“Schooling in America” to Look into Schooling in the Context of Intersectionality

Drawing from his intrigue in examining history through a philosophical lens, Noah Rachlin, Instructor in History, will teach a new elective in the fall of 2015 titled “Schooling in America.”

The class will study the history of schooling, examining the evolution of American education that brought it from the year 1980 to where it is now. After understanding the causation that built up to today’s system, the course will shift toward investigating the systemic problems that plague modern-day education, answering “big questions” about human nature, identity and the inner-workings of the schooling institution, said Rachlin.

“For example: What’s the connection between poverty and schooling––whether it’s poverty and school funding, or poverty and school preparedness? How do we think about measuring schools? What is a ‘good’ school? How do you know it’s a ‘good’ school? Should we be measuring at a systemic and organizational level or should we be measuring at a more focused level of teachers? How do we collect that data? What do we do with that data?” said Rachlin.

To spark awareness about their surroundings at school, Rachlin will charge students to think critically about the different aspects of schooling that they hear about and encounter with each day.

“By intellectualizing schooling and its intersections with today’s major social issues, students will break the educational system apart into its different components, inspecting the causation behind school-related problems and then thinking of solutions to move forward,” said Rachlin.

“[School] is the intersection of race, it’s the intersection of class, it’s the intersection of gender, it’s the intersection of economics, of [society], of psychology, of history; there are all of these forces that are at play,” he continued.
Through teaching Schooling in America, Rachlin hopes to explore society’s value of schooling as both an equalizer and a divider.

“Why are people struggling? They’re not getting a good education. What’s the key to that? They need a good education. There’s this tension here, so my contention is that if we are to understand that, we also have to understand where we got to the place we are and then sort of dig into where we are [now].”

“My idea is to structure a curriculum and a syllabus that provides information about the areas that people might not be as aware of or might not know enough about, while also providing opportunities for people to leverage and share their own experiences and their own understandings and their own ideas,” said Rachlin.

When he was in graduate school studying for a degree in education, Rachlin was surrounded by people who came from all different walks of life and offered perspectives of their educational experiences that he had never been introduced to. The individuality of each person’s story and the complexity of the schooling system fascinated Rachlin, driving him to design an outlet for students to enter the education conversation as well.

As arguably the greatest unifier between different people, the experience of being a student is one of the few ways that could singlehandedly connect a sizable group of people, said Rachlin. But Rachlin contends that people look at the schooling through a pinhole, seeing only their own perspective and, as a result, miss the fact that education is more nuanced and complex system.

“Some students choose schools, such as [Andover], because it represents a ‘great opportunity.’ But, an opportunity to do what? We should think about what that means and what it also means that this is a great opportunity but it’s also a great opportunity, by definition, for a limited number of people,” said Rachlin.

The course will be offered through the History and Social Studies Department, and will only be offered in the fall term.