In Spring 2016, Graduate Center’s President Emeritus Bill Kelly and I will be teaming up again to teach an exciting and innovative course designed for any student of American studies, anyone interested in U.S. higher education, or anyone in any field interested in pursuing a career as a college professor.
Our aim is unique: we will be studying the founding documents of US higher education, examining how higher education evolved in various institutional forms over the past centuries, reading salient critiques (from DuBois to Guinier and Coates)--and then asking if there are ways that the critiques can actually be addressed in our own redesigned classroom practices.
This last step (moving beyond critique to actual pedagogical activism) is unusual in a historically and theoretically based American Studies course. Yet most of what we do as academics happens within fields. So this class partly asks what happens when we ground our pedagogical theory and what happens when we ground our activism within actual study within a field?
This works particularly well at the Graduate Center because we assume that many of the students in the course will be teaching in the CUNY system (either next semester or in the near future). We will be planning pedagogical interventions in our course that can also be implemented in CUNY introductory courses, tested methods that help to ensure student success and that are also extremely satisfying methods for the instructor too.
History::theory::praxis::activism:design::change. It's thrilling.
Interestingly, when I look for examples, I don't find many people tying the history and theory of the field to the practices and redesign of the field. I'm finding the work in the field of history by Sam Wineburg (works such as Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts). In the Psychology Department here, there is an ongoing series on pedagogy specifically for those teaching psychology which is very rich as a model. In the field of rhetoric, one finds many excellent models and the journal Hybrid Pedagogy is a gold mine of examples. And there are activist mathematicians working to transform the teaching of so called "remedial" math to teach students "how to be mathematicians" not just "how to do math." There seem to be surprisingly few other precedents.
Have any of you done anything like this before? We would love to hear from you—to see your syllabi, to hear your ideas.
American Writing, American Learning
Professors Davidson and Kelly
This course has three primary intentions. First, we will consider some foundational texts of American educational and cultural history, investigating the strategies of inclusion and exclusion they deploy. Possible topics include: the seventeenth and eighteenth-century establishment of religiously-affiliated institutions designed to educate clergy, schools which in time became bastions of privilege; the yoking of education and republican principle in antebellum America, particularly as that impulse is registered in Thomas Jefferson’s founding of the University of Virginia; the expansion of educational opportunity through the public school movement, as documented in Horace Mann’s reports to the Massachusetts Board of Education (1837-48); the rise of politically and ideologically-fraught institutions to serve women, African-Americans, and Native Americans; the expansion of educational franchise marked by the opening in 1847 of CUNY’s forerunner, the Free Academy, and by the passage of the First Morrill Act in 1862; and the emergence and consequence of liberal education theory at the end of the nineteenth-century. Second, we will read contemporary critiques/accounts of American education. Third, we will experiment with a variety of pedagogical practices that model different relationships between power and knowledge. The range of texts we might read is very wide indeed; writers under current consideration include: Increase and Cotton Mather, Thomas Shepard, Charles Chauncey, John Witherspoon, Jonathan Edwards, Olaudah Equiano,Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Bronson Alcott, Susanna Rowson, Catherine Beecher, Margaret Fuller, Lucy Larcom, Emma Willard, Horace Mann, Townsend Harris, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Zitkala-Sa, Henry Adams, John Dewey, Ralph Ellison, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Lani Guinier, Christopher Newfield, and Craig Steven Wilder.
Our method is simple: we will have a traditional syllabus for the first half of the course. It will be posted in a public Group on HASTAC. For the midterm, each student will create a syllabus for the second half of the course--also posted on HASTAC. Then, during the scheduled midterm class, Bill and I will leave the room, and the students, having read one another's syllabi, will use a Google Doc and create the rest of the course--the syllabus, final project (which will entail some public contribution to knowledge), any other requirements.