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Education & Inequality

Session A: July 6 - July 16, 2021
9:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Philosophy and Society
Julia McWilliams

Education and Inequality will survey introductory concepts in the field of urban education, case studies in relation to Philadelphia, career paths in public education and research, as well as conduct critical reading in their subject of choice, culminating in a PowerPoint presentation on the last day of class with their group. Students will also participate in lectures, group discussions, and autoethnographic journaling exercises.

Goals for Students

  • To gain a deeper understanding of the political economy of educational opportunity as it relates to legacies of colonialism and slavery
  • To conduct research on issues that affect resource distribution across schools and learning outcomes as they are defined by white supremacist norms
  • To learn to read peer-reviewed research on special topics including privatization, school closures, school choice, and high stakes testing
  • To engage students in reflection about their own educational experiences and the social and economic forces that shaped opportunity structures in their own lives
  • To expose them to areas of research, possible careers, and volunteer opportunities in public education

Daily Class Structure

  • Ice Breaker (10-15 min)
  • Ice Breaker (related to Autoethnographic prompt) – sharing in breakout groups
  • Mini-Lecture/Film
  • White board artifact making around readings & Discussion
  • Large group discussion
  • Exit Ticket Free-Write response to their initial post prior to class
  • Forecast for following day


Autoethnographic Journals
Students will journal daily around prompts that relate to processing their own experiences
regarding race, inequality, and educational quality. These prompts will be posted daily prior to
class and will serve as the basis of ice breaker discussions and reflection the following class.
Each entry should be at least 250 words.

Reading Discussions
Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 7, Day 8
Both the “Featured Scholarly Article” and “Other Media” are required reading for discussion.
Optional readings can serve as the basis for the collaborative critical reading presentation or
fodder for thought.

Collaborative Critical Reading Presentation
Your group will identify a problem of educational inequity related to one of the themes of our
readings/discussions. With your group, you will either choose one of the “optional” readings
from that day or an article from a citation at the end of one of our assigned scholarly articles to
read and annotate and use to create a group presentation.

During your reading you will identify:
• The main analytical point, argument, finding (proposition)
• The reasons and supporting evidence.

Discussion with Group Guiding Questions:
• How does your article relate to the larger theme? What does it help us to understand
about HOW educational inequality works and the social process behind it?
• How do your articles relate to one another? Do they offer different perspectives on the
same problem? Do they investigate a particular sub-issue within the larger issue? Do they
come to some consensus or disagreement?
• Does your article resonate/relate at all with/to something that you posted in one of your
autoethnographic prompts? How?


Create a 5-10 min Powerpoint presentation with 4-5 slides.
Each person in the group will present a slide or two:
Slide 1: Introduce the theme, the scholarly articles chosen to be analyzed
Slide 2: How does each article relate back to the larger theme. What does it seek to explain about them?
Slide 3: Is there some sort of consensus or disagreement that you identified among the articles? What was the substance of your discussion when it came to comparing the articles?
Slide 4: Why did each of you choose this topic? How does it relate back to your autoethnographic work in this class?

Module Syllabus

Day 1: Introduction to Module, Student Introductions, module overview, and Colonialism & Education
Slavery and Anti-Literacy Laws
The Great Migration & Redlining

Autoethnographic Prompt
Introduce yourself to the class. Where do you go to school? How did you get to this school in particular?

Featured Scholarly Reference
Literacy & Anti-Literacy Laws - Densu

Additional Media
Nikole Hannah Jones Keynote on 1619 Project - (7:10 – 38:00)
The Great Migration: The African-American Exodus North - Fresh Air interview with Isabel
Wilkerson (Listen or read transcript)

Optional Media
1619 Project Podcasts – NY Times

Day 2: Segregation and Education
Redlining, Housing, and Opportunity
Funding and Schools

Autoethnographic Prompt
Read Day 2 readings. Using Day 1 and Day 2 readings, create a visual representation and/or concept on your own educational history and what has shaped it. You may use the Zoom Whiteboard feature, Coggle, or draw the map and take a picture to share with the class and upload to the discussion board. See example of a Coggle on Canvas. Upload to discussion board.

