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EDU 111

Perspectives on American Education


Education 111: Perspectives in American Education (Fall 2020)[1]

Instructor:                      Dr. P. L. Thomas

Phone:                           590-5458 (cell); 294-3386 (office)

Class time:                     MWF 9:10AM – 10:o0AM

Room:                           HIP 106

Office hours:                   by request/appointment (virtual)


Course Website:

Equity, Anti-Racism, and Anti-Bias Statement


In my teaching, scholarship, public writing, and life, I am fully committed to racial, gender, and all forms of equity not yet realized throughout the U.S. and world. While academic spaces are often intellectually challenging and even uncomfortable, I will not tolerate in any aspect of this course language, ideas, or behavior/symbolism that are hostile to marginalized/oppressed groups (racism, sexism/misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, etc.).

Academic freedom for students and professors is tethered to consequences, and is not license. (See Free Speech and Diversity of Thought?

Students uncertain about what language and ideas are not acceptable because they are hostile or offensive are invited to discuss those questions with me privately and are guaranteed those exchanges will be treated confidentially and respectfully. I am eager to share evidence, research, and reading to help anyone better understand goals of equity, anti-racism, and anti-bias (see materials in Box, Race and Racism).

If you witness or experience any form of bias, please report here:

Bias Incident Report


Choose TWO, one to be read BEFORE midterm and one to be read AFTER midterm (see daily schedule)

Why We Teach Now, Sonia Nieto
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism, Robin DiAngelo
For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too, Chris Emdin
The Poverty and Education Reader edited by Paul C. Gorski and Julie Landsman


EDU111 Perspectives on American Education (formerly ED-11)

GER: HB (Empirical Study of Human Behavior)

Introduction to teachers and teaching, the American school in an increasingly diverse society, and the historical, sociological and philosophical foundations of education. Must also enroll in EDU-001 (ED-01). 4 credits.

This course provides an introduction to teachers and teaching, as well as the American school.  Its most general purpose is twofold:

  • toprovide students with a basic understanding of educational issues so that they can make intelligent decisions as citizens;
  • togive students an opportunity to assess their own interest (if any) in pursuing a career in education.

Fall 2020 M/W/F Schedule provided on Moodle for F2F and remote options

Please note the following:

Consistent with the Education Department’s conceptual framework, this course will emphasize, at various points, the issues of diversity, technology, school-to-career programs, and the teacher assessment system.  These items are identified, respectively, as: [D][T][STC], and [AD].

Vision and Mission of the Educator Preparation Program

Vision Statement

The Educator Preparation Program at Furman University prepares educators who are scholars and leaders.

Mission of the Program

Furman University prepares teachers and administrators to be scholars and leaders who use effective pedagogy, reflect thoughtfully on the practice of teaching, and promote human dignity. Specifically, educators who are scholars and leaders have in-depth knowledge and understanding of their discipline; use evidence-based practice for effective teaching and communication; and are caring and thoughtful individuals who respond sensitively to the needs and experiences of all students and others with whom they interact.

Furman is committed to a program of educator preparation that calls for collaborative, interdependent efforts throughout the academic community. Furman’s Educator Preparation Program is anchored in the university’s commitment to the liberal arts, encompassing the humanities, fine arts, mathematics, and social and natural sciences as the essential foundation for developing intellectually competent educators.

Program Standards

Furman University prepares educators who exemplify proficiency in standards related to educator effectiveness. The program of teacher preparation aligns to the South Carolina Expanded ADEPT[1] and PADEPP[2] standards for educators and the defining characteristics of the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate: world-class knowledge, world-class skills, and life and career characteristics.  Furman’s program aligns to national standards including InTASC[3], ISTE[4], NBTPS[5], CAEP[6] standards for accreditation, SPA standards for specialized programs, and Professional Standards for Educational Leaders, formerly ISLLC[7].  Furman’s program of teacher preparation is nationally recognized by NCATE[8] , now CAEP.

Candidates develop mastery of the InTASC core teaching standards as they progress through the program:

  • The Learner and Learning

o   Learner Development

o   Learning Differences

o   Learning Environments

  • Content Knowledge

o   Content Knowledge

o   Application of Content

  • Instructional Practice

o   Assessment

o   Planning for Instruction

o   Instructional Strategies

  • Professional Responsibility

o   Professional Learning and Ethical Practice

o   Leadership and Collaboration

In addition, candidates are mentored to ensure they can respond effectively and sensitively to the needs and experiences of all students and others with whom they interact.   Upon acceptance to and throughout their program of study, undergraduate and graduate candidates are expected to demonstrate the following key dispositions:

  • Timeliness
  • Attendance
  • Appearance/Dress
  • Confidentiality
  • Honesty/Integrity
  • Poise/Attitude/Self-Efficacy
  • Cooperation/Rapport/Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Caring
  • Sensitivity to Individual  Differences
  • Sensitivity to Cultural Differences
  • Reflectiveness/Responsiveness
  • Initiative/Leadership
  • Active Learner

Program’s Commitment to Technology and Diversity


In preparing educators as scholars and leaders, Furman’s Educator Preparation Program acknowledges the crucial role of technology as a means to locate information, transmit knowledge, gain conceptual understanding, and achieve occupational ambitions. School leaders, teachers, and students must therefore acquire the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that will enable them to solve problems and use technology as a tool for collaborating and communicating effectively. This objective is all the more urgent in light of the explosive growth of digital media, as well as the impact of emerging technologies. Furman’s program aligns to ISTE standards and candidates are assessed on the ability to use technology for learning.


Furman’s Educator Preparation Program is committed to preparing educators who, as scholars and leaders, understand and appreciate the diverse nature of learners and their cultures.  Furman recognizes the continuing role that schools, teachers, and school leaders play in fostering acceptance and celebration of diversity, both individually and collectively.  As a result, we are committed to diversifying our own pool of teacher candidates, as well as their field placements.  Candidate dispositions, including Caring, Sensitivity to Individual Differences, and Sensitivity to Cultural Differences, are assessed at program transition points.

[1] ADEPT – Assisting, Developing, and Evaluating Professional Training

[2] PADEPP – Program for Assisting, Developing, and Evaluating Principal Performance

[3] InTASC – Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium

[4] ISTE – International Society for Technology in Education

[5] NBPTS – National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

[6] CAEP – Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation

[7] ISLLC – Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium

[8] NCATE – National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education


During and/or as a result of EDU 111, students will be able to demonstrate the following:

  1. an understanding of the philosophical, historical, and sociological foundations of education*
  2. the ability to articulate their own philosophy of education*
  3. professional competence in written and oral communication*
  4. timeliness and thoroughness in meeting expectations*
  5. the ability to evaluate his/her own interest in teaching as a profession and potential career
  6. the ability to analyze how educational “systems” work
  7. the ability to explain and assess educational reform
  8. an understanding of how schools are financed
  9. the ability to synthesize the legal aspects of education
  10. respect for/understanding of the diverse talents, abilities, perspectives, and contributions of all students**
  11. sensitivity toward community and cultural norms**
  12. the willingness and ability to monitor student learning and adjust practice based on knowledge of individual students**

* These items are part of the “conceptual framework” for Furman’s Teacher Education Program.

** These items, also part of the “conceptual framework,” serve as the primary objectives of the field component of the course.

Assignments Course Objectives Met
Midterm a
Final Portfolio a, h, i
Reflective Essay a, b, c, d, e, g, j
Field Feedback

Virtual school visits

School Board

c, d, f, j
Tutoring Reflection c, d, f, g, j, k, l
Book Response(s) c, d, f, j
Oral /Group Presentations c, d, f

Students With Special Needs

Furman University is committed to making reasonable accommodations, as per the

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504, and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation

Act, to assist individuals with disabilities in reaching their academic potential. If you have a disability that may impact your performance, attendance, or grades in this course and

require accommodations, you must first register with the Student Office for Accessibility Resources (SOAR) (

The Student Office for Accessibility Resources is responsible for coordinating classroom accommodations and other services for students with disabilities. Please note that classroom accommodations cannot be provided prior to your instructor’s receipt of an accommodations letter, signed by you and the SOAR director. In order to receive appropriate accommodations this term, it is imperative that you make this contact in a timely manner.


Education 111 compresses a lot of material into an abbreviated format.  Keeping up with the readings and attending class are crucial for effective participation and a satisfactory grade.  Videos and class discussions will be used to reinforce and complement class sessions.  In the event of an extended illness, the student should consult with the instructor to determine if withdrawal from the course is necessary.

Missing an exam or turning an assignment in late will be excused only for emergency situations.  The instructor will be the final authority in determining if the situation fits the emergency criteria.  Also, all forms of academic dishonesty including (but not limited to) cheating on tests, plagiarism, collusion, and falsification of information will call for disciplinary action.  If there is any question about what constitutes academic dishonesty, please consult the instructor.

Students with disabilities who need academic accommodations should contact Furman’s Coordinator of Disability Services.  Please tell the instructor when and if you do so.  And please do this early in the term.  All discussions will remain confidential.


See link on course blog:


If at all possible, we attempt to assign you to the same one or two students throughout the entire term.  In some cases this is not possible.  For example, a few of you might work with a larger group of students or assist a teacher in an actual classroom.  These are equally valid and rewarding tutoring experiences.

