Study guide for educational foundations comprehensive exam

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Congratulations! You've made it this far, completed the course work and are preparing for the "comps."  We hope this guide will aid you in that preparation.
The comprehensive examination allows the doctoral student the opportunity to synthesize knowledge at an advanced academic level; each category represented in the Program of Studies is included in the comprehensive examination. It is not simply another final exam on courses completed, but rather reflects your ability to demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of your field of study.
The Educational Foundations comps are take-home exams. You will receive the comps via e-mail and have approximately two weeks to complete the exam. The dates are listed on the Educational Leadership home page. The take-home format of the exam suggests you will have ample time to provide well-organized, well-developed, comprehensive, and well-cited responses drawing on both materials you have used in relevant classes as well as outside resources.
PURPOSE: The COE/EDL doctoral handbook includes the following statements of purpose for the doctoral comprehensive exam (p. 13): "Their primary purpose is to give students an opportunity to (1) Demonstrate their understanding of basic concepts beyond the final examinations taken in specific courses; (2) Form and articulate opinions and concepts in areas of study; (3) use methods of argument, presentations, conclusions, implications, applications, and organization as they synthesize knowledge from their studies; (4) Integrate knowledge with their own professional experiences."
PREPARATION: You should prepare for the take-home exam well before you receive the exam. Begin by reviewing the materials (e.g. readings, notes, discussions, essays, or other materials) from related courses and identifying major concepts or ideas. Use course syllabi and class readings to review major arguments presented in readings. If possible, identify a group of students with whom you can study and exchange ideas. If not familiar with APA 6th edition guidelines, borrow a manual or look for websites that will help you because you will need to use APA standards for formatting, citing, and references.
EXPECTATIONS: As doctoral students, you are expected to add to the body of knowledge by formulating your own arguments while using an extensive body of literature. While some questions will have several subsets of questions, you should be able to frame these questions within a larger argument, which you identify in the introduction and thesis statement. The reader should be able to easily identify your argument within the first or second paragraph.
You are expected to answer all parts of the question, use an appropriate number of sources (at least 5-7 sources per question), be able to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the question, and be able to bring these various sources into conversation with each other to show the nuances within different understandings. The writing should be clear, coherent, and well-organized.
FORM: You will be given one question from each of the Foundations disciplines covered in the EDL department (anthropology, sociology, history, and philosophy). You will answer two questions out of the four provided. In some cases, you will be asked to draw on your professional and/or personal experiences.
LENGTH: While there is a not a required number of pages, a well-developed response to each question should probably range from about 8 to 15 pages. It would be fair to say that any response less than five (5) pages would not allow you to develop a comprehensive response. In addition, any response over 25 pages indicates you have not adequately developed a concise and coherent argument.
CITATIONS: All responses should use APA 6th edition with regards to citations and should include a bibliography at the end of each question.
EVALUATION: Questions are prepared and read by faculty members in each area of expertise. Student responses are blinded so faculty do not know who wrote them. Two faculty members read and evaluate each question for accuracy, thoroughness, comprehensiveness, clarity, and appropriateness. The exam is graded as “high pass,” "pass," "conditional pass," or "failure." Successful completion of all sections of the comprehensive exams is a requirement for Advancement to Candidacy.
Below you will find specific study information for each of the four Educational Foundations disciplines.
 Some of the major concepts with which you should have familiarity are:

• social transmission theories, interpretive theories, and theories of transformation: their assumptions, their defining characteristics, their proponents, their critics, their inter-relationships, their theoretical and applied aspects. Understanding of key terms, touchstone references, key people, key focus questions, and key educational issues from more than a single theoretical perspective is expected.

• relationships between education systems and society, including a historical and contemporary understanding of economic and political influences.

• the influence of societal organization on aspects of schooling (e.g. power, control).

• the nature of sociological inquiry: its characteristics, what it enables, what it constrains.

• the contributions of various theoretical perspectives (e.g. functionalism, labeling theory, conflict theory, reproduction theory, phenomenology, critical theory) to discussions of educational reform in historical and contemporary settings.

Sample Questions:

The following questions are from previous comprehensive exams. They are presented here to give you an idea of the kinds of questions that appear in the sociology foundations exam.

  1. Sociologists have long been interested in the relationship of social class and education. Identify three social theorists who address this relationship and describe their arguments. Delineate the similarities and differences in their positions and explain how their work links participation in school to educational achievement and occupational attainment.

  1. Sociologists and educators have developed a range of arguments to explain the low academic achievement of members of particular minority groups. Identify and describe two contrasting theoretical interpretations of school failure and delineate the differences between the two positions. In your response, refer to the empirical work of at least two theorists within each paradigm and their contributions to the theoretical arguments. Discuss the implications of each theoretical argument on school-based interventions and the recommendations each theorist would make to improve academic achievement.

