Wesleyan University students have created a course of their own design, Sociology 419: Education Policy in the United States (see their initial syllabus), to deepen their understanding of topics such as testing, choice, and accountability through readings and guest speakers. Co-organizers Andy Ribner ’14, Sydney Lewis ’14, and Catherine Doren ’13 invited me to launch their lecture series yesterday with a presentation from my On The Line schooling, housing, and civil rights research, created in collaboration with students and colleagues at Trinity and UConn. Afterwards, our conversation took us onto many topics of mutual interest, such as Wesleyan’s Study of Education Certificate (the equivalent of what would be a minor in Educational Studies at Trinity) and their early childhood education community-action and research project in Middletown. Future speakers include historian Ansley Erickson from Teachers College, Columbia University, and sociologist Daniel Long, their faculty sponsor at Wesleyan. Organizing your own course and obtaining faculty approval is not easy, as these students have learned, but it’s a fascinating way to take charge of your own liberal arts education and create knowledge in partnership with others. (See my advising page about how to design a student-taught course at Trinity.) Interestingly, one of their central readings is Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the American School System, which is one of the core texts in my Educ 300: Education Reform Past & Present course. In exchange for the free lecture, the fifteen Wesleyan students enrolled in this course agreed to read and write online commentary on web-essays to be posted later this semester by Trinity students in my Cities, Suburbs, and Schools seminar. Wesleyan and Trinity students currently meet up with one another on the athletic fields. Perhaps this online exchange will help us to engage with one another’s ideas as well.
Update: Follow Wesleyan’s student-taught education policy course on their new blog at http://soc419.wordpress.com