edu
Office hours: Tuesday 2pm-4pm 1230-130pm, Thursday 2-4pm, by appointment

Graduate Assistant: Angelica Gagliardi–agagliar01@gmail.com
Please email me to set-up a time.

Basic Course Questions

What is a social issue in education, and what does it mean to analyze social issues in education? What are the differences between pro-capitalist and anti-capitalist theories of education? What is relationship between capitalism and schooling?

Course Objectives

Cognitive Objectives:

  1. Students will understand the ways in which major social, political, technological, and economic forces influence educational priorities.  (Contextualism)
  2. Students will understand the tensions between the goals for individual success, the collective good, and the welfare of groups in public education (Contextualism)
  3. Students will understand the history of efforts to achieve “equal educational opportunity” and contemporary school reform initiatives intended to narrow the achievement/opportunity gap.  (Contextualism, Professionalism)
  4. Students will understand the dilemmas inherent in public education within a pluralistic democratic society.  (Contextualism)

Skill Objectives:

  1. Students will be able to analyze in an extended written format the role of political, economic, and social forces in shaping educational discourse. (Contextualism)
  2. Students will be able to apply course readings in class discussions, presentations, and written assignments on topics related to cognitive objectives (Contextualism, Professionalism)

Disposition Objectives:

  1. Students will approach course material and views of classmates with a level of openness while also demonstrating a willingness to critically examine their own and others’ point of view.  (Contextualism, Partnership, Professionalism)

Books: There are no required books for this course. All readings will be available on PDF.

Academic Honesty: The use of the intellectual property of others without attributing it to them is considered a serious academic offense.  Cheating or plagiarism will result in receiving a failing grade for the work or course.

Special Needs:  If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, if you have emergency medical information to share with us, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, let us know.  Please make an appointment to discuss any special needs you have within the first two weeks of class.

Instructions for Assignments (see below, after Course Calendar)

Note on grading: Rather than the professor “giving” students grades, students will take the measure of their own progress throughout this course. In particular, after the midterm and final assignments students will complete a survey which requires you to propose a grade for yourself based on your own standards of success. The professor will either agree or disagree with the proposal, and students have the option to negotiate thereafter.

Course Calendar

Due date Assignment Reading Link/pdf
8.27.15 Intro to course syllabus; discussion, getting to know you, etc.
                                                 Part 1: Pro-capitalist theories of education
9.3.15 FEI 1 Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom,

Chp. 1

9.10.15 FEI 2 Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom,

Chp. 2

9.17.15 FEI 3 Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom,

Chp. 5

CapitalismandFreedom (Role of Gov’t in education)
9.24.15 FEI 4 Theodore Schulz, “Investment in Human Capital” schultz61
10.1.15 FEI 5
Fill out mid-term evaluation survey
Peirce, Clayton, Education in the age of biocapitalism

Chapter 1, “Learning to be Homo economicus on the Plantation: A Brief History of Human Capital Metrics” p.41-62



                                                Part 2: Anti-capitalist theories of education
10.8.15 FEI 6 Harry Cleaver, Reading Capital Politically, “The Commodity Form” cleaver-reading_capital_politically
10.15.15 FEI 7 Louis Althusser, On the Reproduction of Capitalism, “Reproduction of the Relations of Production”+ “On Ideology” AlthusserSelections
10.22.15 FEI 8 Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America,

Chapters 1+2, “Beyond the Great American Dream Freeze” + “Broken Promises”

10.29.15 FEI 9 Bowles and Gintis, “Education, Socialism, and Revolution,” p.264-288 (same as above)
Position Paper and Debate (Due 11.5.15): Write a “position paper” that (i) summarizes and contrasts the pro-capitalist and anti-capitalist theories of education as you understand them from the readings thus far and (ii) expresses your view. The position paper should answer the following questions: What are each of these theories about? How are they different? Which side are you on, and why? Paper should be between 5-6 pages, double-spaced, 12-point font.

Bring a printed copy of this paper to class on 11.5.15. We will have a class debate about which theory is the better theory of education. Be ready to defend both your position and the opposite position.

                       Part 3: Analyzing social issues in education, applying theory
11.12.15 Memoir presentation (5 minutes) Write a creative nonfiction/memoir piece narrating a personal educational experience from the recent or distant past. Use as many details as possible. Ask research questions about this experience that will guide your political and economic analysis. (See example)
11.19.15 Political and economic analysis of your personal experience Using the theories from the first part of the semester and original research, write a political and economic analysis of your personal educational experience (memoir). What were the policies and economic realities which shaped your educational experience? Cite current data, government approved or peer-reviewed journal articles, books, or reports.
12.3.15 Political and economic analysis of educational issue of interest to you Choose a contemporary educational issue of interest to you. Like you did for your personal experience, write a political and economic analysis of this issue.
Final Papers (Due 12.10.15): Turn in two short research papers based on your application assignments. Each paper should present an analysis of the educational issue (from your personal experience and a contemporary issue of your choosing) which builds on the theoretical perspectives we have read throughout the semester. Be sure to use legitimate research including peer-reviewed articles, historical accounts, newspaper articles, and/or data from non-profit organizations or governments. Each paper should be between 7-9 pages long using some citation method for sources (MLA, APA, Chicago Style).

Instructions for assignments

FEI Papers

The first nine assignments are Fact-Evaluation-Interpretation (FEI) posts. These three words refer to a technique of writing meant to encourage close reading and discussion. Full credit on an FEI paper requires three components:

  • Write a factual question and answer it yourself using resources outside the article
    • Factual questions include: What does [a word] mean? Who is [a person]? When did [an event] happen? What is [a thing]?
  • Write an evaluative statement (500 words)
    • Evaluative statements include: I disagree with [position or idea]. I relate to [idea] because in my own life [personal experience]…
  • Write an interpretive question (no answer, 100-300 words)
    • Interpretive questions include: When the author says [passage], does s/he mean [an interpretation] or [another interpretation]? On the one hand, the author says [passage], but then elsewhere s/he says [different passage]–is that inconsistent? Is the real meaning of what the author is saying [your thought], or is it something else? When I read [passage], I think it means [your thought]–but I’m not sure because [doubt]. Am I right? In one reading, I thought [something] was true, but in this reading the author says [passage]. Is [something] really true?

*Please bring a hard copy of your FEI paper to class each week.
*Please include page numbers for all questions and statements in the FEI paper.

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