  1. School districts throughout the country are experimenting with strategies to increase parental choice in schooling (e.g., charter schools, vouchers, etc.). Select four individuals from the following list of educational sociologists and social theorists and discuss how their work relates to issues around school choice. How do the central themes of each theorist’s work justify or critique the advantages and disadvantages of this school reform movement?

Theorists & texts:
The following theorists and texts are listed to help you identify sources from which to draw:


Thomas Adorno

Paula Gunn Allen

Michael Apple

Jean Baudrillard

Walter Benjamin

Peter Berger

Basil Bernstein

Allan Bloom

Barry Bluestone

Pierre Bourdieu

Samuel Bowles

Nancy Chodorow

John Chubb

James Coleman

R.W. Connell

Linda Darling Hammond

Lisa Delpit

Jacques Derrida

John Dewey

Emile Durkheim

Frederick Erickson

Michelle Fine

Michel Foucault

Paulo Freire

Harold Garfinkel

Carol Gilligan

Henry Giroux

Erving Goffman

Jurgen Habermas

Donna Haraway

Nancy Hartsock

Max Horkheimer

William James

Jonathan Kozol

Annette Lareau

Jean-Francois Lyotard

Karl Mannheim

Karl Marx

Ray McDermott

Peggy McIntosh

Peter McLaren

George Herbert Mead

Robert Merton

C. Wright Mills

Jeannie Oakes

John Ogbu

Talcott Parsons

Susan Urmston Philips

Theodore Schultz

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Joel Spring

Lester Thurow

Herve Varenne

Max Weber

Amy Stuart Wells

Cornel West

Paul Willis

Good overall texts:

Arum, R., & Beattie, I.R. (2000). The structure of schooling: Readings in the sociology of education. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.

Ballantine, J.H. (12001). The sociology of education: A systematic analysis (5tg ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

deMarrais, K.B., & LeCompte, M. (1999). The way schools work: A sociological analysis of education (3rd ed). New York: Longman.

Halsey, A.H., Lauder, H., Brown, P., & Wells, A.S. (1997). Education: culture, economy, society. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Lemert, C. (1999). Social theory: The multicultural & classic readings (2nd ed). Boulder CO: Westview Press.

Levinson, D.L., Cookson, P.W., & Sadnovnik, A.R. (2002). Education and sociology: An encyclopedia. Florence, KY: Routledge-Falmer.
Related primary source texts related to sociological foundations of education:
Apple, M. (1993). Official knowledge: Democratic education in a conservative age. New York: Routledge.

Apple, M. (1979). Ideology and curriculum. Boston: Routledge Falmer.

Berger, P. (1967). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. Garden City, NY: Anchor.

Bloom, A. (1987). The closing of the American mind: How higher education has failed democracy and impoverished the souls of today’s students. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A social critique of the judgment of taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (1976). Schooling in capitalist America: Educational reform and the contradictions of economic life. New York: Basic Books.

Bernstein, B. (1971). Class, codes, and control. London: Routledge & Paul.

Carnoy, M. (1974). Education as cultural imperialism. New York: David McKay Company.

Chubb, J.E., & Moe, T.M. (1990). Politics, markets, and American’s schools. Washington DC: Brookings.

Delpit, L. (1995). Other people’s children: Cultural conflict in the classroom. New York: W.W. Norton.

Dewey, J. (1916/1966). Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York: Free Press.

Dewey, J. (1938/1997). Experience and education. New York: Free Press.

Durkheim, E. (1956). Education and society. New York: Teachers College Press.

Fine, M. (1991). Framing drop-outs. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Freire, P. (1995). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Gilligan, C. (1982/1993). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Giroux, H. (1988). Teachers as intellectuals: Toward a critical pedagogy of learning. Granby, MA: Bergin & Garvey.

Giroux, H. (1999). The mouse that roared: Disney and the end of innocence. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Giroux, H. (2001). Theory and resistance in education: A pedagogy for the opposition. South Hadley, MA: Bergin & Garvey.

Goffman, E. (1959/1990). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Doubleday.

Haraway, D.J. (1989). Primate visions: Gender, race, and nature in the world of modern science. New York: Routledge.

Kozol, J. (1991). Savage inequalities: Children in America’s schools. New York: Crown Publishers.

Lareau, A. (2000). Home advantage: Social class and parental intervention in elementary education (2nd ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Lyotard, J.F. (1984). Condition postmoderme. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Mannheim, K. (1952). Essays on the sociology of knowledge. London: Routledge & Paul.

Marx, K. (1961/1962/1977). Kapital. New York: Vintage Books.

McLaren, P. (1993). Between borders: Pedagogy and the politics of cultural studies. New York: Routledge.

McLaren, P. (1998). Life in schools: An introduction to critical pedagogy in the foundations of education (3rd ed.). New York: Longman.

