Series to examine public education

Students and faculty in the Program in Social Foundations of Education at IU’s School of Education were planning a spring 2017 symposium that would highlight their field and make the case for its relevance to teacher education.

“And then the election happened,” said Caitlin Howlett, a doctoral student in philosophy of education.

The election of Donald Trump as president and his selection of Michigan school-choice advocate Betsy DeVos to be secretary of education added a sense of urgency for those planning the initiative. Almost overnight, their vision expanded to include a semester-long series that will examine education policy and issues related to children, youth and social justice.

'What is Public Education' posterThe series is titled “What Is Public Education and Why Does It Matter?” It kicks off Wednesday with a teach-in and discussion on “Federal Education Under the New Regime.” The series is hosted by the Program in Social Foundations of Education with the School of Education.

Actually there will two teach-ins and discussions Wednesday: one at noon in the School of Education Atrium and the other at 7 p.m. in the Indiana Memorial Union Oak Room. The idea is to engage IU education students in the daytime event and reach out to the broader community in the evening.

A second set of teach-ins and discussions, this time on state education policy in Indiana, will take place Feb. 16 — at noon in the School of Education Atrium and at 7 p.m. at the Monroe County Public Library. The discussions will examine issues such as education funding, policymaking, legislation and the role of charter schools, private school vouchers and home-schooling.

Samantha Hedges, a doctoral student in education policy studies, has taken the lead in organizing the teach-ins on federal and state education policy.

Bradley Levinson, a professor in the School of Education, will introduce the Jan. 18 discussions, which will also include speakers from the School of Education and the Indiana Coalition for Public Education.

Levinson said the series draws from the Social Foundations of Education approach, which incorporates the historical, philosophical, social and political dimensions of education. It will take an inclusive approach, not limited to the education that happens in schools but including activities that promote learning and critical thinking by adults as well as children.

“We started out wanting to have a discussion within the School of Education about the value of inquiry,” Levinson said. “After the election, we felt we needed to broaden the discussion and get much more involved with the larger campus community and the Bloomington and Monroe County community.”

Other events in the series include:

  • 6 p.m. Jan. 24, School of Education auditorium, a screening and discussion of the film “13th,” director Ava DuVernay’s examination of the connections between America’s history of slavery and mass incarceration.
  • Noon Jan. 26, School of Education Atrium, a critical media literacy discussion of key competencies in public citizenship, led by graduate students in the School of Education’s literacy, culture and language education department.
  • Noon Feb. 10, teach-in and discussion of “Hate Speech vs. Free Speech,” location to be announced.
  • 4:30 p.m. Feb. 28, School of Education room 1210, a workshop on deliberative and participatory democracy.
  • Noon March 8, School of Education Atrium, an exercise in deliberative democracy on “How Can We Use $500 to Improve the School of Education?”
  • 6 p.m. April 4, Monroe County Public Library, a community book discussion of “Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics” by author-activist and University of Chicago political science professor Cathy Cohen.

The series will conclude April 7 with a daylong symposium on public education at the School of Education. More information and updates are available at the “What Is Public Education and Why Does It Matter” Facebook page.

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