University of Utah Race, Gender, and the Core Curriculum Summer 2009
Office: 308C MBH Audrey Thompson mailbox in 307 MBH
Office Hours: ECS 6950-002 & 7950-002 voicemail: 587-7803
Mon. 12:30-1:00 & Tues. 1:00-3:00 meets M & W 1-4 e-mail:
and by appt. 587-7803 in MBH 112


The core curriculum is intended to ensure that all students in the public schools receive an education in essential, foundational knowledge. Although the information and skills involved are meant to serve all students equally, the knowledge that a society considers foundational is likely to be articulated to particular interests. It represents what members of dominant groups may perceive to be normal, important, and relevant. Graduate school provides teachers and administrators with the opportunity to take a step back from the everyday pressures of educational policies and practices, so as to be able to reevaluate them in light of theories that address systemic inequities. Although teachers and administrators who study social justice pedagogies recognize that what is taught in schools and how it is taught may reinforce existing inequities, all of us struggle with implementing change. We want change but we also want to exercise our competence, so we find ourselves clinging to patterns that feel right to us because they work for some familiar purposes — even when they also work against other important purposes. This course will take up some of the practical challenges connected with schooling for social change.

The course will not offer paint-by-numbers diversity "solutions" to pre-defined problems; it is not a how-to course in which the instructor already knows the best techniques and imparts them to students. Instead, we will engage in shared inquiry in uncovering assumptions, exploring alternative approaches, and discovering and inventing practical change. We will be looking at institutionalized assumptions about what counts as "the core," as well as exploring new ways to approach teaching the core curriculum. These explorations, arising out of mutual questions and ideas, will be emergent and are intended to prepare the way for further shared inquiry among teachers. I will be asking students to reconnect the dots in ways that challenge all of us (including me) to see patterns and possibilities in unexpected ways.

Change is not only a goal of social justice education but is itself is a key way in which we learn to understand and rework taken-for-granted patterns and values. By doing something different and sticking with it long enough to allow change to take shape, we can begin to see what "normally" works and how, for whom, and why, while also exploring new competencies and ways of knowing.

The assigned readings will raise theoretical questions about race and gender that we will address in practical ways by looking at their implications for K-12 core requirements in Utah. Each student will be responsible for studying part of the core (this will be based on student interest; we will not necessarily cover every aspect of the core). There will be both individual and collaborative presentations during the course; the final project is to be either collaborative or individual, according to preference. We also will engage in collective work throughout the term to challenge standing assumptions about the role and function of particular aspects of the core — for example, the construction of scientific and historical knowledge in linear terms, the sidelining of visual education, and the problematic categories that may shape the knowledge-making process. As one important function of the class involves approaching knowledge in fresh ways, students will be asked to step outside of their comfort zones to develop new skills (for example, visual skills) that unsettle our epistemic expectations and allow us to approach familiar knowledge with new questions. While the course is intended to draw on and engage your strengths as a teacher, it also is meant to work against the grain of your strengths. The challenge that social justice teachers face is to discover ways to engage all students in a democratic learning process that teaches students to think critically about power relations but also teaches them what Delpit calls the "codes of power." This course seeks to provide a supportive venue for exploring such teaching together.


The class will meet twice a week, each time discussing the readings on the syllabus and engaging in activities that will help us unthink and rethink core curriculum challenges. For example, we will work with what it might mean to both understand and trouble the concept of opposites.

We will be doing some deconstruction of images, films and documentaries, and children's books. To participate actively in class, it is essential that you read carefully, prepare questions, and jot down (in advance and during class) any issues you wish to discuss.

After the first week, one or two students will be responsible each meeting for developing the beginnings of a new approach to a core curriculum requirement, based on the readings. Students will prepare a short summary of the core curriculum requirement they have chosen, along with a short statement of the connection to two of the readings. They will then engage the class in an activity specific to interpreting the core requirements in ways that open them up to higher order, critical thinking, civic responsiveness, and/or interdisciplinary connections around race/gender. Although you are encouraged to draw on both your own and others' activities for your final project, you should expect to rework those activities in light of class discussions and later readings.


Peggy Albers and Sharon Murphy, Telling Pieces: Art as Literacy in Middle School Classes (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000).

Marriott Library electronic course reserves (see library website, and enter your student ID#)

Core curriculum links:

Course Requirements

In addition to the assigned reading, regular attendance, and participation grounded in the readings, course requirements include 3 collages, 1 prepared activity for the class, and a final project. There is no final exam.

