Midterm Topics

Spring 2001

Ed. St. 4111-001

Choose one of the following questions as the topic for your midterm paper. The paper should offer an argument, supported by material from the readings, lecture, and class discussions. (When quoting, indicate page numbers. Also cite your reference when paraphrasing. Be careful not to paraphrase too closely.) Be sure to take into account any important counter-arguments or counter-evidence introduced in the course. You are encouraged to work with other students in studying for the paper, but the actual paper should be distinctively your own work. The paper should be 6 to 8 pages long, typed and double spaced.

In writing your essay, keep in mind the purpose of the course, which is to foster an awareness of the social, historical, and political context of schooling in the United States. We will be looking for arguments that show that you understand this context and have thought carefully about its implications for schooling. Thinking about the lectures, readings, and discussions both appreciatively and critically, take a position that you are interested in exploring further. Because this course is meant to address the complexity of the social, cultural, and institutional context of education, we do not expect you to take a “correct” position but rather to consider both the pros and cons on particular issues in such a way as to stretch and further clarify your thinking. Accordingly, we will be looking for careful arguments and careful consideration of counter-arguments, rather than for whether your position is “right” or “wrong.” Your essay must focus on a minimum of five of the readings and must demonstrate that it is informed by the course readings, lectures and discussions in general.

Please make clear which of the three questions you are answering. Either identify the question number on your paper or repeat the question at the head of your paper.

1. In your readings, as well as in the lectures and discussions, what classical liberal and modern liberal criticisms have been raised regarding vocational education? What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of these criticisms? (Your discussion should include Rose, Brownson, DuBois, and Woodson. It could also include Willard, Lerner, and Perdue. Counter-arguments might include Mann, Washington, and Beecher.)

2. In your readings, in the lectures and discussions, and in the film, In the White Man's Image, what classical liberal and modern liberal criticisms have been raised regarding assimilationist education? In your view, what are the strengths and weaknesses of these criticisms? (Your discussion should include Perdue, Brownson, Katz, Doucet, and Stern, and Woodson. It might also include Jones, Friend, Slapin, Seale, and Gonzales, and Lerner.)

3. To what extent can and should schools address social problems? In your view, what role should they have in addressing social problems and what are the limitations of that role? (Your discussion might include Mann, Brownson, Katz, Doucet, and Stern, Woodson, Washington, DuBois, Jones, and Friend. It also could include Beecher, Willard, and Perdue.)

Study Tips

1) Form a study group focused on the question you have chosen.

2) Clarify what the question is asking and identify the main components of the question. What is the central focus of the question? What is the question asking you to do? How many parts are there to the question and what relation do they bear to one another? (e.g., Is one question logically prior to another?)

3) Identify the framing of the question. How does the question ask you to address the issues? What will you need to keep in mind in order to answer the questions fully?

4) Explore what might count as a thesis statement (and foil) in answering the question. Make sure the thesis statement is not so general that it could count as the answer to almost anything. “Education is important” is too general a thesis statement.

5) Identify the readings most likely to be important in answering the question.

6) Brainstorm about issues, claims, counter-claims, evidence, counter-evidence, contextual information, and examples that have a bearing on the question.

7) Begin to organize these points into categories or an outline for your paper.

8) When you begin the actual writing of the paper, prepare a thesis statement and an outline (preferably a sentence outline). Have your course notes from lecture and discussion handy, as well as the readings from the course and any handouts, quizzes, or written assignments that speak to your topic; consult them carefully. Your paper will be richer if you have closely reread the materials that have an important bearing on the question you have chosen. Simply inserting occasional quotes from the reading will not make your paper richer; you need to show that you have understood the nuances and complexity of the materials from the course.

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