What Are Schools For?

Fall 2017 and Winter 2018 quarters

Taught by

education, writing
anthropology, education

Schools are contested institutions in our country. For some, they are a means for learning and mobility; for others they are “sorting machines” that maintain social inequality. While every member of our society is promised a good education, there are ongoing inequalities that are fueled by race, class, and gender. In this program we will investigate these contradictions from pedagogical, psychological, philosophical, cultural, and historical perspectives.

Central to our study will be an investigation of how children learn. To do so, we will draw insights from developmental psychology, educational philosophy, and learning theory. We will study theorists such as John Dewey, Lev Vygotsky, Paulo Freire, and Maxine Greene. We will also draw on literature, history, and anthropology to explore the variations in learning that are a result of culture and other environmental variables, through attention to researchers like Mike Rose and Annette Lareau. From this study, we will seek to create a framework in which we can consider questions of relevant academic content, methods of teaching, ways of learning, and overall educational aims.

We will broaden our investigation of schooling by considering its role in maintaining cultural values and the purposes of education within a diverse, multicultural society. To do so we will look at the history of teacher preparation, subjects included in the curriculum, testing, the membership and role of school boards, state and federal regulations, and the reform movements of the last 20 years. We will pay special attention to the growing alignment of schooling to the values of the economy and the business community.

Writing and field study will be prominent. In this reading-intensive program, academic and reflective writing will make up a core activity within the program. Students can expect to write often and to participate in structured writing-feedback groups; students can also expect to revise pieces to increase power and depth in academic or reflective modes. Field-study projects could include classroom observations and field interviews using ethnographic methods.

Program Details

Fields of Study

anthropology community studies education literature philosophy psychology

Preparatory For

anthropology, community studies, education, literature, philosophy, and psychology


Fall Open Winter Conditional

Location and Schedule

Final Schedule and Room Assignment

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First class meeting: Tuesday, September 26 at 9am (Sem II C1107)

Online Learning

No Required Online Learning


2017-11-14This program will now accept students in all class levels.