Foundations of Education

Every student at Yale has arrived here thanks to their PreK-12 education. What are the competing goals and policies that have operated what children learn in and out of school? Who succeeded in these systems, and who was left behind long ago?

To answer these questions, this course considers the key theories, research, and policies surrounding PreK-12 and higher education. The course is primarily focused on education in the United States, though international comparisons are made throughout. During the course, we will pay attention to education research, policy and practice, with the aim of examining multiple angles and perspectives on a given issue.

This course is divided into three sections. The first section considers the purpose of education and discusses the social and contemporary context of schools that act simultaneously to create opportunity and also to sort students, creating social inequality. Then we examine theories explaining educational inequality that have attempted to address the structural and cultural forces at play.

Second, we examine policy debates and key actors working in the education field, particularly the rise of student and teacher accountability, school choice, and the increasing polarization between Education Reformers and supporters of traditional public schools.

Third, we study distinct educational spaces and communities including rural education, indigenous education, early childhood education, special education, higher education, and English language learners. During the course, we will examine the policy context of New Haven, where students will conduct a classroom observation.

Fulfill course assignments, students will practice skills relating to these overlapping areas of research, policy, and practice. Assignments include a statement about the purpose of schooling, data analysis, classroom observation, and an independent research paper on an education-related topic of their choice.

Key questions:

  • What is the purpose of education?
  • Why is education an egalitarian institution and an agent of inequality?
  • How do we study the impact of education on individuals and society? What methods, academic disciplines do we use?
  • What are key debates and stakeholders in Education policy?
  • How can education support disadvantaged communities? What are key issues for these groups?

Required Texts: There are four required books for this course.

1) The Flat World and Education by Linda Darling-Hammond (2010)

2) The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession by Dana Goldstein (2014)

3) Integration interrupted: Tracking, Black students, and acting White after Brown by Karolyn Tyson (2011)

4) Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality by Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton (2013)


Boys and Girls: Superheroes in the Doll Corner by Vivian Paley (1984)

Additional readings are available on Canvas



Part 1: The Landscape and Theories of Schooling


Thu. 8/31: Course Introduction

The lesson will include an introduction to the field of Education Studies, as well as an overview of the course syllabus.  We will also reflect on what motivates our interest in education.

Complete EDST 110 student survey:

Week 1

Tue. 9/5: Philosophy and Purpose(s) of Education

What is the purpose of public education?

  • Dickens, Charles (2001/1854) “Gradgrind” from Hard Times
  • Dewey, J. (1897). My pedagogic creed. In The school journal, Vol. LIV, No. 3, January 16
  • Baldwin, J. “A Talk to Teachers,” Delivered October 16, 1963, as “The Negro Child – His Self-Image”; originally published in The Saturday Review, December 21, 1963, reprinted in The Price of the Ticket, Collected Non-Fiction 1948-1985, Saint Martins 1985.
  • Friere, P. (2005). Pedagogy of the oppressed, 35th-anniversary edition. New York: Continuum. Ch. 2, p. 71-86.
  • Deresiewicz, W. (2014) Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite. New York: Free Press. Ch 1 pp. 7-25, Ch 8, 149-172

Tue. 9/7: Education vs. Schooling: Education landscape, competitive teaching methods & personalized learning

What is the purpose of public education (contd.)? What are alternative approaches to traditional education? Who pursues them, can access them?

  • Sasse, B. (2017). The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis–and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance. St. Martin’s Griffin 1 & 2.
  • Montessori, Maria (1912). The Montessori Method. New York, Frederick A. Stokes. Excerpts
  • Gardner, H. (1999). The disciplined mind. New York: Penguin. Ch. 5: How Cultures Educate, pp. 86-103.
  • Berkshire, J. and J. Schneider (2017) “Putting the I in personalized learning.” Have you Heard?
  • Progressive Education: Valens, Amy, and Tom Valens. 2012. “A Year at Mission Hill.” Watch Ch. 1-2, 20 mins,
  • Molomot, Lisa. 2015. “School’s Out: Lessons from a Forest Kindergarten.” 6 mins

Week 2

Tue. 9/12: Mapping the Education Landscape historically and today

  • Goldstein, Teacher Wars. Chapters 1-3
  • Domina, T., et al. (2017). “Categorical Inequality: Schools As Sorting Machines.” Annual Review of Sociology (43): 311–330.
  • Look over the American Education Research Association Divisions and SIGs (special interest groups). As your reading response, post 5 research areas (or more) that are of interest to you. Is there anything missing from these groups?

