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The Social Foundations Reader

Critical Essays on Teaching, Learning and Leading in the 21st Century

Edited By Eleanor Blair and Yolanda Medina

The Social Foundations Reader is meant for undergraduate and graduate students in introductory foundations of education classes. No other contemporary reader provides such a broad and yet critical view of the issues typically addressed in an introductory foundations course. Instead, most provide a generic and typically conservative perspective on schools and classrooms and do little to encourage students to consider the important roles of critical theory and social justice in the creation of school environments that are responsive to issues of equity and diversity. This book provides a different lens through which students can view what happens in twenty-first-century schools while also considering the perspectives of multiple constituencies: parents, teachers, students and communities. The reader of this text is exposed to a wide range of scholarship in the foundations of education; essays range from the more traditional work of John Dewey to the controversial ideas of Henry Giroux. Contested topics associated with teaching, learning and leading in contemporary public schools are considered within a context where grappling with the answers to fundamental questions that will ultimately guide meaningful school reform is an essential part of becoming an educator. Each of the five sections in the book is accompanied by an introduction and summary/reflection questions to both guide reading and challenge students to think critically about how to synthesize and apply the ideas being presented.
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Introduction

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Eleanor J. Blair

If I were asked to explain why the foundations of education are a critical part of the education of all teachers, I would argue that their importance lies in establishing a foundation for understanding what, why and how we do public education. In the beginning of my foundations classes, I always offer students a “quick and dirty” view of public education where I trace the evolution of private schools from the seventeenth century—when they served an audience that was almost exclusively affluent, White, and male—to public schools in the nineteenth century—where we find the roots of the idea that a democratic nation where “all men are created equal” demands a school system that recognizes the important roles, both personally and civically, of access to knowledge and equal opportunities. Of course, this discussion goes from simple to complex rather quickly. Public schools have never been sites where equal opportunities thrived; historically, little concern has been shown for issues related to equal access to knowledge or for the needs of ALL children and their families. Of course, intersecting these issues and concerns are important questions about the roles of gender, social class and race in public sites where access to knowledge is negotiated. At this point, students generally find numerous points of interest in the history of American public schools, and the discussion comes alive as preconceived notions about K–12 schooling are challenged and tested. If I am successful, students quickly...

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