On Course: The Politics of Education

illustration of students on books

Get to know EDU 300: The Politics of Education from Prof. Brittany Murray, Assistant Professor of Educational Studies and Political Science.

The What

This is a class that examines a question every student asks at some point: What is the purpose of school? Why are we here?

What they explore is the negotiation about who decides why we go to school. Do we educate ourselves and our children for democracy’s sake—so we have a citizenry that can grasp and solve difficult problems? Or are we here for social mobility?

We spend a lot of time in this class focusing on desegregation. Our proximity to Charlotte is particularly valuable.

The Who

This is a fun course because we have a wide variety of students. We have about 20 in the classroom, ranging from first-year students to juniors and seniors. We also have a wide variety of students because this course is posted in both Political Science and Educational Studies; it counts for students in both majors.

The Why

Many of our students will be excellent teachers, but they also want to be influential in the field; shaping policy, working at nonprofits and doing research. They want to learn how resources are allocated, who gets to have authority over textbooks.

Every class opens with a policy talk where students lead a discussion about current education issues. They do the research and lead the discussion. I don’t think of my job as depositing material into my students’ minds; they are here to participate and engage with the material. So, they lead the class with the questions and problems they find most interesting. It has been very rewarding to see this class grow together.

To Do

In previous semesters, the class has studied primary documents at local resources like the Levine Museum of the New South and UNC Charlotte.

This semester, the students’ big projects will be done in partnership with local non-profits. One group is building a data dashboard about school boards for the Center for Racial Equity in Education while others are researching discipline disparities in early childhood education for Empowered Parents in Community. Those are just a couple of examples of the real-word problems they’ll tackle in this class.

This article was originally published in the Fall/Winter 2022 print issue of the Davidson Journal Magazine; for more, please see the Davidson Journal section of our website.