Thu. 9/14: Desegregation History and the Lens of (In)Equity

PURPOSE STATEMENT PAPER: Deadline by 5 pm Friday, September 15


Week 3

Tue. 9/19: Explaining Educational Inequality: Structure & School Funding

  • Darling-Hammond, Chapters 4 - 5
  • Harvey Kantor and Robert Lowe (2013) “Educationalizing the Welfare State and Privatizing Education: The Evolution of Social Policy Since the New Deal,” in Closing the Opportunity Gap. Ed. Prudence L. Carter. New York: Oxford University Press. Pp. 25-39.

Thu. 9/21: Responding to Inequality: the Student & Teacher Accountability Movement

  • Darling-Hammond, Chapter 3
  • Goldstein, Chapters 8 - 9
  • Booher-Jennings, Jennifer. 2005. “Below the Bubble: “Educational triage” and the Texas Accountability System.” American Educational Research Journal 42(2):231-68.
  • Au, Wayne. 2010. Unequal by Design: High-Stakes Testing and the Standardization of Inequality. Ch 1: 1-6, Ch 4: 86-103. London: Routledge.


Week 4

Tue. 9/26: Quantifying Education Inequality – Guest Lecture by Professor Grace Kao

  • Darling-Hammond, Chapters 1 - 2
  • Kao, G., & Thompson, J. S. (2003). Racial and ethnic stratification in educational achievement and attainment. Annual review of sociology29(1), 417-442.


Thu. 9/28: Educational Research Methods & Data Exercise: AP Enrollment by Race and Ethnicity

  • Tyson, K. (2011). Integration interrupted. Introduction & Ch 4.

* Bring your laptop to class.

Data Exercise: Deadline 5 pm on Fri. 9/29

Week 5

Tue. 10/3: Explaining Inequality: Agency, Culture & The Acting White Debate

  • Fordham, S. and J. Ogbu (1986). “Black students’ school success: Coping with the “burden of ‘acting white’”.” The Urban Review 18(3): 176-206.
  • Tyson, K. (2011). Integration interrupted Ch 1, 2.
  • Fordham, S. (2008). “Beyond capital high: On dual citizenship and the strange career of ‘acting white’” Anthropology & Education Quarterly 39(3): 227-246.
  • (Optional) Ainsworth-Darnell, J. W. and D. B. Downey (1998). “Assessing the oppositional culture explanation for racial/ethnic differences in school performance.” American Sociological Review: 536-553.

Thu. 10/5: Explaining Inequality: Social & Cultural Capital

Choose one book to read for the class including small group discussions.

Fri. 10/6: Discussion section screening – Waiting for Superman

Part II: Education Policy & Policy Actors

Week 6

Tue. 10/9: Why do so many Education R(r)eformers hate each other?

  • View Waiting for Superman in section screening or via Netflix
  • Ravitch, D. (2014) Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. New York: Vintage. Ch 1-4, pp. 3-43.
  • Hess, F. (2017) Letters to a Young Education Reformer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, Ch 1-3, pp. 1-23.
  • Backpack full of cash trailer

Thu. 10/13: School Choice

  • Orfield, Gary. (2013). “Ch 1: Choice and Civil Rights: Forgetting History, Facing Consequences” in Educational Delusions? How Choice Can Deepen Inequality and How to Make Schools Fair, edited by G. Orfield and E. Frankenberg. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, pp. 3-45.
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) (2017). “Quality Education: One School at a Time.” Task Force on Quality Education Hearing Report.
  • Finn, Chester, and Bruno Manno. 2015. “A Progress Report on Charter Schools.” National Affairs. 24: 3-18.
  • Lubienski, C., & Jameson Brewer, T. (2016). An analysis of voucher advocacy: Taking a closer look at the uses and limitations of “gold standard” research. Peabody Journal of Education91(4), 455-472.

