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The Social Foundations Reader

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

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

Today, we see educators regularly trying to reconcile accountability efforts with mounting evidence of the failures of large educational bureaucracies to meet the needs of increasingly large numbers of children coming from less advantaged, diverse backgrounds. Critical theory provides a framework for reconsidering the aims and purposes of education generally, but more specifically, it provides a guide for the kinds of questions that we need to be asking regarding how and why we serve some groups more effectively than others. Critical theory embraces the notion that teaching and learning are value-infused activities that require a critical analysis of attempts to provide all children with educational opportunities that facilitate equal access to knowledge and is culturally responsive to the needs and values of diverse groups. Public schools must be held accountable for their failures and be required to initiate a dialogue that revisits the public’s commitment to the democratic ideals represented by American public education and seeks to negotiate a new vision of public education, one that seeks to address the needs of all children, not just a few.

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