Liberal Arts and Management Program | Representing and Reforming Urban Schools
L416 | 14066 | Doug Goldstein


Works such as The Autobiography of Malcolm X, A Hope in the Unseen,
Hoop Dreams, The Wire, and Precious have implanted in our minds the
image of the violent and dysfunctional urban school.  At the same
time, organizations such as Teach for America have capitalized on a
far more idealistic image of the self-confident and talented college
graduate who goes into the most abject urban schools and make a
meaningful difference.

This course seeks to explore these two competing icons, focusing on
why Americans who in their daily lives have no interaction with the
inner-city remain fascinated by and voracious consumers of
representations of urban schools.  Do we view these schools as
indicative of the failure of democracy and of the notion that all
citizens deserve a fair shot, or do we turn to images of urban
schools to confirm our belief that talented individuals will succeed
in even the most trying of circumstances?  To what extent do
representations of urban schools play upon racial stereotypes, and
to what extent do they suggest that the inhabitants of the “ghetto”
actually have something to teach white, middle-class Americans?  How
much do these works merely celebrate violence, and what kinds of
solutions do they offer?  Is there anything that the idealistic
viewer can do to rectify the situation?  Would different leaders and
leadership models or better business practices help?

To answer these questions, we will examine not only fictional and
non-fiction accounts of youngsters making their way through failing
urban schools but also sociological and historical studies of urban
education; government reports, task forces and legislation; profiles
of educators that have appeared in The New York Times Magazine and
the New Yorker; and the promotional materials of a variety of non-
profit organizations.  In the first part of the course, students
will write a paper that examines why even stereotypical
representations of the inner-city are so frequently depicted as
authentic. In the second part of the course, students will write a
research paper that explores how representations of urban schools
have impacted efforts at reform.

Above course limited to LAMP students - must obtain permission.