Featured Scholarly Article
Redlining and the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation – Amy Hillier (Canvas)

Additional Media
How Redlining Shaped Black America – The Root (video)
How Redlining Segregated Philadelphia – Jake Blumgart
The Problem We All Live With (Part I) – NPR Radio (Listen or read transcript)
Parallel Worlds – Paul Socolar

Optional Readings/Media
America’s Most Underfunded Districts and How They Got that Way – Bruce Baker (Canvas)
The Problem We All Live With (Part II)
Savage Inequalities, Ch. 3 – Jonathan Kozol

Day 3: Race and Education
Stereotype Threat
Prison Industrial Complex
School-to-Prison Pipeline

Autoethnographic Prompt
What kinds of stereotypes have you grappled with in your educational experience – either of others or those that you’ve experienced?
Featured Scholarly Text
Bad Boys, Ch. 2 School Rules – Annette Ferguson (Canvas)

Additional Media
Real Cost of Prisons (comic book)
Seeing White, Episode 41: Danger (Podcast)

Optional Readings/Media
The New Jim Crow, Ch.1 – Michelle Alexander (E-book)
The Trouble with Black Boys – Pedro Noguera (Canvas)
Ladies or Loudies? - Morris (Canvas)
The School to Prison Pipeline (Article)
The Critical Resistance Project (Short clips)

Day 4: Education Policy
School Choice & Privatization
The Rise of High Stakes Testing

Autoethnographic Prompt
What kind of school did you go to? Where did it get its resources to operate? What made it “private”? What made it “public”? What role did standardized testing play in your educational experience?

Featured Scholarly Article
The Neighborhood School Stigma - Julia McWilliams (Canvas)

Additional Media
What’s a charter school? – Maia Cucchiara
No Child Left Behind Explained (video clip)

Optional Readings
Making Failure Pay – Jill Koyama (Canvas)
Marketing Schools– Chris Lubienski (Canvas)
From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt – Gloria Ladson-Billings (Canvas)
Cutting School, Ch. 1 – Noliwe Rooks (E-book)

Day 5: Local Issues & Case Studies
School Closures in Philadelphia
Environmental Racism & Toxic Schools
Introduce Research Project & Groups

Autoethnographic Prompt
From the readings, lectures, and discussions that we’ve had so far, is there an issue of significance that you’re interested in learning more about?

Featured Scholarly Text
Slow Violence – Ujju Aggarwhal & Edwin Mayorga (Canvas)

Additional Media
This Is About Racism and Greed: Photo essay from Philadelphia’s School Closures – Bach, McWilliams and Simon
Toxic City, Toxic Schools, Part I – Wendy, Luderman, and Purcell
How Closing Schools Undermines Democracy – Nuamah (Podcast)

Optional Readings
Mass School Closures and the Politics of Disposability – McWilliams & Kitzmiller (Canvas)
Teaching amidst Precarity – McWilliams (Canvas)
Histories that Root Us – Ryan Good (Canvas)
Every Year They Ignore Us - Nuamah (Canvas)

Day 6: Group Meeting Time
Check on Projects/Articles
Group Meeting Time

Autoethnographic Prompt
Tell us about your article of choice around this issue of interest? How far along are you? What is the main point at this juncture in your reading?

Article of Choice for Collaborative Critical Reading Project

Day 7: Class & Education
Social Class and Stratification
Parenting and School Selection
Autoethnographic Prompt
What messages did you receive about education growing up? Have a conversation with your parents this week. What kind of education did they want you to have? How did they make their decision about where to send you to school?

Featured Scholarly Article
The Hidden Curriculum of Work – Jean Anyon (Canvas)

Additional Media
The False Promise of Education – David Backer
For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in Hard Fall – Jason DeParle

Optional Readings/Media
Unequal Childhoods, Ch. 23 – Annette Laureau (Canvas)
Family Socioeconomic Status and Path to College – Robert Crosnoe & Chandra Muller (Canvas)
In Search of a “Good Mix”: Race, Class, Gender, and Mothering – Bridget Byrne (Canvas)
Middle-Class Parents Won’t Help – Maia Cucchiara

Day 8: Proposed Solutions & Career Opportunities in Education
Restorative Justice
Culturally Responsive Pedagogies
Building Racial Solidarities & Activism
Career Options in Education

Autoethnographic Prompt
Think and write of a time that you were hurt or injured by someone. What was the definition of “forgiveness” to you in that situation? What did you need from them to heal?

Featured Scholarly Article
Thick Solidarity – Roseann Liu and Savannah Shange (Canvas)

Other Media
How to Practice Restorative Justice in Schools
Culturally Responsive Teaching

Optional Readings
Can Restorative Justice Disrupt the School to Prison Pipeline? – Mara Schiff (Canvas)
Hip Hop Pedagogy as Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy – Melanie Buffington & Jolie Day
Schoolin’ Black Girls: Politicized Caring and Healing as Pedagogical Love – Sherrell McArthur & Monique Lane (Canvas)
Teacher Activism – Rhiannon Maton (Canvas)

Day 9: Presentation of Projects & Evaluations
Each group has 8 minutes plus 4 for discussion questions posed to the group.