Spring 2013 - 62780 - PA388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy
Education and Social Change
Our national narrative says schooling changes and improves society. However, education policy is contradictory and highly inconsistent despite our collective talk and practices around equal educational opportunities. For example, the University of Texas relies on racial segregation (in housing) to counter racial segregation in its admission practices. This outsized inconsistency rarely surfaced in oral arguments and briefs presented in the Fisher v. University of Texas ‘affirmative action’ case, argued before the Supreme Court, October 10, 2012. The case is poised to again re-direct national education policy.
Social change is an elusive concept. The popular story of schooling and change hides the drift toward an increasingly segregated society based on race and social class. This course looks at schooling in historical context, particularly its assumed role as a social leveler. This context is not a history of dates and events. Rather, context focuses on the large-scale social forces that shape education policy and practice. Globalization is one such force—the inter-dependent cultural, economic, and political actions that do more to shape school practice than our professed claims of democratic equality.
Key questions in the course revolve around the role of schooling as the primary driver of upward social mobility. Related questions follow from the claim that universal, public education is a collective good that advances democracy and self-governance. Sobering facts reveal a middle-class that’s struggling and shrinking while the gap widens between the top and bottom income groups. Schooling is marketed largely as a private commodity rather than a public good. The policy contradictions continue in a perverse logic in arguments to protect privilege by invoking the well being of disadvantage segments of the population, as revealed in briefs filed on each side of the Fisher v. University of Texas case.
The course is appropriate for students with an active interest in education policy that goes beyond standards-based testing initiatives and teacher compensation proposals.