Education in America

Lyons Community School

Pilot school

In this 12th grade English course, students explore the history and purpose of education in America through literature and primary source documents, with a special focus on how education in America reflects historical and social changes. The essential questions for the semester are:

What are America’s ideals?
How equal has access to education been in America?
What is the purpose of education in a democracy?
How have writers responded to America in literature?

Students explore these questions and read literature, poetry, primary source documents and educational philosophy for inspiration. They read and analyze literature and conduct independent research projects to address the essential questions. The course develops student literacy through direct instruction and inquiry-based projects. Students also study literary elements, rhetoric, and propaganda, and think critically and independently about what they read.

This course was developed collaboratively by the staff of Satellite Academy (Forsyth Street). Many thanks to Sarah Blos, Juan Rivera, Shirley Wu and Rosemary Chinnock.

Readings: 
Suggested readings:
Excerpts from memoirs by Jimmy Santiago Baca, Luis Rodriguez Jr., Gary Lee, and Sharon Cho
The Declaration of Independence
The Bill of Rights
"A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge" by Thomas Jefferson
"Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania" by Benjamin Franklin
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Excerpts from "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" by Harriet Jacobs
"Industrial Education for the Negro" by Booker T. Washington
"The Talented Tenth" by W.E.B. DuBois
"America" and "If We Must Die" by Claude McKay
"Let America be America Again" by Langston Hughes
"We Wear the Mask" by Paul Laurence Dunbar
"This Morning, This Evening, So Soon" by James Baldwin
Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Patilllo Beals
Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez
Oral history of the Chicano student walkout in Crystal City, Texas
"I Give You Back" by Joy Harjo
"Civilize Them With a Stick" from Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog
"Soul Wound: the Legacy of Native American Boarding Schools" by Andrea Smith
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Excerpts from Savage Inequalities and "Still Separate, Still Unequal: America's Educational Apartheid (2005)" by Jonathan Kozol
Research: 

Students conduct research for papers, role plays, time lines, and seminars to help place the texts we read in historical context.

Media Used: 
Class Ning page
Comic Life software program
Slavery and the Making of America video
Chicano! video
In the White Man's Image video
500 Nations video
Indian Tribal schools radio broadcast (PBS)
Smoke Signals (movie)
WordPress, LivJournal, Blogger
Interim Assessments: 

Literary essay-- comparison of two poems (theme and literary devices)

Thematic essay -- analysis of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Literary analysis exploring the question "How have writers responded to America?"
Suggested texts: "America" or "If We Must Die" by Claude McKay
"Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes
"This Morning, This Evening, So Soon" by James Baldwin

Personal essay response to Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez

Significant Assignments: 

Personal Education Narrative with family and community interviews

Interpretation of a historical quote from "A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge" by Thomas Jefferson

"Educational Philosophers Talk Show" script (Jefferson, Franklin, Webster, Richman etc. discuss the purpose of education in a democracy) OR "Enlightenment Philosophers Talk Show" script.

Significant Activities or Projects: 

Debates, exams, role plays, presentations and roundtable discussions
Time lines and visual projects created in Comic Life (software program)

Sample PBATs: 
Comparative analysis of Booker T. Washington's "Industrial Education for the Negro" and W.E.B. DuBois' "The Talented Tenth," analyzing their arguments and use of rhetoric.
Final presentation. To prepare for the presentation students write a reflection letter. Students answer the essential questions while reflecting on the content they have learned. Students reflect on the purpose of education, the hisorical role of education in America, the current state of education, and their growth as students.