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Considering the Vision of Public Education: Adding Social Justice to the Professional Program
Unformatted Document Text:  Considering the Vision of Public Education: Adding Social Justice to the Professional Program Section I: Content Statement of the issue: Teacher preparation programs need to equip candidates with the dispositions as well as teaching skills and strategies necessary to successfully prepare a cognitively, culturally, and linguistically diverse student population for the future. Although standards-based achievement is the high stakes standard mandated by NCLB, the states, and other entities, many educators’ goal is for all children to reach their fullest potential. Additionally they see schools as not only serving society’s economic well being but also its civic, cultural and social well being. Schools of Education develop programs to teach the dispositions, skills and strategies to teacher candidates that will prepare them to be successful with the diverse student population they will be charged with teaching. Some programs are guided by a (new) vision of public education with civic and social goals of a more just and prosperous society. That is, public education can promote more equal opportunity and play a role in reducing economic and social inequalities. How might a School of Education provide candidates with a background that would enable them meet this vision? A background in social justice coupled with guided clinical experiences in diverse settings is one way. Such a program was begun in fall 2004 at my institution when elementary education candidates began the professional program’s new “block” structure of methods courses with accompanying clinical placements. I teach the methods course Organization and Management of the Diverse Classroom. The organizing theme of this course is the social curriculum. The social curriculum is comprised of “the knowledge, skills, beliefs, emotions and attitudes which are deemed necessary for people to work productively and live harmoniously together in the classroom” (Powell, 2001, p. 23). Social justice has been added to this course. The first semester (fall 2004) was the pilot of my teacher research project. I assessed what students learned to then further develop the course to meet its stated goals and objectives. Candidate learning was evaluated with a survey of questions with a Likert scale as well as open ended assessment questions. A revised version of the course will be taught in fall 2005 with follow up evaluation and development. The paper I am proposing to present in a grouped individual paper session will outline this teacher research project, emphasizing the course development resulting from the research findings of the students’ evaluation comments. This will include the literature, guiding questions and assignments that are added to deepen content and facilitate greater student learning. This teacher research project is positioned across the academic fields of philosophy of education, multicultural education and social justice education as well as the theoretical underpinnings of the School of Education I teach in. Literature review: Educational philosophy allows a consideration of the purpose of education and the relationship between schools and society. These philosophers challenge us to go beyond academic achievements - beyond what is measurable with standardized tests to consider nurturing the full potential of all children. Education entails the development of children’s capabilities, interests, and habits (Dewey, 1944), preparing them to be open-minded individuals accepting others’ ideas (James, 2000) and become active members in society (Greene, 1988). George Counts (2000) wrote “To refuse to face the task of creating a vision of a future America immeasurably more just and noble and beautiful that the America of today is to evade the most crucial, difficult, and important education task” (p. 122). The emerging field of social justice education brings these philosophical ideals into today’s classroom and teacher preparation programs. Social justice confronts oppression and privilege head on. It challenges us to critique “common sense” or the norms of society/schooling. “The norms of schooling, like the norms of society privilege and benefit some groups and identities while marginalizing and subordinating others on the basis of race, class gender, sexual orientation, religion, disabilities, language, age, and other social markers” (Kumashiro, 2004, p. XXIV). The “concepts that make us think that this is the way things are supposed to be” (ibid.) need to be challenged. Candidates in teacher preparation

Authors: Stevens, Rebecca.
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Considering the Vision of Public Education: Adding Social Justice to the Professional Program
Section I: Content
Statement of the issue:
Teacher preparation programs need to equip candidates with the dispositions as well as teaching
skills and strategies necessary to successfully prepare a cognitively, culturally, and linguistically diverse
student population for the future. Although standards-based achievement is the high stakes standard
mandated by NCLB, the states, and other entities, many educators’ goal is for all children to reach their
fullest potential. Additionally they see schools as not only serving society’s economic well being but also
its civic, cultural and social well being.
Schools of Education develop programs to teach the dispositions, skills and strategies to teacher
candidates that will prepare them to be successful with the diverse student population they will be charged
with teaching. Some programs are guided by a (new) vision of public education with civic and social
goals of a more just and prosperous society. That is, public education can promote more equal
opportunity and play a role in reducing economic and social inequalities.
How might a School of Education provide candidates with a background that would enable them
meet this vision? A background in social justice coupled with guided clinical experiences in diverse
settings is one way. Such a program was begun in fall 2004 at my institution when elementary education
candidates began the professional program’s new “block” structure of methods courses with
accompanying clinical placements. I teach the methods course Organization and Management of the
Diverse Classroom
. The organizing theme of this course is the social curriculum. The social curriculum
is comprised of “the knowledge, skills, beliefs, emotions and attitudes which are deemed necessary for
people to work productively and live harmoniously together in the classroom” (Powell, 2001, p. 23).
Social justice has been added to this course.
The first semester (fall 2004) was the pilot of my teacher research project. I assessed what
students learned to then further develop the course to meet its stated goals and objectives. Candidate
learning was evaluated with a survey of questions with a Likert scale as well as open ended assessment
questions. A revised version of the course will be taught in fall 2005 with follow up evaluation and
development. The paper I am proposing to present in a grouped individual paper session will outline this
teacher research project, emphasizing the course development resulting from the research findings of the
students’ evaluation comments. This will include the literature, guiding questions and assignments that
are added to deepen content and facilitate greater student learning. This teacher research project is
positioned across the academic fields of philosophy of education, multicultural education and social
justice education as well as the theoretical underpinnings of the School of Education I teach in.
Literature review:
Educational philosophy allows a consideration of the purpose of education and the relationship
between schools and society. These philosophers challenge us to go beyond academic achievements -
beyond what is measurable with standardized tests to consider nurturing the full potential of all children.
Education entails the development of children’s capabilities, interests, and habits (Dewey, 1944),
preparing them to be open-minded individuals accepting others’ ideas (James, 2000) and become active
members in society (Greene, 1988). George Counts (2000) wrote “To refuse to face the task of creating a
vision of a future America immeasurably more just and noble and beautiful that the America of today is to
evade the most crucial, difficult, and important education task” (p. 122).
The emerging field of social justice education brings these philosophical ideals into today’s
classroom and teacher preparation programs. Social justice confronts oppression and privilege head on.
It challenges us to critique “common sense” or the norms of society/schooling. “The norms of schooling,
like the norms of society privilege and benefit some groups and identities while marginalizing and
subordinating others on the basis of race, class gender, sexual orientation, religion, disabilities, language,
age, and other social markers” (Kumashiro, 2004, p. XXIV). The “concepts that make us think that this
is the way things are supposed to be” (ibid.) need to be challenged. Candidates in teacher preparation


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