Social Foundations of Education (6W2 EDB 301-501)

Department of Curriculum and Foundations
Social Foundations of Education – EDB 301-501 (web-based), Summer 2015

Professor: David Backer, PhD
twitter: @profdavidbacker
Skype office hours: by appointment

Basic Course Questions

What are the social foundations of education? Is the purpose of education to reproduce society as it exists, or improve society to make it better? What is critical pedagogy? How/why is critical pedagogy a way of teaching, learning, and studying the social foundations of education?

Course Objectives

Cognitive Objectives:

  1. Students will understand how historical, social, economic, & technological forces influence educational policy.  (Contextualism)
  2. 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 and oral format historical, social, economic, and technological forces in shaping educational policy and practice. (Contextualism)
  2. Students will be able to apply course readings in class discussions, presentations, and assignments on topics related to cognitive objectives (Contextualism, Professionalism)

Disposition Objectives:

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

Other readings will be made available via PDF. (Linked in parentheses next to the week’s reading.)

As a WAC course, the following criteria must be met:

  1. Students must be required to write a minimum of 2,000 words in writing assignments.
  1. The required writing must be in at least two separate assignments or drafts. The instructor should give feedback to assist the student in preparing subsequent papers or drafts of papers. This must include feedback on the writing. It should not consist entirely of mechanical correction of punctuation and grammar.
  1. In order to receive a C or better in this course, the student must write at a satisfactory skill level (C or better). If the student’s writing is weak, but shows understanding of the course material, the student may be assigned a D, in which case WAC credit will not be received for the course.
  1. Maximum enrollment for this course is 35 or 45 with a graduate assistant.

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:  Please let me know if you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability.

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, 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. After the midterm and final assignments students will complete a survey which asks them to propose a grade for themselves. 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 Nonrequired reading
6.29.15 Watch opening lecture video.
Fill out the course survey (linked here)
no reading
                                                 Part 1: Central Themes and Ideas of Critical Pedagogy
7.1.15 FEI Blogpost 1Comment 1 Goldfarb, J. “The Student and Society: An Annotated Manifesto”  (sections 1-3)
7.3.15 FEI Blogpost 2Comment 2 Goldfarb, J. “The Student and Society: An Annotated Manifesto” (sections 4-8) same as above
7.6.15 FEI Blogpost 3Comment 3 hooks, b. “Confronting Class in the Classroom”
Due 7.9.15 FEI Blogpost 4Comment 4 McLaren, P. Critical Pedagogy: A Look at the Major Concepts (pp.60-72)
7.13.15 FEI Blogpost 5Comment 5 McLaren, P. Critical Pedagogy: A Look at the Major Concepts (pp.72-81) same as above
Due 7.24.15 (you may also use this week to catch up on any missing blogposts) Video Mid-term: Find a text that’s at least 10 pages long and has to do with Ohio schools (see below for examples). In a 10-15 minute video, summarize this text and then analyze it using the basic ideas and themes of critical pedagogy. How does this text reproduce society or make it better? How does it reflect tensions in class, race, gender, or other forms of dominance? What is the text’s ideology and/or hidden curriculum?Possible texts: history of schools in Ohio/Cleveland; political speeches about Ohio schooling by local or federal politicians; mission statements or codes of conduct in the schools you went to; educational policies at the city, state, or national level; architectural blueprints for school buildings; local, state, or national standards, tests, and curricula; documents from for-profit educational corporations such as Pearson PLC.
Part 2: Historical Critique of Schooling
7.27.15 FEI Blogpost 6Comment 6 Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America,Chapter 1
Part 3: Critical Educators, Myles Horton and Paulo Freire
7.30.15 FEI Blogpost 7Comment 7 Freire, P. & Horton, M. We Make the Road by Walking, Intro and Chapter 1
8.3.15 FEI Blogpost 8Comment 8
Secure an interviewee for final
Freire, P. & Horton, M. We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 2 same as above
8.6.15 FEI Blogpost 9Comment 9
List of interview questions
Freire, P. & Horton, M. We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 3 same as above
8.15.15 FEI Blogpost 10Comment 10 Freire, P. & Horton, M. We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 4 same as above
8.7.15 Video Final*: Interview an educator and film the interview. This educator might be a former or current teacher, principal, politician, organizer, or otherwise. This educator can be a stranger or someone close to you. The interview should address questions you’ve raised this semester about the social foundations of education. Focus on the ways in which schools improve society and/or keep it the same, the politics of schooling and education, and critical pedagogy. Is your educator a critical pedagogue? Why or why not? What do they think the social foundations of education are? What are their politics?

*Due to the change in schedule, you may propose an alternative project which responds meaningfully to the course questions and demonstrates an engagement with the course material. Please propose this alternative to Dr. Backer as soon as possible.

Instructions for assignments

FEI Blogposts

FEI 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 about the text and answer it yourself
    • 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 about the text (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 about the text (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 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.


After each blogpost, I will cold-call one student’s blog and leave a comment. I will then email the student’s blogpost, along with my comment, to the rest of the group. All students will be responsible for leaving at least one comment on that post as well. Comments should be at least 200-400 words, and follow conversational etiquette.

A Note on Electronic Conversational Etiquette

Communicating online is difficult and can bring out the worst in people. This bad communicating behavior–saying things online that one would rarely say in live conversation–is typically called trolling. Here are some sentence stems that can help you to avoid trolling:

“I really like what you’ve said here, but I was just wondering…”

“This is all really thought-provoking. While I respect your comment, and I can see where you’re coming from, I tend to disagree because…”

“When you write that [idea], I feel [emotion] because….”

“I wonder what you think of this…”

Video Midterm + Final

Your midterm and final assignments will be 10 minute videos. 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.

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