Sociology | Global Society
S312 | 25271 | Swando
ABOVE CLASS OPEN TO UNDERGRADUATES ONLY
Education is one of the fundamental institutions in our society. It
is one of the main places where we learn not only how to read and
write, but also how to behave in public, follow directions, and get
along with others. Schools help prepare us for adult life and
employment, and help us become good citizens who are prepared to
participate in a democracy. Around the world, schools can help
alleviate poverty and help with the development of third-world
countries, among many other factors. Education is clearly one of the
most influential institutions in the world, and yet it is also
subject to an incredible amount of criticism. Schools in the United
States are criticized for things such as not adequately preparing
students for college or future jobs, not providing a moral education,
being too bureaucratic, having too many or too few extracurricular
activities and nonacademic courses, engaging in social promotion of
unprepared students, and hiring under-qualified or ineffective
teachers. This list could go on and on. This course will address
many of these criticisms, along with the history and structure of the
education system. We will focus mainly on the U.S. education system,
but we will also spend time talking about how U.S. schools compare to
schools in other countries.
This is a sociology course, so we will use sociological concepts and
theories to examine the educational system and its effects on
students and society. Sociologists provide a unique perspective from
which to study the education system, as they focus on the effects
social processes and social structure have on individual and
institutional outcomes. Examples of sociological questions about
education that will be explored in this class include:
• Why do students from different race and social class
backgrounds tend to have different educational outcomes?
• How do family and community factors affect schools and
• What is the “hidden curriculum” in U.S. schools?
• Are standardized tests an effective method for evaluating how
much students are learning?
• How do education reforms like vouchers or charter schools
really work, and are they effective?
• Will changing the way schools are financed help schools and
students do better?
• How does professionalization of teachers affect the school
system? Should teachers be required to get advanced degrees or be
• What do schools in other countries look like compared to U.S.
schools, and how do their purposes and outcomes for students differ?
• Are U.S. public schools really performing as badly as some