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Issue Inquiry

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Issue Inquiry Assignment

Taken from Dr. Randy Bomer’s course “Education and Democracy.”

Though you may decide to separate your presentation from your issue paper, the best thing is probably to do them both on the same topic. You can use the conversation you sponsor in class to help you think about your paper – the kinds of questions people have about your topic and their assessments of how it meets our standards of democracy. Take notes on what they say, because you can certainly refer to people’s comments in your paper.

Begin by choosing a topic from the list below and finding out how various scholars and experts think about it. Try to figure out who are the respected people who write about that topic. See if they have websites. See if there are books about it in the library. See what you can find on Google and use those websites to lead you to find journal articles and books. Take care with how you use and credit websites, remembering that anyone can put up a website without necessarily having credible evidence for their perspective.

  • What sorts of views are represented on the various sides of the issue (there are usually more than two sides to these issues)?
  • Who holds these different views?
  • What organizations seem interested in it, and who makes up their membership? Who gives them money?
  • What kinds of evidence are they using to support their claims?
  • How do you see the issue related to democracy?
  • Whose voices are being heard, and whose are not?
  • How does this affect the most vulnerable people in society? Who benefits?

Inquiry invitation and invitation to dialogue

You will have fifteen minutes to involve the class in a discussion of your issue. Plan to present what you have found out for about six minutes, then give the class an artifact to look at and consider, and then lead the discussion of that artifact. Your artifact may be

  • a couple of quotes,
  • a chart or diagram,
  • a set of images,
  • a questionnaire that gets people thinking,
  • a set of bullet points,
  • or ask classmates to generate their own artifact by writing for a few minutes about a question.

It does not have to be fancy, but it should help people engage with the issue you are exploring so that they can talk back to you about it.

Issue paper

Though the final draft of this paper is due December 4, a draft is due October 30. The final version will be longer than your other writing – at least 7 pages, double spaced with one inch margins and 12 point Times font. The first draft should be at least four pages.

The purpose of the paper is for you to explore the issue from multiple perspectives, testing the varied points of view against your evolving sense of the relationships between democracy and education. You will report on what you find out about the issue, but you will do that in order to explore the issue as a problem, to reason through the evidence on various sides, and to find your way through multiple possibilities.

You will need to use at least five sources for this paper, and much of the writing will be about what those sources say and how they relate to one another. These sources can be books, articles, and websites, though they should all be high-quality ones. In addition to those kinds of sources, you may be able to find videos about your topic. You may interview people who have relevant personal or professional experience with the topic.

You should start immediately. I will occasionally offer advice or even assignments that will help you think about the paper. But you should manage the time between now and the day the paper is due, keeping in mind that this is not do-able in a short time but rather needs your attention over a long period, where you read about it, think about it, change your mind, and layer meaning and wisdom onto the task. I will help you think about the form of the paper when the final draft is much closer; until then, you should be all about content and reasoning! Make yourself a file folder, start making notes about why you chose the topic, talk about it whenever you can, and start trying to gather resources.

Potential Topic Areas

  • The achievement gap
  • No Child Left Behind
  • The business community and education
  • The kinds of skills needed for workers in 21st century economy
  • How is the internet a resource for education
  • Online schools: K-12
  • Online schools: Higher education
  • Access to higher education
  • Affordability of higher education
  • Schools and security
  • School law: privacy
  • School law: freedom of speech
  • Parents as educators
  • Home schooling
  • Private schools
  • Small, affluent districts within metropolitan areas
  • Rural schools and equity
  • School funding
  • School boards – who are they and what do they do
  • State Boards of Education
  • Little Rock, Arkansas desegregation incidents
  • University of Alabama desegregation incidents
  • Well-being of children in Texas
  • The story of Texas education
  • High stakes testing
  • Head Start (or all programs for four-year-olds)
  • Tracking of students
  • School vouchers
  • Day care centers
  • University funding
  • Texas compared to other states (K12 or Higher ed)
  • USA compared to other countries (children, adolescents, or universities)
  • Museums as science educators
  • Museums as historical educators
  • Museums as arts educators
  • Education related to arts institutions
  • Educational television and TV as educator
  • Censorship in education
  • How educated are voters? How do they become educated?
  • Levels of education and employability
  • The separation between church and state in education
  • Bullying
  • Shared decision making in schools
  • Gender and schooling
  • African Americans in US schools
  • Gay and lesbian students
  • Bilingual education
  • Education of immigrant children
  • Education for civic responsibility (K-12 or higher ed)
  • Education of Native Americans
  • Unpopular and controversial topics in schools
  • Sex education
  • Students with disabilities