Culture and Schooling

This page contains a bunch of PowerPoint lectures originally designed for a 300 level course required of all teachers in the ASU teacher education program. The course was structured as a lecture / recitation class. I presented once a week in a large lecture hall to about 250 or 300 students. The breakout recitation classes were conducted by a very diverse group of graduate students, generally from Educational Leadership and Policy. These were small “breakout sections” capped at 30 students and provided spaces for discussions. Teaching Assistants could discuss the lectures or anything else that came along. Sometimes they suggested additional readings. The Syllabus .PDF file here shows a representational set of lectures and readings. All the readings were available on the internet, at some point the university adopted the software package “Blackboard” which functioned as a firewall to distribute texts. I taught this course for more than ten years.

The PowerPoints can be read on line or downloaded; they look better downloaded and you can more easily read the “notes” as well as seeing the visuals. Most of the photographs, but not all, are in the public domain. An excellent resource is the Library of Congress “American Memory” where I found most of the historical photographs. FYI there is generally no worry about copyright for use of images in lectures or presentations, but be very careful if you want to publish.

LECTURE 1: Introduction to SPF 301

The first lecture describes the course aims: “What we are going to do in this class is to read, think and study a set of complex and important MACRO relationships. Macro means big and we will consider the big picture of relations between school and culture, how complex systems of education, society, family, ethnic group and the state cross cut and interact. Needless to say you cannot discuss these issues without simultaneously talking about race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, ability and all the other sources of difference that makes life interesting. But we will conduct this discussion from a knowledge base not stereotype and popular prejudice.”

LECTURE 2: Ethnography For Teachers

The issue for teachers is how to learn about the culture of their students and use this information to become more effective teachers. There is a major movement in education to redefine and broaden the role of teacher to take advantage of personal and professional skills that enable master teachers to maintain high levels of enthusiasm throughout their career. Ethnography is one set of tools to build those skills. This lecture explains the diversity of today’s students and some of the techniques of ethnography helping teachers to understand them.

LECTURE 3: Definitions

The word diversity has come to be a code word in America meaning racial diversity. Moreover, we seem to think that race/ethnicity is the largest and most important axis of diversity that affects schooling, teaching and learning. This notion of race/ethnicity has some problematic elements. Culture is learned behavior and is transmitted by education and there is no necessary relation between racial type and culture. We frequently use the term "Ethnicity" or sometimes the merged term "Race/Ethnicity" which confuse racial characteristics with those elements of culture transmitted by education. The words "race" and "ethnicity" blur two distinct things: biology and culture. It is important to keep in mind that racial characteristics like skin color, eye shape, hair texture, height and weight, the size and slope of your nose or buttocks are transmitted genetically. Culture and knowledge are not transmitted genetically: no one is born with a taste for spaghetti, fry bread, or curry; the urge to wear tweeds, beads, turbans, or tutus.

LECTURE 4: Common Schools to Best System

This chapter is an overview of the history of Education in the U.S. during the 1800’s. There was a widespread belief that common schooling was essential for democracy to avoid the social classes that marked the old European aristocracy, and to assimilate all newcomers.

Universal education is the power which is destined to overthrow every species of hierarchy. It is destined to remove all artificial inequality and leave the natural inequalities to find their true level. With the artificial inequalities of caste, rank, title, blood, birth, race, color, sex, etc. will fall nearly all the oppression, abuse, prejudice, enmity, and injustice, that humanity is now subject to. Lester Frank Ward, 1892
....Nothing but universal education can counter this tendency to the domination of capital and the servility of labor. If one class possesses all the wealth and education, while the residue of society is ignorant and poor ... the latter will be the servile dependants and subjects of the former. -- Horace Mann

LECTURE 5: One Best System

The common school was a hodgepodge of one-room or urban schools, controlled by local school boards with a large number of democratically elected members and funded by irregular patterns of taxes, charitable contributions and lottery. This no longer served the growing nation. In the 20th century wrenching technological changes were taking place and schools were lagging behind. Development included: Population growth, Developments in transportation and communication, Industrial revolutions, Immigration, Rural to urban migration all leading to basic changes in the social structure. One way to visualize this is by looking at the growth of cities. In the last quarter of the 19th century a much more coherent, rational, and "systematic" organization of schools developed. This lecture shows and tells about those changes.

LECTURE 6: Rock And a Hard Place

While American education grew and developed rapidly up till World War One, the next three decades were a different story. The One best system had been generally completed by 1910 and education began to stagnate while other issues took centerstage in the national imagination. There was some consolidation after the rapid growth of previous decades, but generally education marked time for more than a generation. This period was a time when strains accumulated in the system -- much like strain accumulates between earthquakes when plates lock and pressure builds up.

LECTURE 7: Sorting Machine

In this lecture I present some of the critical developments leading to the situation today. These were the cultural changes and developments that affected my education and probably the school experiences of most of your parents. The United States has never had a national curriculum like Germany or Japan. As we have seen the system developed in fits and starts from local schools to state school systems. The federal government was essentially not involved. After WWII with pressure to “beat the Russians” the national government became more involved. Federally financed programs and made possible one of the most profound social relocations in American history -- in every way comparable to the settlement of the frontiers in the last century.