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Education & Inequality

Session A: July 13 – July 23, 2020
9:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.
English and Writing
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 their own research on a special topic of their choice, culminating in a PowerPoint presentation on the last day of class. 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 
  • To conduct research on issues that affect resource distribution across schools and learning outcomes
  • 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 


Group Research Projects
Students will be expected to pick an issue of their choice, specific to their city and/or municipality where they went to school. On day 9, students will present their topics and research. Students will work in groups of 2-4 on the issue of their choice, and have 8 minutes to present their topic for the class as well as a 4-minute Q&A. 

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 at the end of class and will serve as the basis of ice breaker discussions the following class. 

Readings discussions Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and Day 7

Students will be assigned readings for class discussion. Readings may include excerpts from:

  • Compete or Close: Traditional Neighborhood Schools Under Pressure – Julia McWilliams 
    Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities: Who Wins and Who Loses When Schools Become Urban Amenities – Maia Cucchiara
  • The Newcomers – Helen Thorpe
  • Bad Boys – Ann Ferguson
  • Cutting School – Noliwe Rooks
  • Unequal Childhoods – Annette Lareau
  • Up Against Whiteness – Stacey Lee

Urban Education Module Draft Syllabus 

Day 1: Introduction to Module, Student Introductions, and module overview 
Great Migration 
Redlining and Education  
The Battle for Funding 

Day 2: Education Policy  
The Rise of High Stakes Testing 
School Choice (Vouchers/Charter schools) 

Day 3: Race and Education 
Immigrants in Public Schools  
Model Minority Myth 
Racial Triangulation & Anti-Black Racism 

Day 4: Local Issues & Case Studies
School Closures in Philadelphia
Toxic Schools, Toxic Cities 
Introduce Research Project & Groups 

Day 5: Individual Projects & Group Meeting Time  
Check on Individual Projects, allow students to meet in their groups and review progress 

Day 6: Proposed Solutions 
Restorative Justice
Hip Hop Pedagogies 
Critical Race Theory 
Local Educational Activism 

Day 7: Class & Education 
Parenting and Stratification 
Gentrification and the Exit Threat 

Day 8: Jobs and Careers in Education
Examples of internships available in the Philadelphia area, how to get involved with local organizations through volunteering and local activism and politics (mentioned briefly on Day 6). 

Day 9: Presentation of Projects & Evaluations
Each group has 8 minutes plus 4 for discussion questions posed to the group. Students must turn in a source list in APA format at the beginning of class