Week 7

Tue. 10/17: Midterm

October Break

Week 8

Tue. 10/24: Field Notes, Classroom Observation

  • Rodgers, C.R. Seeing student learning: Teacher change and the role of reflection, In Harvard Educational Review, Vol. 72, No. 2, Summer 2002, pp. 17-40.

SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT for Oct. 24: Please spend 20 minutes sitting in Bass Library taking notes—in whatever way makes the most sense to you—to capture what you observe about your surroundings during that short time period.  Bring your notes to class with you.


Thu. 10/26: Who teaches?

  • Delpit, L. (1988). “The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Education Other People’s Children,” Harvard Educational Review 58, no. 3: pp. 280-98.
  • Goldstein, Ch 6 - 7

* Observe classroom between October 24-November 3 *

Week 9

Tue. 10/31: Teacher’s Unions

  • Goldstein, Chapters 4, 5 and 7
  • Moe, T. (2011). Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Public Schools. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press. Ch. 1: The Problem of Union Power, pp. 1-25.

Thu. 11/2: International Education

  • Darling Hammond, Chapter 6
  • Bjork, C. (2016) High Stakes Schooling. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Ch 1 & 3.



Part 3: Education Spaces & Communities

Week 10

Tue. 11/7: Rural Education

  • Tieken, Mara. Why Rural Schools Matter. Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press. Ch1 & 4, pp. 1-9, 48-84.
  • TBD

Thu. 11/9: English Language and Special Education

  • Kim, Y. K., Hutchison, L. A., & Winsler, A. (2015). Bilingual education in the United States: a historical overview and examination of two-way immersion. Educational Review, 67(2), 236-252.
  • Yell, M. L., Rogers, D., & Rogers, E. L. (1998). The legal history of special education: What a long, strange trip it’s been!. Remedial and Special Education19(4), 219-228.


Week 11


Tue. 11/14: Indigenous & Deaf Education: When integration is cultural genocide

  • Brayboy, B. M. J. (2014). Culture, Place, and Power: Engaging the Histories and Possibilities of American Indian Education. History of Education Quarterly, 54(3), 395-402.
  • Solomon, A. (2012). “Deaf” in Far from the Tree: Parents, children and the search for identity. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  • Gandara, P. 2008. “Cocooning.” Everyday Anti-Racism: Getting Real About Race in Schools, edited Mica Pollock. New York: New Press. Pp. 44-49.

Final project prospectus: deadline Tue. 11/14 by midnight

Thu. 11/16: Issues in Early Childhood Education & Parenting

  • Tough, P. (2008). “Ch. 2: Unequal Childhoods” in Whatever it takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, pp. 21-52
  • National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) (2009) “Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8.” Position Paper.
  • Gilliam, Walter, Angela Maupin, Chin Reyes, Maria Accavitti, and BS Frederick Shic. 2016. “Do Early Educators’ Implicit Biases Regarding Sex and Race Relate to Behavior Expectations and Recommendations of Preschool Expulsions and Suspensions?” New Haven, CT: Yale Child Study Center.

Thanksgiving Break

Week 12

Tue. 11/28: Issues in Higher Education: Status, Access & Knowledge Production

  • Karabel, Jerome (2005) The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission & Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. New York: Houghton Mifflin. Chapter 4, 7, 11 on Yale
  • Lamont, M. (2009). “Introduction” in How professors think. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Read only pp. 1-12. Available Yale Online
  • Morris, A. (2015). “Introduction” in The scholar denied: WEB Du Bois and the birth of modern sociology. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Pp. 1-5 Available Yale Online

Thu. 11/30: Poster Sessions round 1 (Last Name A-M)


Week 13

Tue. 12/5: Poster Sessions round 2 (Last Name N-Z)


Thu. 12/7: Revisiting the Purpose of Schooling

  • Darling-Hammond, Chapters 8 - 9