Mead, G.H. (1934/1962). Mind, self & society from the standpoint of a social behaviorist. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Merton, R. (1949/1957/1968). Social theory and social structure. New York: Free Press.

Mills, C.W. (1956). The power elite. New York: Oxford University Press.

Oakes, J. (1985). Keeping track: How schools structure inequality. New Haven CT: Yale University Press.

Ogbu, J. (1974). The next generation: An ethnography of education in an urban neighborhood. New York: Academic Press.

Ogbu, J. (1991). Minority status and schooling: A comparative study of immigrant and involuntary minorities. New York: Garland.

Parsons, T. (1977). Social systems and the evolution of action theory. New York: Free Press.

Parsons, T., & Shils. E.A. (1951). Toward a general theory of action. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Philips, S.U. (1983). The invisible culture: Communication in classroom and community on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. New York: Longman.

Schultz, T.W. (1970/1971). Investment in human capital: The role of education and of research. New York: Free Press.

Spivak, G.C. (1999). A critique of postcolonial reason: Toward a history of the vanishing present. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Spring, J. (1994/2002). American education. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Spring, J. (1997). Deculturalization and the struggle for equality: A brief history of the education of dominated cultures in the United States. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Varenne, H., & McDermott, R. (1998). Successful failure: The school America builds. Boulder, Co: Westview Press.

Weber, M. (1947/1964). The theory of social and economic organization. New York: Free Press.

Weber, M. (1958/1985/2002). Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism. Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury Publishing Co.

Wells, A.S., & Crain, R.L. (1997). Stepping over the color line: African American students in white suburban schools. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

West, C. (1993). Race matters. Boston: Beacon Press.

Weis, L. (1990). Working class without work: High school students in a de-industrializing economy. New York: Routledge.

Willis, P. (1977). Learning to labour: How working class kids get working class jobs. Farnborough, UK: Saxon House.

History can be studied from many different perspectives. Indeed the perception of the historian can become a study in itself (historiography). However, one key element is to understand that there are some essential/timeless themes that you can discover in your study of history. The following list is illustrative of those themes and, by no means, exhaustive. It does reflect the type of themes that can be studied in the History of American Education.
Theme #1: Presentism in American Education: What values should we use to judge historical figures?
Theme #2: Schools and Illness: The history and interaction of disease and man
Theme #3: Morality in Politics. (AKA: The Sally Hemmings affair) Should this affect our view of contemporary politicians?
Theme #4: Heroes in American Education History
Theme #5: The Role of the common school in America
Theme #6: Great Women in American Education History
Theme #7: Racism in American Education History
Theme #8: Early Arizona Education and Educators
Theme #9: Philosophies of Education and their impact on teaching and learning
Theme #10: Assessment and Accountability in Education
Theme #11: Psychological Analysis of History: “Invisible Scars” in Education
Theme #12: The role of the Federal Government in Education
Theme #13: The role of the courts in Education
Theme# 14: School Safety and Security
Theme# 15: Childhood in America
Please be prepared to address these themes, and other major themes in the History of American Education, by grounding yourself in the authors, books and major talking points of the themes.

How will the themes be structured? The following features offer some suggestions of its essential components. The themes in education that were listed above may be embedded in general questions of knowledge such as the following:

(1) Individuals whose ideas of education have influenced the development of education in the U.S.A.

(2) Social Issues and the interaction with Education

(3) Problems of interpreting historical development of education

These overarching structures are only meant to be illustrative and not comprehensive.

First and foremost be prepared to address the themes, eras, and overarching structures by preparing in advance. My advice is to form a study group to prepare background material and sources for many of these themes so that whichever questions, themes or perspectives are used, you will be prepared to answer the questions with a minimum of time spent in doing the original research and hunting down sources to cite.
Second, spend time organizing the material to be prepared. The History of American Education is a broad topic and anything that you can do to organize yourself, so that you do not have to scramble at the last minute to prepare, will pay dividends in the quality of your work.
Finally, clear your calendar for significant portions of time during the writing phase of the comprehensive exams. The one failure that has created problems for students above all others is a failure to allocate enough time to write on these exams. Give yourself blocks of time where you can just sit down with your resources, and think and write.
Any doubt in the opinion of the reader as to the quality of answers to the questions often leads to a negative evaluation of the examination.  As a general practice, readers of comprehensive examinations place high expectations on the candidate. This means that the quality of answers must be high to receive a positive evaluation. However, taking comprehensive examinations can be, and always is, a rewarding and enriching experience provided the candidate is well prepared. This suggests that a candidate must take comprehensive examinations only when he/she is absolutely certain that he/she is well prepared. Usually the candidate's advisor helps to make a determination as to whether he/she is ready to take the examinations. It is often in the best interest of the candidate to consult his/her advisor on the various aspects of the comprehension examination, including the areas. However, the decision often rests with the candidate himself/herself.
What, then does preparation to take comprehensive examinations entail? It means, among
other things:

1.     Having confidence in oneself as a candidate for a doctoral degree.

2.     Having a broad and comprehensive understanding of the essential components of the area of study.

3.     Demonstrating originality in understanding historical concepts and interpreting them in a logical manner.

4.     Demonstrating ability in the understanding of groups of historians, their common theses, bias and understandings of history and comparing and contrasting them (Historiography)

5.     Demonstrating the ability to draw logical conclusions and to discuss implications from a properly structured argument or reasoned analysis of historical issues.

