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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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Yolanda Medina

One of my favorite teaching moments is when I speak to teacher education students about oppression, privilege, and discrimination. As I look around the classroom, I see them nodding their heads in agreement and taking notes on new vocabulary terms discussed from the readings. Often, in their reflective papers, students state that my class lectures have given them the language needed to express what they have always felt. They convey to me a sense of personal identification with the injustices discussed in our classroom and the sense of helplessness that came with not having the language to communicate their feelings or actively express resistance to oppressive, discriminatory practices. A student once wrote, “There is a certain level of authority that only language can give you.” Acquiring a critical language to discuss these issues helps these students embrace a sense of empowerment needed to assertively discuss and react to situations of oppression, and to stand up for what they believe to be just, to do the right thing, and to go against the grain. We believe that one of the most important traits that teachers need to have is the capacity to stand up for what is right for their students, schools, and communities and go against the grain when it is needed.

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