Education Policy and the Structuring of Citizenship

Open—Spring

This seminar invites students to examine how we can think about policy in relationship to citizenship. Specifically, we will focus on education policy in the United States post-Brown v. Board of Education. Historically, public education has been a key site through which citizenship, rights, and freedom have been imagined and fought for. We will use education policy to critically examine how citizenship and inequality have been structured materially and ideologically in the post-Brown period. For example, one primary way that inequality in education is understood focuses on the role of personal responsibility, hard work, and perseverance. More generally, this narrative references the aspirations, values, and practices of poor and working-class young people of color and their families, the postracial power of bootstraps, and the promise of a particular type of freedom but with no guarantees. As such, public education in the United States is a contradictory site that is at once equal and yet not equal, the guarantor of the freedom to make one’s own future as well as the institution through which futures are differentially prescribed. Together, we will examine these contradictions. We will also use education as a way to think through citizenship more generally and specifically in relationship to contemporary claims that are made to postracialism, democracy, and equality in the United States.