Consider the following quote and how what you have learned about the history of education supports or challenges the author’s point of view. Prepare a 1000-1500 word response based on the “School: The Story of American Education ” , the first chapter and any other relevant material you find in “American Education” and other material in this module. The suggestions below the quote are intended to help you get started. Try to include at least 5 references.
“A hundred years ago, eight and a half percent of American seventeen year olds had a high school degree, and two percent of twenty three year olds had a college degree. Now, on any given morning you will find something like fifty million Americans, about 1/6 of the population sitting under the roof of a public-school building and twenty million more are students or on the staff or faculty of an institution of higher learning. Education is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution; the creation of the world’s first system of universal public education from kindergarten through high school and of mass higher education is one of the great achievements of America democracy. It embodies a faith in the capabilities of ordinary people that the founding Fathers simply did not have. “
Nicholas Lemann, New Yorker Magazine Sept. 27 2010
There are a number of ways you could address this topic and you can extend your look at American education further back in time than Mr. Lemann does. You might want to focus on “big moments” in the history of American education like the development of Common Schools in the 19th century or school desegregation. You might want to focus on specific populations of students i.e. females, girls, Native Americans , or immigrants throughout American history. You might want to select one or more conflicts about goals and values to focus on – for example, debates about who should receive a “liberal arts” education and who should receive vocational training, or an in depth look at the conflict between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois that I introduced in my lecture about inequality in the educational system.
2. Think about whether you have an older friend or relative whose experience in the American public education system might help us to understand more about the history of American schools. In general, an older subject would be better, someone who was in school 40 years ago or more. If they went to school during a significant era of crisis or change like the Great Depression, World War II or School Desegregation, that would be interesting, but even if they feel like their school years were calm and uneventful they may be able to contribute some interesting insights. (See Meryl Streep’s forward to “School” for an example of that.)
You will want to ask your interviewee what the schools they went to were like, who taught in them, who attended, whether students from different backgrounds were tracked into different courses, who taught in the schools, whether there were sufficient resources and funding and what they think that the most important lessons that their schools conveyed about American Society. What you ask and emphasize will depend on the individual and their life story. If you already know a lot about your subjects school days and have heard their favorite stories, that would give you a head start, but have an interview or conversation with them anyway to make sure that your reflections are accurate and to see what they really think that the larger lessons were. Do not use your interviewee’s full name. Confidentiality is important in Social Science courses.
Length: Approximately 1000 -1500 words in total. A 750-1000 word report about your subject’s school days would be about the right length in most cases, supplemented and introduced by a brief discussion (that should be 150-250 words long) about how their experiences fit in with the history of American education as presented in course readings or resources . I would like to see a few specific references to this material, perhaps two or three if possible.