Spring 2011

SOCS 623
Learning in Cultural Perspectives


03/05/2011 - 04/02/2011
Note: Special Schedule 09:00 AM - 05:00 PM

Public Affairs Center 421

This seminar explores how people learn, in and out of school, at home and around the globe. We use ethnography and education studies to investigate how cultural differences inform and direct people's learning. Readings will be chosen to illuminate diverse aspects and interpretations of learning: reform efforts in the urban and suburban U.S., case studies of cultural misunderstandings and their consequences, curriculum experiments and educational alternatives that situate learners in the contexts of their lives, and state-run, often neo-colonial, efforts to administer ethnic diversity by means of standardized schooling. We also consider the personal and political influences that the internet, privatization and globalization exert on learning in the 21st century.

Central questions for the course include: what purposes does schooling serve in different societies? How do educational institutions and practices construct and manage their students' cultural identities and differences? Who decides what constitutes learning? Why does it matter how we think about learning? How do street children in Brazil, youth in NYC for whom English is not their first language, or privileged undergraduates who are bored by their studies, for example, resist and subvert learning in school? What possibilities for change present themselves in particular circumstances? What kinds of change would be meaningful or useful to learners themselves?

Members of the class will be asked to position themselves as students, travelers, teachers, parents, community members and citizens as they engage with the texts and reflect on their own experiences of learning.

Readings will include works by Jerome Bruner, Lisa Delpit, William Finnegan, Elizabeth Minnich, Paulo Freire, Sylvia Ashton-Warner, Karen McCarthy Brown, Nel Noddings, Herb Kohl, Nancy Scheper-Hughes, and Monique Skidmore.

Course requirements include class discussion of the assigned reading and participation in occasional group presentations. There will a series of short papers in response to the readings and three longer pieces of writing designed to develop each student?s particular interests in relation to the course.

Immersion courses are worth three units of credit and are academically as rigorous as a regular term course, only the class meetings are compressed into a very short time. Students interested in immersion courses should be aware that the syllabus usually requires that students prepare for up to a month prior to the first class meeting and complete assignments in the weeks following the course. Please click here for more information about immersion courses.

This course is not open to auditors.

The deadline to withdraw and receive a tuition refund for this course is Friday, January 28 at 5:00 pm. Please visit our website for a complete list of registration and withdrawal dates for this session.

A syllabus for this course is available at:
SOCS 623

Nancy Barnes (B.A., New School College; Ph.D., The New School for Social Research) ) is visiting professor of American studies. She is a cultural anthropologist and works as an ethnographer in the "small schools" in NYC and on a number of professional development and school reform projects with high school and college teachers. Her most recent publication is a personal essay, "This Life that Is Ours Just Once to Live", forthcoming in Death and Choice, eds. Bauer and Maglin, Rutgers University Press, 2008.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:

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