Participation, attendance, and involvement in class activities: 10% of grade

Collages: 10% each (total = 30%)

Prepared course activity: 25% of grade

Final project: 35% of grade

Collage #1 is to be an individual revisiting of a binary that is important in one of the topics you teach. Your challenge is not to simply dismiss the binary but figure out what work it does and what work it prevents us from doing in your topic area. You can use words in your collage, but your dominant medium should be images (which could be either concrete or abstract).

Collage #2 is to be a collaborative work (involving either 2 or 3 people), in which, working on an area of shared curricular interest, you "start the story someplace else."

Collage # 3 (which can be either collaborative or individual) requires you to identify and displace a dominant metaphor in your curriculum and, using images (and some words, if you like), rethink aspects of that curriculum using an alternative metaphor.

The prepared classroom activity presentation involves a short oral explanation of the requirements of the core curriculum that are to be addressed in the activity, followed by a participatory activity geared to the K-12 classroom level you have chosen. The activity should engage race/gender in a way that goes beyond inclusion to give students new tools for critical and/or constructive thinking. While the activity should take into account how different students are being addressed in terms of gender and race, it need not be specifically be about race and gender. Rather, it should give students tools that they need for the content area you teach that also lend themselves to a troubling or revisiting of taken-for-granted race/gender norms. For example, teaching bases other than the decimal base helps students grapple with the historicity of base ten as a mathematical convention. In giving students a framework for denaturalizing the apparently universal norm of base ten, it supports a form of critical thinking that can be applied to historicized assumptions about race and gender. All prepared activities should close with a short synopsis of how they are intended to give students (and teachers) tools for un/rethinking gender/race, followed by a discussion that involves all the participants in analyzing what worked and what might be improved. Presenters (as well as other participants) should take notes so that later they can draw on the discussion for their final projects.

For students who choose to do an individual final project, the assignment is a 10-page paper that rethinks race and gender norms in some aspect of the core curriculum; the paper should have an appendix of at least 10 pages comprising concrete ways to reconfigure race/gender. The main part of the paper should draw on course readings and discussions in substantive ways. As long as it is clear which reading you are referring to, and which page, it is not necessary to adopt any special citation format. The important thing is to make sure that you are accountable to the course readings.

Collaborative final projects are welcome, but for joint work (up to 3 students), I will expect the final project to be correspondingly longer and more complex.

Schedule of Class Topics and Reading

Mon. 29                                    June Introduction: Norming the Curriculum

Wed. 1 July                             Race, Gender, and Teacher Preparation


Etta R. Hollins and Maria Torres Guzman, "Research on Preparing Teachers for Diverse Populations," in Studying Teacher Education: The Report of the AERA Panel on Research and Teacher Education, ed. Marilyn Cochran-Smith and Kenneth M. Zeichner (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2005), 477-548.

Alice McIntyre, "Exploring Whiteness and Multicultural Education with Prospective Teachers," Curriculum Inquiry 32, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 31-49.

Discussion theme: Binaries and Norms

Mon. 6 July                             And Ladies of the Classroom


Evelyn Fox Keller and Helene Moglen, "Competition and Feminism: Conflicts for Academic Women," Signs 12, no. 3 (Spring 1987): 493-511.

Sherry Turkle and Seymour Papert, "Epistemological Pluralism: Styles and Voices within the Computer Culture," Signs 16, no. 1 (Autumn 1990): 128-157.

Collage #1 due

Discussion theme: What Language or Tools Do We Have to See Things in Multiple Ways?

Visual Inventory

Wed. 8 July                             Teaching and Unteaching


A. Lin Goodwin, Multicultural Stories: Preservice Teachers' Conceptions of and Responses to Issues of Diversity," Urban Education 32, no. 1 (March 1997): 117-45.

Lillian Polite and Elizabeth Baird Saenger, "A Pernicious Silence: Confronting Race in the Elementary Classroom," Phi Delta Kappan 85, no. 4 (December 2003): 274-78.

Donna M. Marriott, "Ending the Silence," Phi Delta Kappan 84, no. 7 (March 2003): 496-501.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "Guidelines for Teaching about the Holocaust,"

Discussion theme: Silence, Evasion, and Other Forms of Ignorance

Mon. 13 July                             Race Patterns


Robert M. Adelman and James Clarke Gocker, "Racial Residential Segregation in Urban America," Sociology Compass 1, no. 1 (September 2007): 404-23.

Robert M. Adelman and James Clarke Gocker, "Teaching and Learning Guide for: Racial Residential Segregation in Urban America," Sociology Compass 2, no. 2 (2008): 783-91.