The following publications are suggested as source materials which discuss the history of education in the U.S. Although they must not be regarded as absolute, they should be considered quite adequate and complete to enable candidates to prepare for the comprehensive examinations.
K-12 Emphasis:
Webb, D.L. (2006). The history of American education: A great American experiment.

Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. (ISBN: 0130136492)

CC/HE Emphasis:
Lucas, C. (2006). American higher education: A history (2nd ed.) NY: Palgrave

Macmillan. (ISBN: 1402972893)

Dunaway. D.K. (2004). Route 66 oral history: A manual. Washington, DC: National

Park Service. (supplied in class)

For all students:
Spring, J. (2008). The American school: From the puritans to no child left behind (7th ed.). NY: McGraw Hill. (ISBN 978-0-07-352589-1)

Pulliam, J. (2006). History of education in America. NY: Merrill.

Berliner, D.C., & Biddle, B.J. (1995). The manufactured crisis: Myths, fraud and the attack on America’s public schools. Indianapolis, IN: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. (ISBN 9780201409574)

Katz, M. B. (1975). Class, bureaucracy and schools. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. (ISBN 0275851001)

Kliebard, H. M. (1992). Forging the American curriculum. London: Routledge Press. (ISBN 0415904692)

Perkinson, H. J. (1995). The imperfect panacea: American faith in education. NY: McGraw Hill. (ISBN 0070493715)

Ravitch, D. (1983). The troubled crusade: American education 1945-1980. NY: Basic Books. (ISBN 0465087574)

Smith, P. (1990). Killing the spirit: Higher education in America. NY: Viking Press. (ISBN 0670828173)

Tyack, D. (1984). Public schools in hard times: The Great Depression. MA: Harvard University Press. (ISBN 0674637828)

As a subfield of anthropology, educational anthropology is centrally focused on cultural aspects of education, including how culture is transmitted, shared, acquired, and modified through and by schooling.
Some of the major themes with which you should have some familiarity include:

  • Anthropological approaches to the study of schooling, both methodologically and theoretically

  • The role of education in cultural acquisition and transmission

  • Culture, modernization, and formal education

  • School practices and community life: congruence, conflict and discontinuity

  • Cultural production and reproduction in contemporary schools

  • Cultural studies in school leadership and policy

You should be familiar with work by some of these major scholars in the field of educational anthropology:

  • George and Louise Spindler

  • Margaret Mead

  • Dell Hymes

  • Fred Erickson

  • Teresa McCarty

  • Gloria Ladson-Billings

  • Stacey Lee

  • Doug Foley

  • Jean Lave

  • Harry Wolcott

  • Shirley Brice Heath

  • Henry Trueba

  • Murray Wax

  • Ray McDermott

  • Donna Deyhle

  • John Ogbu

  • Hugh Mehan

  • Signithia Fordham

Sample questions might include:

  • How does educational anthropology inform a key issue in schooling? Chose an issue that is relevant to your work. Issues might include high stakes testing, school reform efforts, meeting the needs of English language learners, providing services to students with disabilities, etc. In your response, consider the range of ways that educational anthropologists have conceptualized or contributed to the issue.

  • Anthropologists of education assert that various aspects of cultural identity shape schooling. Race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, religion, language, are all critical areas of inquiry for educational anthropologists. Discuss in detail the multiple relationships among these categories around a particular topic in education. Draw on the work of educational anthropologists to illustrate the way cultural constructs and their intersections shape our understanding of the issue you’ve chosen to discuss.

In addition to the readings for your EDF 704 course, you should also consult recent editions of the journal Anthropology and Education Quarterly, as well as some of the texts listed below.

Child Rearing and Enculturation

Mead, M. (1928). Coming of age in Samoa. NY: Harper Perrenial.

Whiting, B.B., & Whiting, J. (1975). Children of six cultures: A psycho-cultural analysis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Briggs, J. (1970). Never in anger: Portrait of an Eskimo family. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Adler, S. M. (1998). Mothering, education, and ethnicity: The Transformation of Japanese American culture. NY: Routledge.

Cross-Cultural and Everyday Cognition

Worth, W., & Adair, J. (1975). Through Navajo eyes: An exploration in film communication and anthropology. Albuquerque,, NM: University of New Mexico Press.