When you arrive for a tutoring session, please sign the school’s guest list.  Also, don’t forget to have a school official, teacher, or at least a secretary sign your tutoring log; you will be required to turn in your log with your tutoring feedback at the end of the term.

Dress and act professionally at all times.  This means abiding by school rules and dressing in a manner that distinguishes you from the students.  If in doubt, it is better to be overdressed than underdressed.  Please obey any instructions given to you by a teacher or school administrator.  This includes wearing any sort of identification that might be required.

Participating in campus activities that are sponsored and supervised by school administrators is fine.  Do not, however, meet with your student off campus, including at his/her home.  Also, do not offer to provide transportation for your student.  Please check with school officials or your Furman professor if any situation arises that you are unsure how to handle.  Remember:  your role is being a mentor, not a “buddy” for your student.

It is very important that you contact school officials if you cannot make a scheduled tutoring session.  The relevant names and phone numbers are listed below.  We advise school officials to contact you if a session has to be canceled or rescheduled.  Please refer to a previous handout for information concerning days when students will not be in school.

We urge school officials and teachers to be sure that students have some sort of assignment that you can assist them with.  Sometimes, though, students show up for their tutoring session with nothing to do.  In that case, your imagination and creativity will be necessary.  Some constructive assignments might include having the student write a paragraph describing what they did the previous week; identifying objects around the school and using that as a basis for a spelling list; looking through a popular magazine and identifying/defining words the student doesn’t know; having the student try to figure out the main idea of short newspaper article; using a ruler to measure various items, then calculating their size, area, volume, etc.  Please contact your Furman professor if your student(s) consistently shows up without anything to do.

Other suggestions:

  1. a)      Establish a routine for the tutoring session.  This will save time and establish a feeling of consistency.
  2. b)     Have patience.  Progress can be slow and repetition is necessary, necessary, necessary.
  3. c)      Change your approach if one strategy isn’t working.
  4. d)     Have your student(s) alternate reading out loud and silently.
  5. e)      Let your student(s) work independently for a few minutes; volunteer information only if your student(s) gets stuck, asks for help, or is off task.
  6. f)       Draw pictures frequently to explain or illustrate the point you’re trying to make.
  7. g)     Try to incorporate references the student will be familiar with.  This might require that you discretely find out what the student’s background and circumstances are.
  8. h)     Make up games that involve the material.
  9. i)      Try to keep antsy children doing something.  For example, let a child get up to look at a map or look up a word.
  10. j)      Be aware of a student’s feelings and limits.  Don’t push too hard.  The student might be having a bad day; your talking with him/her will be more important on that day than explaining a certain concept/assignment.
  11. k)     Be positive and supply plenty of encouragement.  Smile!

Rationale: Courses Taught by P. L. Thomas—

Welcome to the Occupation

Paulo Freire (1993) establishes early in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed, “One of the basic elements of the relationship between oppressor and oppressed is prescription. Every prescription represents the imposition of one individual’s choice upon another, transforming the consciousness of the person prescribed to into one that conforms with the prescriber’s consciousness” (pp. 28-29).

The course before you, your course, will be guided by some essential principles, beliefs, and research concerning the nature of learning and teaching along with the commitments I have to the dignity of each person’s humanity and to the sacredness of intellectual freedom within a democracy. The practices and expectations of this course are informed by many educators, writers, and researchers—many of whom are referenced at the end. But the guiding philosophies and theories of this course can be fairly represented as critical pedagogycritical constructivism, and authentic assessment.

Now that I am in my third decade as a teacher, my classroom practices and expectations for students are all highly purposeful—although most of my practices and expectations are non-traditional and may create the perception that they are “informal.” For you, the student, this will be somewhat disorienting (a valuable state for learning) and some times frustrating. Since I recognize the unusual nature of my classes, I will offer here some clarity and some commitments as the teacher in this course.

In all of my courses, I practice “critical pedagogy.”  This educational philosophy asks students to question and identify the balance of power in all situations—an act necessary to raise a your awareness ofsocial justice.  I also emphasize “critical constructivist” learning theory.  Constructivism challenges students (with the guidance of the teacher) to forge their own understanding of various concepts by formulating and testing hypotheses, and by utilizing inductive, not just deductive, reasoning. A constructivist stance asks students to recognize and build upon their prior knowledge while facing their own assumptions and expectations as an avenue to deeper and more meaningful learning. My practices avoid traditional forms of assessment (selected-response tests), strive to ask students to create authentic representations of their learning, and require revision of that student work.

