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Steven Hoelscher, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Fall 2003

AMS 315 • Education, Culture and Identity

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
26310 MWF
9:00 AM-10:00 AM
1:00 PM-2:00 PM
GAR 301
GAR 301

Course Description

To what extent does our education define who we are? How do schools reinforce or challenge our sense of cultural identity? What lessons about race, class, and gender are taught—intentionally or unintentionally—on school grounds? What role does education play in teaching young people what it means to be "American"? This interdisciplinary American Studies course challenges students to critically examine their everyday assumptions about education. Our main focus will be the relationship between schooling and identity formation in America, and we will approach the topic from a variety of perspectives, including history, memoir, anthropology, sociology, and film. Recognizing that lessons about culture and identity can be taught in the hallways or on the athletic fields as much as in the classroom, we will look at both the "formal" curriculum of academic subjects and the "hidden" curriculum of power relations that students learn at school. We will also explore how popular culture, political ideologies, and social controversies profoundly shape what is taught and learned in school. The U.S. public school has traditionally been a locus for social, cultural, and political conflict—consider recent controversies over the constitutionality of the "Pledge of Allegiance," the process of textbook selection in Texas, and the suspension of high school students in South Carolina for wearing confederate flag t-shirts to school—and we will examine some of the historical precedents and contemporary contexts for these debates. This is a writing-intensive course; students will use composition regularly as a way to think critically about assigned reading, synthesize major themes, and practically apply what they are learning.

Grading Policy

Four reaction papers to assigned reading (2 pages each) (25%) Interview with an adult of another generation about his/her school experience (3-page summary) (15%) Autobiographical essay—a critical meditation on your own education (5 pages) (25%) Letter addressed to the superintendent/headmaster of your high school proposing changes to the curriculum (5 pages) (25%) Attendance, participation, reading quizzes, etc. (10%)


William Graebner, Coming of Age in Buffalo: Youth and Authority in the Postwar Era Richard Rodriguez, Hunger of Memory Ann Arnett Ferguson, Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity Rippberger and Staudt, Pledging Allegiance: Learning Nationalism at the El Paso-Juarez Border James Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong Film: The Blackboard Jungle


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