Educational system of the United States

Educational system of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Course Objectives

This survey course introduces students to historical and current factors that have influenced how education is conducted in the United States, how these factors have affected their education, and what to expect regarding educational policy decisions in the near future.

At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Identify major events, policies, and laws that influenced the U.S. educational system
  • Identify the major entities involved in U.S. education at federal, state, and local levels
  • Identify differences and similarities between US schools and those of other countries
  • Evaluate reports of school achievement
  • Compare types of K-12 (private, public, homeschool, virtual) and higher education schools (private, public, for-profit, online, vo-tech, community), discussing populations, strengths, and weaknesses of each
  • Analyze and identify the appropriate issues behind proposed educational innovations and policy changes
  • Evaluate and discuss proposed educational innovations and policy changes
  • Critically reflect upon their own educational history and identify factors that shaped it
  • Create a plan for their own life-long learning
  • Create an ideal school system and justify their choices

Issues and topics

  1. Education and children – from taming children and creating little workers to the enthronement of youth culture
  2. Education for what? – the tension between humanist aims and educating the workforce
  3. Local vs. global – how the local school board has given way to standardized curriculum
  4. White flight and integration – attempts to use school to improve social equity
  5. College as a way into the middle class
  6. Credentials vs. skills – how badges and MOOCs invite reconsideration of the purpose of higher education
    1. “Educational Technology for Equity” by Laura Czerniewicz in Rebooting the Academy (Tim McCormick and Jeffrey Young, Eds.)
    2. “Treating Higher Ed’s ‘Cost Disease’ with Supersize Online Courses” by Candace Thille in Rebooting the Academy (Tim McCormick and Jeffrey Young, Eds.)
  7. Education’s role in the war on poverty
  8. Why isn’t Wikipedia an acceptable source?  Expertise, authority, and the shaping of the known
  9. Information should be free … shouldn’t it?  How Google Books levels the field for smaller schools
    1. “Is Google Good for History?” by Dan Cohen in Rebooting the Academy (Tim McCormick and Jeffrey Young, Eds.)
  10. Content vs. Capacities or How the Book Made Lectures Obsolete and Why We Still Have Them Anyway
  11. Subject pie – who divided knowledge into subjects, why, and why you should care?
  12. The business of school – how textbook publishers are shaping your education
  13. Mainstream culture and “the other” – the educational system’s boundary conditions with Native peoples and immigrants over two centuries
  14. The virtual and the digital – educational games, new media, digital media, and virtual schools – what does the future hold?


Rebooting the Academy (Tim McCormick and Jeffrey Young, Eds.) – an eBook published by The Chronicle of Higher Education