POLS W40 Perspectives in Education Reform. The course presents controversies in education reform by reviewing the major reforms in the U.S. public education since the publication of "A Nation at Risk" in 1983. These reforms include standardized testing, charter schools and other forms of “school choice,” and No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Students in this course also assess the fate of NCLB and consider future policies in reforming public education in the United States. This course also examines the relationship between education and the larger socioeconomic environment in the U.S. Specific dimensions of the current education policy debate will be explored, including standardized testing as a measurement of learning outcomes, equity in school funding, and education policies from other countries. The last week of this course consists of site visits in Grand Rapids, MI, Chicago, IL and Lansing, MI, in which the class will listen to the perspectives of education practitioners, reformers, administrators and policy decision-makers. Fee: $50. M. Pelz. 8:30 a.m. to noon.
POLS W41 Inequality and U.S. Democracy. Political equality is a core value of American democracy, enshrined in the concepts of “one person-one vote” and equal representation. While this value has a long history in American government, concerns about the impact of economic inequality on equal representation have existed from the start. As economic inequality has grown in the United States in recent years, observers have questioned whether the increased resources of the rich will further tilt policy towards the preferences of the affluent as opposed to the poor. This course addresses the origins of this unequal representation along with its implications for policy. It also asks whether the rising inequality of recent years is merely an unfortunate societal development, or a fundamental threat to the successful functioning of our democratic system. Students will explore the topic in a variety of ways, including a major simulation and written reflection on inequality and citizenship from a Christian point of view. K. Pyle. 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.