Wednesday, May 16, 2018
May 16, 2018: Spring Semester Recaps: English Studies Capstone
[As another semester concludes, a series recapping some of the wonderful texts we read in my classes, along with some other Spring work of mine. Leading up to a preview of coming attractions for the Summer and Fall semesters. I’d love to hear about your work, past, present, or future, in comments!]
On the two education-focused texts I’ve used in this class, and the quest for a new one.
When I teach our English Studies Senior Capstone course, I include one reading for each of our departmental tracks: Literature, Professional Writing, Theater, and Secondary Education (English). For my first few sections of the class, the Secondary Education text we read was Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education (2000). I like Ravitch’s book a lot (not least because she was a former advocate of standardized testing and policymaker behind No Child Left Behind who then examined the evidence and changed her perspective, which is a rare and important thing to model for us all), and if anything her topics and arguments are even more salient in 2018 than they were a decade ago. But the book is super long, and a bit more in-depth than what this Capstone setting calls for, so after those first few sections I decided to switch things up.
When I did so I went with Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change (2011). Thomas and Brown’s book is as concise and overarching as Ravitch’s is lengthy and in-depth, and touches briefly but thoughtfully on a number of interesting and important educational and cultural topics. I’ve found that it inspires lots of student reflections on their own educational experiences as well as communal conversation about our 21st century society and culture; while none of us agree entirely with Thomas and Brown’s diagnoses or recommendations, we’re always inspired to keep talking about these and other related topics through their book. So it’s been a good text to feature in this Capstone mini-unit, and I’d recommend it to anyone as a very teachable way in to conversations about education, learning, and 21st century identities and communities.
But at the same time, Thomas and Brown’s book is from 2011, and while of course I have nothing against older works, it does seem to me that for a class like Capstone (especially given how much I focus my version of it on next step kinds of questions and materials for the students), there’s significant value to featuring works that engage with particularly current and pressing questions and issues. So I’m looking for a new text for this Education portion of the class, something from the last couple of years that addresses issues in education (secondary, higher ed, overall, you name it) in ways that could engage students and get us talking. I’d love your nominations!
Next recap tomorrow,
PS. Any education texts you’d nominate? And again, what have you been or are you working on?