EDB 604-503 Social Issues in Education, Fall 2015

Department of Curriculum and Foundations
Social Issues In Education – EDB 604-503 (web-based), Fall 2015

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

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.

Social Media Privacy: Since this is a class in Social Issues in Education, part of our pedagogy will be to use and explore social media. The course will be conducted primarily through social media outlets, such as blogs and Twitter. Students are encouraged to use pseudonyms in these blogs and Twitter feeds, if they choose.

Do not post personal information on your blogs or twitter feeds, such as phone number, address, or social security number, etc.

If students do not feel comfortable posting or interacting through these public social media environments, they have the option of submitting work via Blackboard or personal email to the professor. Please contact Dr. Backer if you have questions regarding this policy, its accordances with FERPA regulations, and/or want to set up an alternative means of course communication.

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 Watch opening lecture video (recorded over the Summer and used for the Fall semester.)
Fill out the course survey (linked here)
                                                 Part 1: Pro-capitalist theories of education
9.3.15 FEI Blogpost 1 Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom,

Chp. 1

9.10.15 FEI Blogpost 2 Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom,

Chp. 2

9.17.15 FEI Blogpost 3

Lecture Video on Friedman (start at 1:04)

Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom,

Chp. 5

CapitalismandFreedom (Role of Govt in Ed)
9.24.15 FEI Blogpost 4

Video on Schulz (TBD)

Theodore Schulz, “Investment in Human Capital” schultz61
10.1.15 FEI Blogpost 5
Fill out mid-term evaluation survey
Peirce, Clayton, Education in the age of biocapitalismChapter 1, “Learning to be Homo economicus on the Plantation: A Brief History of Human Capital Metrics” p.41-62

Video lecture


Becker humancapital2

                                                Part 2: Anti-capitalist theories of education
10.8.15 FEI Blogpost 6 Harry Cleaver, Reading Capital Politically, “The Commodity Form” cleaver-reading_capital_politically
10.15.15 FEI Blogpost 7

Althusser Video 1 (start at 1:04)

Althusser Video 2

Althusser Video 3 (start at 4:20)

Louis Althusser, On the Reproduction of Capitalism, “Reproduction of the Relations of Production”+ “On Ideology” AlthusserSelections

Lecture links:

Althusser on Schooling and Education

Diagram of a (capitalist) society)

10.22.15 FEI Blogpost 8

Video Lecture on Bowles and Gintis (start at 6:00 or so)

Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America,

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

10.29.15 FEI Blogpost 9

Video Lecture summarizing the anti-capitalist theory of education (start at 0:20)

Bowles and Gintis, “Education, Socialism, and Revolution,” p.264-288 (same as above)
Video Assignment 1 (Due 11.5.15): In a 10-15 minute video response, summarize and contrast the pro-capitalist and anti-capitalist theories of education. What are each about? How are they different? Conclude with a statement your position: Which side are you on, and why?
                       Part 3: Analyzing social issues in education, applying theory
11.12.15 Memoir Post Write a creative nonfiction/memoir piece narrating a personal educational experience teaching or interacting with students at your current placement school, ideally a lesson plan that you have taught. Use as many details as possible. (1,000 words)
11.19.15 Political and economic analysis of your personal experience Using the theories from the first part of the semester and original research on the social context of your current placement school (history, demography, income statistics), write a political and economic analysis of an experience teaching or interacting with students at your school. What policies, political realities, and economic realities shaped this experience? Cite current data, government approved or peer-reviewed journal articles, books, or reports. (1,000 words)

Lecture Video (start at 5:25)

12.3.15 Political and economic analysis of educational issue of interest to you Choose a contemporary educational issue of interest to your current school community. Like you did for your personal experience, write a political and economic analysis of this issue, and make sure to think of a possible solution to it or further action your school could take to address it. (1,000 words)
Final Paper and Presentation (Due 12.10.15): Combine your two political-economic analyses into an 8-10 page research paper which addresses the social context of (a) a lesson plan at your current school and (b) a social issue your current school faces. Make sure that your sources are cited properly. Make a Powerpoint presentation based on your paper. 

Instructions for assignments

FEI Blogposts

The first nine blogposts 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 blogpost 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 include page numbers for all questions and statements in the FEI post.)

Cold-calling: Professor will grade FEI blogposts via cold-call. Several times a week, professor will randomly select a student’s blog to read and comment on. The professor will be looking for the week’s blog post, as well as previous weeks’ posts. Students will be cold-called at least twice during the semester, once before the midterm and once after the midterm.


An ongoing class discussion will take place on Twitter throughout the semester. As part of the day’s work (for each blogpost), make sure to post 3-4 times from your Twitter handle. You can ask questions, post comments, and/or respond to classmates’ comments. Please make sure to follow @profdavidbacker and follow everyone that this account follows so you can see the whole class.

Video Assignments

Video assignments are summative assessments where you demonstrate, via video lecture, your thinking about course material. The first video assignment is theoretical while the second applies the theory to two concrete educational issues. Videos should be 10-15 minute. These videos can be simply you speaking to the camera, or doing a voiceover for a presentation you’ve made, or even other more creative expressions using film. Upload these videos to the Blackboard assignment posted for them.

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