Lave, J., & Wenger, L. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Cross-Cultural Approaches to Literacy

Wagner, D. (1993). Literacy culture and development: Becoming literate in Morocco. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Street, B. (1993). Cross-cultural approaches to literacy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Schieffelin, B., & Gilmore, P. (1986). The acquisition of literacy: Ethnographic perspectives. NY: Ablex Publishing.

Goodman, Y., & Wilde, S. (1992). Literacy events in a community of young writers. NY: Teachers College Press.

Language at Home and at School

Heath, S. B. (1983). Ways with words: Language, life, and work in communities and classrooms. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Phillips, S. (1983). Invisible culture: Communication in classroom and community on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Erickson, F., & Shultz, J. (1982). The counselor as gatekeeper: Social interaction in interviews. Maryland Heights, MO: Academic Press.

Socialization and Schooling

Hostetler, J. (1971). Children in Amish society: Socialization and community education. Austin, TX: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Wylie, L. (1976). Village in the Vaucluse. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Deborah Reed-Danahay (1996) Education and identity in rural France: The politics of schooling. NY: Cambridge University Press.

Grant, C., & Sleeter, C. (1996). After the school bell rings. London: The Falmer Press.

Leistyna, P. (2002). Defining and designing multiculturalism: One school system's efforts. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Levinson, L., Foley, D., & Weis, L. (1996), The cultural production of the educated person: Critical ethnographies of schooling and local practice. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Moffatt, M. (1989). Coming of age in New Jersey: College and American culture. NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Magolda, M. (2004). Making their own way: Narratives for transforming higher education to promote self-development. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

School as Socio-Cultural Structure

Wolcott, H. (1978). The man in the principal’s office: An ethnography. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press.

Wax, M. L., Wax, R. H., Dumont, R. V. (1989). Formal education in an American Indian community: Peer society and the failure of minority education. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Lawrence Lightfoot, S. (1985). The good high school: Portraits of character and culture. NY: Basic Books.

Peshkin, A. (1994). Growing up American: Schooling and the survival of community. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Nespor, J. (1997). Tangled up in school: Politics, space, bodies, and signs in the educational process. NY: Routledge.

Schooling and Reproduction

Willis, P. (1977) Learning to labour. NY: Columbia University Press.

Weis, L. (1990) Working class without work: High school students in a de-industrializing economy. NY: Routledge.

MacLeod, J. (1987) Ain’t no makin’ It: Leveled aspirations in a low-income neighborhood. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Fine, M. (1991) Framing drop outs. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.\

Riemer, F. (2001). Working at the margins: Moving off welfare in America. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Accommodation, Assimilation and Resistance

Ogbu, J. (1974) The next generation: An ethnography of education in an urban neighborhood. Maryland Heights, MO: Academic Press.

Gibson, M. (1988) Accommodation without assimilation: Sikh immigrants in an American high school. NY: Cornell University Press.

Fordham, S. (1996) Blacked out: Dilemmas of race, identity, and success at Capitol High. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Olsen, L. (2008) Made in America: Immigrant students in our public schools. NY: New Press.
Cultural Conflict and Social Inequality

Varenne, H., & McDermott, R. (1999). Successful failure: The school America builds. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Foley, D. (1990). Learning capitalist culture: Deep in the heart of Tejas. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Abu El-Haj, T. (2006). Elusive justice: Wrestling with difference and educational equity in everyday practice. NY: Routlege Press.

McCarty, T. (2002). A place to be Navajo: Rough Rock and the struggle for self-determination in Indigenous schooling. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
Ethnographic Research and Successful Interventions

Ladson Billings, G. (1997). The dreamKeepers: Successful teachers of African American children. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Au, K. (1997). Literacy instruction in multi-cultural settings. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.

Delpit, L. D. (1996). Other people's children: Cultural conflict in the classroom. NY: New Press.

Britzman, D. (2003). Practice makes practice: A critical study of learning to teach. New York: State University of New York Press.
Schooling and public policy

Anyon, J. (1997). Ghetto schooling: A political economy of urban educational reform. New York: Teachers College Press.

Anyon, J. (2005). Radical possibilities: Public policy, urban education, and a new social movement. New York: Routledge.

Buras, K. (2008). Rightist multiculturalism: Core lessons on neoconservative school reform. New York: Routledge.

Cornbleth, C., & Waugh, D. (1995). The great speckled bird: Multicultural politics and education policymaking. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Lipman, P. (1998). Race, class, and power in school restructuring. Albany: State University of New York Press.

McNeil, L. (1993). Contradictions of control: School structure and school knowledge. New York: Routledge.

McNeil, L. (2000). Contradictions of school reform: Educational costs of standardized testing. New York: Routledge.

Metz, M. (1978). Classrooms and corridors: The crisis of authority in desegregated secondary schools. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Metz, M. (2003). Different by design: The context and character of three magnet schools (Reissued ed.). New York: Teachers College Press.

