Spring 2016 - 60260 - PA388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy
Education & Social Change
This course is multi-disciplinary in scope and approach. It may be of particular interest to those concerned with strengthening the relationships among schools, students, families, and communities. We’ll begin by looking at schooling in historical context and its presumed role as a social leveler. History, here, is not so much the usual dates, events, and dramas that define conventional efforts to improve schooling. Rather, the emphasis is on the theoretical, empirical, and practical dimensions of social change and the rhetoric of school reform. This requires exploring the complex interplay of large-scale political, economic, and social-cultural institutions that govern our daily lives, including schooling at all levels. Concentrated political and economic power is at the core of this interaction.
Despite democratic claims, ordinary people are usually and mostly after-thoughts in the events and drama of large-scale regulating institutions. Our task is to understand how and why power concentrates at the top. We also want to identify and unpack those rare moments when ordinary folks disrupt and redirect the routine operations of these large institutions.
Key questions in the course revolve around fundamental policy issues related to inequality, poverty, and social justice. What forces drive disruptive events and their accompanying narrative dramas? Globalization is one — the increasing standardization of school rhetoric and management practices. Another is our national narrative of upward social mobility — a storyline that hides a struggling, shrinking middle-class and an increasingly segregated class and race based society. How and why do economic frameworks dominate schooling policy? Are there alternative frameworks we can use to re-introduce public in the discourse on public education and practice? Are there more effective ways to enlist and hear authentic but missing voices in the talk of school reform? Most importantly, how does egalitarian reform happen in schools and other key social institutions?