Critical Essays on Teaching, Learning and Leading in the 21st Century
Edited By Eleanor Blair and Yolanda Medina
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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