Oakes, J. (1985). Keeping track: How schools structure inequality. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Sleeter, C. (2005). Un-Standardizing curriculum: Multicultural teaching in the standards-based classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.

Race, Social Class, Gender (and their intersections) in and out of school

Bush, M. (2004). Breaking the code of good intentions: Everyday forms of whiteness. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.

Feagin, J., Vera, H., & Imani, N. (1996). The agony of education: Black students at white colleges and universities. New York: Routledge.

Ferguson, A. (2001). Bad boys: Public schools in the making of Black masculinity. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Fine, M. (1991). Framing dropouts: Notes on the politics of an urban high school. Albany: SUNY Press.

Fine, M., & Weis, L. (1998). The unknown city: The lives of poor and working-class young adults. Boston: Beacon Press.

Fordham, S. (1996). Blacked out: Dilemmas of race, identity, and success at Capital High. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kenny, L. (2000). Daughters of suburbia: Growing up White, middle class, and female. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.

Lee, S. (1996). Unraveling the "model minority" stereotype: Listening to Asian American youth. New York: Teachers College Press.

Lee, S. (2005). Up against whiteness: Race, school, and immigrant youth. New York: Teachers College Press.

Lewis, A. (2003). Race in the schoolyard: Negotiating the color line in classrooms and communities. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Lopez, N. (2003). Hopeful girls, troubled boys. New York: Routledge.

Luttrell, W. (1997). Schoolsmart and motherwise: Working-class women's identity and schooling. New York: Routledge.

Olsen, L. (1997). Made in America: Immigrant students in our public schools. New York: New Press.

Perry, P. (2002). Shades of White: White kids and racial identities in high school. Durham: Duke University Press.

Pollock, M. (2004). Colormute: Race talk dilemmas in an American school. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Schofield, J. (1982). Black and White in School: Trust, tension, or tolerance? : Praeger Publishers.

Valdes, G. (2001). Learning and not learning English: Latino students in American schools. New York: Teachers College Press.

Valenzuela, A. (1999). Subtractive schooling: U.S.-Mexican youth and the politics of caring. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Willie, S. (2003). Acting Black: College, identity, and the performance of race. New York: Routledge.

A central theme for the philosophic study of education and leadership is the question of Justice. The most influential single work in philosophy and in philosophy of education, Plato’s THE REPUBLIC, is a disquisition on the question of justice, and then education, in human societies. The extent to which educators, and educational leadership understands public justice in democracy, will be a measure of whether those professional can safeguard or may squander the opportunity to serve children in a truly public education.   Philosophy of education takes many forms but is based on study and discussion of education as a function of the kind of society we want, need and have.  The distance between the kinds of persons our children and we would be with education, and the kind we would be without one, is measured in many directions. What do we mean by education?  When is it –good?  When not? What is the educated person?  When are we doing justice in the act of educating a person, a child?  When are we not?

Your comprehensive understanding should be tested based on a solid foundation of individual thinkers and schools of thought that have had an impact on education and schooling, theory and practice.  Students will explore questions about the purposes, ends, and means of education, and begin a lifelong process of assess own philosophy, defined as a set of commitments. Content knowledge about philosophical debates about controversies in education and improvement in understanding philosophical ideas, and assessing the strengths and weaknesses of different philosophical arguments is essential. Seeing the relevance of philosophical discourse to their own experience, and formulating and defending their own views on controversial issues. After taking this course, students should have enhanced abilities to identify and explain the ultimate goals of education and its role in society; they should be better able to rationally form and justify opinions about controversies in education; and they should be able to assess the available options in ethical dilemmas facing teachers and come to morally acceptable decisions.

The question: that is the heart of philosophy, and philosophy of education. These are but a few, of thousands: Should children receive a free education? What are the responsibilities of society concerning the education of children with exceptional talent or special needs? What subjects should children be taught? Should ethics and religious studies be taught in public schools? Is it possible and right to teach children to be virtuous or to become good citizens? Should education in the USA be multicultural and multilingual? Should mathematics and science be taught neutrally or as culturally specific approaches to understanding the world? Is it fair to stream or track classes with respect to children’s talent, or should classes consist of children of mixed ability? Should parents or the state have the most control in deciding what kind of education children receive? To be professionals do teachers, education leaders and policy-makers need to have some understanding of philosophy?


Foundational grasp of American philosophy of education rests on a basic comprehension of the wide historical influence of Plato, Aristotle, and Rousseau. Nearly every Western discourse on the subject refers to these thinkers. In addition, American philosopher John Dewey is a continuing stimulant to discussion of justice, education and democracy. The following primary source works will be very relevant to your comprehensive preparation.

