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The Politics of American K-12 Educational Policy

HNRS 2033 Sec. 070 - Spring 2023

Associate Professor Michael Henderson Manship School of Mass Communication

Tu Th 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
1220 West Laville Hall

Education lies at the center of some of the most important and contentious contemporary political debates in the United States. A large majority of people in the U.S. attend a public school at some point in their lives and therefore have a stake in the system. Public education typically makes up an enormous share of state and local budgets and represents one of the nation’s largest employers. The study of politics is therefore crucial to understanding the current educational system. For example, education is often thought of as “the great equalizer,” but in the United States, many states and districts fail to ensure that all citizens have access to high-quality educational opportunities. Why?

Furthermore, an understanding of the educational landscape is valuable for understanding American politics and social forces more generally. Decisions about the way schools are organized and what gets taught in classrooms have dramatic effects on the characteristics of the American citizenry. The economic success of both individuals and groups is, in large part, determined by their educational backgrounds. Thinkers have characterized race- and class-based educational inequality as both a cause and a consequence of broader patterns of social inequality. Finally, education is a useful case study in American politics, given that many of the key institutions, actors, and cleavages are relevant to broader political debates.

This course will give students analytical tools from communication, political science, and economics to understand (a) how education policy decisions affect the quality and equity of education systems, and (b) how politics shapes the education policy decisions that are made.

Fulfills General Education:

English Composition
Social Sciences