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The Educational Theory and Social Foundations area offers concentrations in the philosophy of education, history of education, educational sociology, and interdisciplinary foundations of education.
Areas of Concentration:
- Philosophy of Education: This concentration seeks to provide students with a rigorous methodological and theoretical
training in philosophical research. The general purposes of the program are to foster
the understanding and development of educational
theory in the context of the broader questions of philosophy and to develop the capacity
to engage in effective discussion of theoretical
problems pertaining to education, especially educational justice, peace, and democracy.
- History of Education: This concentration seeks to provide students with a rigorous methodological and theoretical
in historical research, so that they acquire and are able to advance a deep understanding
of the origins and development of American
education within the context of American social and intellectual history. This concentration
involves an understanding of the history of
social injustice and the political and economic history of the social and educational
reproduction of inequality.
- Educational Sociology: This concentration seeks to provide students with a rigorous methodological and theoretical
in sociological research. Sociology of education explores the school-society/educational-cultural
interface – how socio-cultural
forces define the limits and possibilities of schooling and how education impacts
society. Of particular interest is an understanding
of how social institutions produce injustice/justice, the nature and dynamics of social
stratification, an understanding of the dynamics of
racial, gendered, and ethnic discrimination, and the nature and development of a pluralistic
- Foundations of Education: This concentration seeks to provide students with a rigorous methodological and theoretical training in interdisciplinary research involving sociology, philosophy and history of education.
The strength of the faculty and thus the current organizing focus of these concentrations is social justice. We seek to critically examine the multidimensional nature of justice and education in a way that explores the basic assumptions, policies, and practices of our educational institutions in order to contribute to the creation of a more just, peaceful, and democratic society and world. We believe that at the core of an education for democracy and justice is the capacity for critical reflection. Reflection is a process of examination and analysis that is significantly informed by an understanding of the phenomena that underlie and contextualize educational ideas, practices and problems. We seek to understand education as it is shaped by social, cultural, and ideological forces in order to enhance the reflective practice and thus decision making of educators, leaders, and scholars.
The following questions constitute broad categories of inquiry that frame the inquiry-based model of graduate education in the field of Educational Theory and Social Foundations.
- Social Justice
- What is the nature of social justice?
- What constitutes educational and social justice in a democracy?
- In what ways and to what degree are American (and other) educational systems just or unjust?
- How is educational and social justice enacted?
- What is the relationship between justice, education, and peace?
- What is the impact of our knowledge of justice and foundations on educational theory,
policy, and practice?
- What is the nature of power?
- What is the current and historical distribution of power in American society?
- How should power be distributed in a democratic society?
- What implications does a particular distribution of power have on education and other social institutions?
- What are the power dynamics in schools and classrooms?
- Is there are a relationship between school and classroom power dynamics and those of the larger society?
- How is power exercised in society and in educational institutions?
- What is the relationship between power and justice?
- What is the source(s) of power?
- What is the relationship between power and wealth?
- What is the nature of knowledge?
- What does it mean to know something?
- What is the difference between belief and knowledge?
- Is there a relationship between knowledge and power?
- Are there various ways of knowing and forms of knowledge?
- Is knowledge socially and culturally constructed?
- What knowledge is most valuable?
- In what ways does knowledge define teaching and learning?
- Do race, gender, and ethnicity influence what and how we know?
- What is culture?
- Is reality culturally constructed?
- What is the relationship between power, knowledge, and culture?
- Do schools reflect the culture of the society within which they are situated?
- What constitutes a just response to cultural diversity?
- What is the nature of multicultural education?
- Is justice culturally relative?
- Is there a cultural mismatch between the school and the student’s home life?
- What is the nature of ideology?
- Do all societies have an ideology?
- Is justice defined by ideology?
- What is the relationship between power and ideology?
- Do schools promote ideological hegemony – a dominant ideology?
- What is the relationship between knowledge and ideology?
- Does ideology drive politics?
- Is the curriculum shaped by the dominant ideology?
- Does ideology justify a particular distribution of power and wealth in society?
- What role does schooling play in this distribution?
- What is the relationship between ideology and religion?
- Is there a relationship between American democracy and imperialism?
- What is the nature of society?
- What is the relationship between social structures and forces and social institutions?
- What is the relationship between power and social structure?
- What is the nature of the school-society interface?
- Does schooling reflect the nature of the society’s structures?
- What is the nature of the “good” society?
- Are schools social institutions?
- What is the relationship between dominant social institutions (government, economy, media, military-industrial complex, etc.) and educational institutions?
- In what ways are power, knowledge, and ideology institutionalized?
The interconnected relationship between democratic justice and these dimensions is depicted in the following diagram:
These issues and questions are explored through both disciplinary and interdisciplinary lenses – philosophy, sociology, and history, singly or in combination.