Political Economy of Public Education: Contemporary Historical Realities

Fall 2013 quarter

Taught by

education, history, political economy

Throughout U.S. history, people have politically contested the nature and purposes of elementary and secondary education for children and youth. This program will analyze these competing perspectives on public education and the political and economic contexts in which schools exist. Therefore, we will examine public education and schools both broadly, using a macro social, political and economic lens, and narrowly, using a micro, school-level lens.

Schools are a human invention with a history. As such, schools change form and adapt in response to social and political pressures. We will examine the significant political, economic and social tensions on what the term “public” in public education means. We will analyze historical patterns of U.S. schooling from political and economic perspectives. This inquiry covers the locally controlled, Protestant Christian origins of public education and its effects on our contemporary, multicultural environment. We also investigate the political and economic debates surrounding the expectations for public education to measure accountability by means of high-stakes standardized tests.

At the micro level we will analyze the school as a formal institution that functions to socialize groups of children and youth into specific behaviors and roles. This school-level lens examines this socializing process by primarily focusing on the demographic characteristics of the people who make up the power structures of public schools and the dynamics of their interactions.

In a collaborative learning community environment, students will gain experience in engaging in dialogue through a close reading of texts. Among the writing assignments students will have, they will have opportunities to engage in writing short but focused analytic essays. Students can expect to leave this program having developed the analytical reading and writing skills to participate in the current political and economic debates about the purposes of public education, informed by the historical patterns that have created the present climate.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

history, political economy, sociology, education and teaching.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning

More information about online learning.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall)

Class standing: Sophomore–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 50


Course Reference Number

So - Sr (16 credits): 10177

Go to my.evergreen.edu to register for this program.

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