Contemporary Social Issues: Analyzing Critically, Arguing Persuasively

Fall and Winter, 2004-05

Fall Quarter, part I

Weeks 1 - 5: Educational Reform Letter from Govenor Reuben Askew, 1972

Discussion of public education in the United States most often has been characterized by disagreements over what has caused lamentable, critical, “failure and decline.” That is true now, as politicians and educators debate whether or not the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2002 has done more good than harm. And this spring, the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education was commemorated across the nation. Few questioned that this decision by the U.S. Supreme Court changed the landscape of public education, but many found little to celebrate fifty years after “separate but equal” had been rejected as a matter of law.

We will study these reforms and the surrounding debate against the background of an historical overview of how public education has been perceived to need profound reform. Effective solutions – even predictable consequences – depend on a sound analysis of what problems need to be addressed. We will look closely at how the success or failure of schools has been assessed. Schools, of course, are only part of the fabric of childhood, so we will also study accounts of how race, class, gender and family life affect whether or not children succeed in school.

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