Plato’s The Republic And The Meno

Aristotle: The Nichomachean Ethics And The Politics

J.J. Rousseau: Discourse on Inequality and Emile

John Dewey:

My Pedagogic Creed*

School and Society

Democracy and Education*

Experience and Education*

Reconstruction in Philosophy


0ne of the best general commentaries on Democracy in Education: Amy Gutmann. Democratic Education Princeton U. Press, 1999.
Also historically influential, the work of:

John Stewart Mill: On Liberty.

See also, F.W. Garforth. Educative Democracy: J.S. Mill on Education in Society (University of Hull Publications, 1980)

Wollstonecraft, Mary: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Edited by Carol H. Poston. New York: W. W. Norton, 1988.
See the important: Martin, Jane R. (1981). Sophie and Emile: A case study of sex bias in the history of educational thought.
Harvard Educational Review, 51:3, pp. 357-372.

Following these important philosophic/historic touchstones, philosophy of education has multiple sites of influence, and schools of thought. The following schools and ideas in Philosophy of Education-

Analytic, Continental, Critical Theory, Epistemology and Logic, Ethics and Political Philosophy are well worth your attention and most clearly described in:

Noddings, Nel. (NN) Philosophy of Education. (Third Edition) Westview Press, 2012

Also, H. Ozmon and S. Craver. Philosophical Foundations of Education, Longman, 2003. is a good supplement.

See also, Cooney, William, et al. From Plato to Piaget. Lanham: New York, 1993.

Important sources of influences on American education and growing from the discourses begun by Plato, Aristotle, and Rousseau particularly are German Romanticism, and Enlightenment Liberalism, also more recently the dialogues on Feminism and Postmodernism. For high quality discussion of these areas see:

Curren, Randall. A COMPANION TO THE PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION. Blackwell Publishing, 2006. Within Curren you will also find good articles on topics germane to Philosophy of Education: Theories of Teaching and Learning, Learning Capacity, Moral Education, Art and Education, Education and Living Standards, Equality and Equity, Multicultural education, Inclusion and Special Education, Academic Freedom.

More recently regarding the distribution of public goods, including public education:

John Rawls. A Theory of Justice. Harvard U. Press, 1971.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage. NY: Roman and Littlefield, 1998.
International/multicultural perspectives on philosophy of education are innumerable.

A good source with a solid bibliography: Reagan, Timothy. Non-Western educational traditions: alternative approaches to educational thought and practice. Psychology Press, 2000. A good overview of Native American, Asian Indian and Hindu, Chinese, and African philosophies of education.

For important primary source perspective on the general philosophic influence of Indian Philosophy see:  

Mitchell, Stephen. (2000). Bhagavad Gita.

Chinese Education Philosophy

Lao Tzu, (1999). Tao Te Ching. Harper Collin

Lau, D. C. (1992). Confucius: The Analects
See also the excellent commentary on the popular “Philosophy for Children” program. Rainville, Paul. “Philosophy for Children in Native America: a Post-Colonial Critique” Analytic Teaching. Vol. 21, No 1

Also, Richardson, Troy. “Between Native American and Continental Philosophy: A comparative approach to narrative and the emergence of responsible selves.” in Educational Philosophy and Theory. 16 AUG 2011

Sample questions:

  1. Justice, described in the opening of Plato’s Republic: where persons are not denied what they are due, is a central theme in education throughout history.  Describe how a range of philosophers of education, from different perspectives, would define and defend what is due to children and to society through education.  Use examples from five different thinkers-three of them classic/historic and three of them from roughly the last 100 years.

  2. Discuss ways in which thinkers address education questions/issues through each of five different lenses of philosophic inquiry: e.g. Ethics and Moral Education, Epistemology, Critical Theory, Existentialism, Postmodernism, Analytic Philosophy, Feminism, Social and Political Philosophy etc. Describe how these insights could affect your approach to problems that are confronted by you in your specific level of schooling impact or interest as an educational leader, e.g. K-12, CC-H.Ed., Early Childhood. 

  3. The following areas with Philosophic import have been significant topics of interest in education: Humanism, The Socratic Movement, Romanticism, Democracy, Academic Freedom, Research Ethics, Social Class and Living Standards, Learning Measurement and Learning Capacity, Educational Equality, Affirmative Action, Special Education and Inclusion, School Choice and Common Schooling, Authority and Responsibility to Educate, Religious Education, Multicultural/Bilingual education, Race and Education.  Describe the most important dimensions of five of these and how each separately is applicable to Educational Leadership.

