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PWR 1LS: Beyond the Achievement Gap: Writing about Education

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Fall 2021: Not offered

Winter 2022: Not offered

Spring 2022: Not offered

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

Prerequisite: None

Course Feature: WR-1 requirement

Whether it be the college admissions scandal or the Chicago teacher’s strike, recent media coverage has revealed many inequalities in our education system. This class invites you to explore the ways education problems are defined, discussed, and communicated in media. You will investigate the education scholarship informing this coverage and probe the assumptions the resulting rhetoric presents about equality, equity, merit, and our education system more broadly.

Possible education topics to research include education technology, school choice, common core, college admissions, athletics, ethnic studies, the STEM pipeline, history and literature curriculums, or free college tuition. You are encouraged to draw on your personal experiences, majors, and areas of interest to identify a topic to research.

To frame your research, our class will define the concepts of equality, equity, and meritocracy. We will consider how education problems are presented in a range of media sources, including newspaper and magazine stories, podcasts, social media posts, and documentaries. Then we will assess the current scholarly research on this problem. For example, students interested in charter schools may watch the documentary Waiting for “Superman,” listen to a This American Life podcast, and read articles from The New York Times and Education Researcher alike. Students’ writing and research will investigate the ways different audiences (policymakers, researchers, school officials, educators, students, and communities) frame and communicate education problems in order to develop a thoughtful, research-based written argument.

Major Assignments

Rhetorical Analysis

(1500-1800 words; 5-6 pages) Students will analyze how a particular text frames and rhetorically communicates an education problem. Students might analyze the use of cartoons in the Vox article “The subtle ways colleges discriminate against poor students, explained with a cartoon,” or the integration of various perspectives on colleges’ big data usage in “Under a Watchful Eye” by AMPReports.

Texts in Conversation Essay

(1800-2400 words; 6-8 pages) To prepare for your Research-Based Argument, you’ll select an education problem, research it from a variety of perspectives, and write a dialogue of credible sources to understand the conversation surrounding your topic.

Research-Based Argument

(3600-4500 words; 12-15 pages) You will continue to research your topic, drawing on both scholarly and public sources, before writing a longform feature article that takes a position within the conversation. In the past, students have written essays that explored the impacts of cultural mismatch on the STEM pipeline, the value of historically black colleges, policies that reinforce gender bias in college athletics, and the causes of rural brain drain.