Some of the primary structures of this course include the following:

  • I delay traditional grades on student work to encourage you to focus on learning instead of seeking an “A” and to discourage you from being “finishers” instead of engaged in assignments. At any point in the course, you can receive oral identification of on-going grades if you arrange an individual conference concerning your work. However, this course functions under the expectation that no student work is complete until the last day of the course; therefore, technically all students have no formal grade until the submission of the final portfolio. One of the primary goals of this course is to encourage you to move away from thinking and acting as a studentand toward thinking and acting in authentic ways that manifest themselves in the world outside of school.
  • I include individual conferences for all students at mid-term (and any time one is requested), based on a self-evaluation, a mid-course evaluation, and an identification of student concerns for the remainder of the course. You will receive a significant amount of oral feedback (“feedback” and “grades” are not the same, and I consider “grades” much less useful than feedback), but much of my feedback comes in the form of probing questions that require you to make informed decisions instead of seeking to fulfill a requirement established by me or some other authority. Your learning experience is not a game of “got you”; thus, you have no reason to distrust the process. I value and support student experimentation, along with the necessity of error and mistakes during those experiments.My classroom is not a place where you need to mask misunderstandings and mistakes. I do not equate learning with a student fulfilling clearly defined performances (see Freire’scommentary on prescription above), but I do equate learning with students creating their own parameters for their work and then presenting their work in sincere and faithful ways.
  • I include portfolio assessment in my courses, requiring students to draft work throughout the course, to seek peer and professor feedback through conferences, and to compile at the end all of their assignments in a course with a reflection on that work; my final assessments are weighted for students and guided by expectations for those assignments, but those weights and expectations are tentativeand offered for negotiation with each student. Ultimately, the final grade is calculated holistically and based on that cumulative portfolio. All major assignments in this course must be drafted in order to be eligible for a final grade of “A.” The drafting process must include at least two weeks of dedication to the assignment, student-solicited feedback from the professor, and peer feedback. Assignments must be submitted in final forms in the culminating portfolio, but documentation of the drafting process must also be submitted with the final products.Any major assignments that do not fulfill the expectation of drafting will not receive a grade higher than a “B.” Revision is a necessary aspect of completing academic work.

Welcome to the occupation. This is your class, a series of moments of your life—where you make your decisions and act in ways you choose. Freedom and choice, actually, are frightening things because with them come responsibility. We are often unaccustomed to freedom, choice, and responsibility, especially in the years we spend in school. So if you are nervous about being given the freedom to speak and the responsibility for making your own choices, that is to be expected. But I am here to help—not prescribe, not to judge. That too will make you a bit nervous. I am glad to have this opportunity in your life, and I will not take it lightly. I will be honored if you choose not to take it lightly either.


Ayres, W. (2001). To teach: The journey of a teacher. New York: Teachers College Press.

Brooks, J. G., & Brooks, M. G. (1999). In search of understanding: The case for constructivist classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Dewey, J. (1938/1997). Experience and education. New York: Free Press.

Freire, P. (1993). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Gardner, H. (1999). The disciplined mind: What all students should understand. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Gardner, H. (1991). The unschooled mind: How children think and how schools should teach. New York: Basic Books.

Greene, M. (1995). Releasing the imagination: Essays on education, the arts, and social change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

hooks, b. (1999). remembered rapture: the writer at work. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

———. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York: Routledge.

Kincheloe, J. L. (2005a). Critical constructivism primer. New York: Peter Lang.

Kincheloe, J. L. (2005b). Critical pedagogy primer. New York: Peter Lang.

Pinker, S. (1994). The language instinct. New York: Harper Perennial.

———. (1999). Words and rules: The ingredients of language. New York: Basic Books.

Popham, W. J. (2001). The Truth about testing: An educator’s call to action. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Popham, W. J. (2003). Test better, teach better: The instructional role of assessment. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Zemelman, S., Daniels, H., & Hyde, A. (2005). Best Practice: Today’s standards for teaching and learning in America’s schools (3rd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

[1] Assignments and syllabus for this section of ED 11 are adapted from Scott Henderson in order to keep EDU 111 sections similar.

EDU 111

Perspectives on American Education

EDRD 640

Foundations and Current Trends in Literacy Research and Practice

EDU 115 (MayX)

The Reel World: The Depiction of Schools on Film

EDU 250/ EDRD 750

Scholarly Reading and Writing in Education

Concerned Scholars & Artists

Reclaiming Facts, Truth, Ethics

dr. p.l. (paul) thomas

educator, public scholar, poet&writer - academic freedom isn't free

Writers Who Care

A blog advocating for authentic writing instruction

Diane Ravitch's blog

A site to discuss better education for all

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