Selected Bibliography in Philosophy of Education.
Bastian, A. Choosing Equality: The Case for Democratic Schooling. Temple Univ. Press, 1986

Brighouse, Harry. On Education. NY: Routledge, 2006

Buber, Martin. I and Thou, Scribners, 1958

Burbules, N. and C. Torres. Globalization and Education. NY: Routledge, 2000

Bernstein, Richard. John Dewey: On Experience, Nature, and Freedom. NY: Library of Liberal Arts, 1960

Best, S. and Kellner, D. The Postmodern Turn. NY: Guilford, 2001

Carnoy, Martin. And Henry Levin. Schooling and Work in the Democratic State. Stanford Univ. Press, 1985

Counts, George. Dare the School Build a New Social Order. NY: Arno Press, 1969

Curren, Robert. Aristotle on the Necessity of Public Education. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000

Deiro, Judith. Teaching with Heart. Thousand Oaks CA. -Corwin Press, 1996

Eisner, Eliot. The Enlightened Eye: Qualitative Inquiry and the Engancement of Educational Practice. New York: Macmillan, 1991

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. NY: Vintage, 1979

Fraser, Nancy. Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory. U. of Minnesota Press, 1989

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. NY: Herder and Herder, 1970

__________. Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage. NY: Roman and Littlefield, 1989

Gilligan, Carol. In a Different Voice. Harvard University Press, 1982

Giroux, Henry. Schooling and the Struggle for Public Life. University of Minnesota Press, 1988.

___________. Teachers as Intellectuals: Toward a Critical Pedagogy of Learning, NY: Bergin and Garvey, 1988.

Goldma, A.H. The Moral Foundations of Professional Ethics. N; Rowman and Littlefield, 1980

Greene, Maxine. Teacher as Stranger. Wadsworth, 1973

____________. The Dialectic of Freedom. NY: Teachers College Press, 1988

Haroutunian-Gordon, Sophie. Turning the Soul: Teaching Through Conversation in the High School. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1991

Hoggart, Richard. The Uses of Literacy, Oxford U. Press, 1957

Held, Virginia. Feminist Morality. University of Chicago Press, 1993.

hooks, bell. Teaching to Transgress. NY: Routledge, 1994.

James, William. The Varieties of Religious Experience. NY: Mentor, 1958

Kellner, D. Critical Theory, Marxism and Modernity. Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1989

Kliebard, Herbert. The Struggle for the American Curriculum: 1893-1958. NY: Routledge, 1995

Kohlberg, Lawrence. The Philosophy of Moral Development. San Fran.: Harper and Row, 1981

Kozol, Jonathan. Savage Inequalities. NY: Crown, 1991

Kuhn, Thomas. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1962

Luke, Carmen and Gore, J. Feminisms and Critical Pedagogy. NY: Routledge, 1992

MacIntyre, Alasdair. After Virtue. Notre Dame Univ. Press, 1984

Marcuse, Herbert. One Dimensional Man. Boston: Beacon: 1999

Martin, Jane Roland. Reclaiming a Conversation. Yale Univ. Press. 1985

McLaren, Peter, and Leonard, P. Paulo Friere: A Critical Encounter. NY: Routledge, 1993

McClellan. James E. Philosophy of Education. Prentice-Hall, 1976

Montessori, Maria. The Secret of Childhood. NY: Ballantine, 1966

Noddings, Nel. Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education. University of California Press, 1984.

Norris, Stephen R. The Generalizability of Critical Thinking. NY: Teachers College Press, 1992.

Okin, Susan Moller. Women in Western Political Thought. Princeton University Press, 1979

Piaget, Jean. Insights and Illusions of Philosophy. NY: World Publishing, 1971

Plato. The Great Dialogues. Jowett edition. NY: Walter Black, 1947

_____ The Republic of Plato. Allan Bloom translation. NY: Basic Books, 1968

Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice. Harvard U. Press, 1971

Rorty, Richard. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Princeton U. Press1980.

Rorty, A. Philosophers on Education: New Historical Perspectives. London, Routledge, 1998

Rothstein, Richard. Class and Schools. Wash. DC. Economic Policy Institute, 2004

Rousseau, Jean Jacques. Emile. Trans. By Allan Bloom. NY: Basic, 1974

Ryle, Gilbert. The Concept of Mind. London: Hutchinson, 1952

Scheffler, Israel. The Language of Education. Springfield, Il. Chas. Thomas, 1960

Sergiovanni, Thomas J. Building Community in Schools. San.F.: Jossey-Bass, 1994

_________. Moral Leadeship. San F.: Jossey-Bass, 1994.

Shell, S.M. Emile: “Nature and the Education of Sophie.” In P. Riley (ed.), in The Cambridge Companion to Rousseau. Cambridge Univ. Press. Pp. 272-301

Thayer-Bacon. Barbara J. Transforming Critical Thinking. NY: Teachers College Press, 2000

Vandenberg, Donald. Human Rights in Education. NY: Philosophical Library, 1983

Westbrook, Robert. John Dewey and Amerian Democracy. Cornell Univ. Press, 1991

Williams, Raymond. The Long Revolution. London: Chatto and Windus, 1961

Willis, Paul. Learning to Labour. London: Saxon House, 1977

Witherell, Carol, and Nel Noddings, eds. Stories Lives Tell: Narrative and Dialogue in Education. NY: Teachers College Press, 1991.


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