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Part of our understanding of the social foundations of education is to consider how educational environments and stories of school “success” and “failure” are represented in the media. Tales of educational success “against all odds” and “from rags to riches” seem to fascinate the popular imagination. As informed students and citizens who are also engaged in understanding schooling from a scholarly perspective, you can offer valuable perspectives on these interpretations and media representations.
Your task is to write a Letter to the Editor (5-6 pages)—a genre in which individuals write in response to issues presented in the newspaper’s articles and often become published. You are to respond to a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning articles in The Wall Street Journal by Ron Suskind (and an additional, “10 years later” piece). Available on Moodle, in the “Midterm Materials” folder, they document the educational struggles and opportunities of a student who fought to overcome obstacles in his educational journey, have access to high quality education and improve his situation in life against the odds. Cedric’s story was later published as a biography, A Hope in the Unseen, and became even more famous.
The readings, films and class discussions should be useful in helping us understand the factors that have affected Cedric in his education journey and after, as an adult. You have already been engaging in a similar manner with important concepts in your analytical responses. So what are these factors that affect Cedric and others in the story? How can we understand the education picture that is presented to us in these articles and especially Cedric’s? How do concepts and theories addressed in this course help you understand this educational trajectory?
While you will use many of the ideas studied so far, do not feel compelled to apply everything we have discussed—rather, think of how you can thoughtfully and clearly apply these perspectives to obtain a thorough analysis of Cedric’s story. We are not looking for “one right answer” in the analysis, but for an informed, well-argued response that demonstrates you as a thoughtful reader who begins to have a clear understanding of education in a social context, rather than as a solely individual journey of personal effort.
As with previous writing in this course, be sure to use concepts correctly, defining them and applying them in clear ways, rather than simply naming them occasionally. Your audience—the newspapers’ readers—is smart, but not necessarily familiar with issues you have been learning in class—so be sure to write in a manner that would be informative to them, learning new concepts and understating how they apply to shaping educational experiences in the United States. There is also a rubric on Moodle that can inform you.