Feb 26, 2024  
College Catalog 2019-2020 
College Catalog 2019-2020 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

SOCI 205 - Public Schooling in America

As Frederick Rudolf aptly noted, the history of American education “is American history” and reveals “the central purposes and driving directions of American society.” The advent of mass schooling represents a profound exercise in collective self-definition. As with much else in a democracy, deciding whom to teach, what to teach, and how to teach have been subjects of lively debate in the US from the early nineteenth century to the dawning of the twenty-first. This course offers a broad overview of the overarching political controversies durrounding the historical development of public schooling in America. We begin with a survey of 19th-century movements to define elementary schooling as the chosen instrument for nation-building, for safeguarding democratic self-governance, and for resolving with the cascading social disorders implicated in the rise of urbanization, mass immigration, and industrial capitalism. The rise of high schools in the early twentieth century is the second major topic of interest, and more specifically, progressive-era debates about the relationship between public schools and colleges and universities. This era begets the great ideological fault-lines underlying educational theory and practice in the US that lasted the 20th century into the 21st. The dramatic post-war reconstruction of public schooling is the third major focus of the course. We explore the proliferation of federal government mandates to secularize, integrate, assimilate, equalize, multiculturalize, and expunge racism and sexism from the curriculum, all the while raising academic standards for all. With these directivescame vastly expanded government funding for social science research trained on evaluating public schools’ efforts to realize these new benchmarks of educational progress. We observe this rebirth of the social sciences as arbiters of educational policy debates. The final section of the course revolves around contemporary disputes over school choice policies and the federal No-Child-Left-Behind initiatives. These latest campaigns to democratize academic excellence have followed a familiar, recurring script of US policy making since the 1980s: deregulation, de-centralization, consumer choice, managerial and administrative prerogatives in public agencies re-invented in the image of governance in the corporate sector, and the elaboration of benchmarks to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of educational practices. We consider how recent experience indicate limitations to privatization, corporatization, and marketization as solutions to the educational crisis, and perhaps, suggest the beginnings of a renewed search for answers to the riddle of public education. (4 Credits)