Gregory D. Squires and Charis E. Kubrin, "Predatory Lending: The New Redlining," in Privileged Places: Race, Residence, and the Structure of Opportunity (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2006), 55-67.

Discussion theme: Meritocracy, Progress, and Other Meta-Narratives

Wed. 15 July                             "That's a Thing of the Past"


Cotten Seiler, "The Significance of Race to Transport History," Journal of Transport History 28, no. 2 (September 2007): 307-11.

Eric Mann, "Los Angeles Bus Riders Derail the MTA," in Highway Robbery: Transportation Racism and New Routes to Equity, ed. Robert D. Bullard, Glenn S. Johnson, and Angel O. Torres (Cambridge: South End Press, 2004), 33-47.

Herbert Kohl, "The Story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott Revisited," in Should We Burn Babar? Essays on Children's Literature and the Power of Stories (New York: The New Press, 1995), 30-56.

Optional video:

Annie Leonard and Louis Fox, The Story of Stuff (Berkeley, CA: Free Range Studios, 2007). [videorecording: 20 minutes]

Discussion theme: Starting Somewhere Else

Mon. 20 July                             The Language of Discipline


Suzanne E. Wade, Janice R. Fauske, and Audrey Thompson, "Prospective Teachers' Problem Solving in Online Peer-Led Dialogues," American Educational Research Journal 45, no. 2 (June 2008): 398-442.

Evelyn Fox Keller, "A World of Difference," in Reflections on Gender and Science (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 158-76.

Periodic Table of Typefaces

Discussion theme: Static Categories

Wed. 22 July                             Critical Thinking in 3-D


Peggy Albers and Sharon Murphy, Telling Pieces: Art as Literacy in Middle School Classes (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000), 1-92.

Edward Rothstein, "All About Mr. Elephant, in His Becoming Green Suit," The New York Times (Sept. 22, 2008).

Field trip: We will meet at the UMFA at 1:00 to visit the Splendid Heritage exhibit, and then will return to our regular class to discuss the reading and the exhibit.

Discussion theme: How Do You Think about Audience?

Mon. 27 July                             "Think Three Impossible Things before Breakfast"


Peggy Albers and Sharon Murphy, Telling Pieces: Art as Literacy in Middle School Classes (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000), 93-135.

Lorraine Code, "Ecological Thinking: Subversions and Transformations," in Ecological Thinking: The Politics of Epistemic Location (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 25-62.

Adriana de Barros, "Finding My Own Voice: An Interview with Jenny Eng," Scene 360: The Film and Arts Online Magazine (2009). [full version]

Collage #2 due

Discussion theme: Triangulations and Juxtapositions

Wed. 29 July                             What Do We Teach that Isn't So?


Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, "How Betsy Ross Became Famous," Common-Place 8, no. 1 (October 2007).

Ted Wadley, "Sequoyah," The New Georgia Encyclopedia (September 3, 2002).

Laura Martin, "`Eskimo Words for Snow': A Case Study in the Genesis and Decay of an Anthropological Example," American Anthropologist (new series) 88, no. 2 (June 1986): 418-23.

Matt McIrvin, "Why Is the Sky Blue? A Semi-Detailed Explanation,"

Discussion theme: Back-up

Mon. 3 Aug                             Troubling Dominant Pedagogies


Sarah Michaels, "`Sharing Time': Children's Narrative Styles and Differential Access to Literacy," Language in Society 10, no. 3 (December 1981): 423-42.

Ralph Cooley, "Spokes in a Wheel: A Linguistic and Rhetorical Analysis of Native American Public Discourse," in Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society (Berkeley, CA: The Berkeley Linguistics Society, 1979): 552-57.

Tarajean Yazzie-Mintz, "From a Place Deep Inside: Culturally Appropriate Curriculum as the Embodiment of Navajo-ness in Classroom Pedagogy," Journal of American Indian Education 46, no. 3 (2007): 72-93.

Discussion theme: Metaphor

Wed. 5 Aug                             The Core and the Curriculum


William H. Jeynes, "Standardized Tests and Froebel's Original Kindergarten Model," Teachers College Record 108, no. 10 (October 2006): 1937-59.

Christine E. Sleeter, "Designing Curriculum around Big Ideas," in Un-standardizing Curriculum: Multicultural Teaching in the Standards-Based Classroom (New York: Teachers College Press, 2005), 43-63.

Collage #3 and class presentations due

Discussion theme: How Do We Measure Change?

Mon. 10 Aug.                             Final project due by 5:00 p.m.

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