PACE Lecture Series Week 5: Democracy in Education

By: Abby Bivens

Staff Writer

On Monday night, Assistant Professor of Education Specialties Dr. Erin Stutelberg was next on the list of speakers for PACE’s fall series on democracy, giving her interpretation of the term and its relation to the world of education.

pace lecture

Abby Bivens photo.

Dr. Stutelberg’s lecture, titled “Why School?: Democratic Visions and Unjust Realities in Education,” began with an interactive component.  She asked audience members to turn to the person next to them and discuss a meaningful learning experience that they experienced in their life.

After a few minutes, Dr. Stutelberg noticed that many of these experiences did not necessarily happen within the walls of a classroom, making her first point; schools are only one institution or place that education could happen.  But for the majority of the lecture Dr. Stutelberg focused on the education that occurs within a school.

Addressing the democratic visions of the nation’s educational system, Dr. Stutelberg claimed that democratic societies rely upon educated people to participate, run for office and make decisions.

“Schools must educate people so that they can participate fully in democracy,” Stutelberg said.

She then asked the class for a collaborative list of what democracy looks like, typing the responses into her PowerPoint.  Other lectures have also employed this technique during their presentations and the list has grown dramatically within the past few weeks.

She then explained how a democratic school that encompassed these characteristics would be participatory, holistic, inclusive of all, have a dialogue between students and teachers and the knowledge would be co-constructed.

“Are these the schools that we have today?” Dr. Stutelberg said.  “Spoiler alert, my answer is no.”

She then transitioned into the second main concept of the lecture, the unjust realities in education.  Dr. Stutelberg focused on the ideas of the Banking Model of Education, hidden curriculum and new racism.

The Banking Model views students as depositories for knowledge, coming directly from the teacher with little hands on interaction.  This can also be explained using the Factory Model, which views students as a product in a post industrialization society.

Both of these models restrict creativity and focus on efficiently mass producing students.

factory model of ed

The Factory Model of Education.  Source: https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/schools-as-factories-metaphors-that-stick/

The next unjust reality that Dr. Stutelberg discussed was hidden curriculum which she described as “the residue of schooling,” or what school does to people in a non-academic sense.  She claimed that modern schooling systems create both an emotional and intellectual dependency, harm students through the use of class position and do not encourage any degree of personal privacy.

Lastly, Dr. Stutelberg explored the topic of new racism, which is more hidden than the overt racism of the past.  In exemplifying this, she played the movie trailer for a new documentary called “Teach Us All” on Netflix.

While this new racism is not as obvious as the explicit racism that many people are familiar with, it claims that racism is still a major issue in schools.  According to Dr. Stutelberg, 83 percent of teachers in American public schools are white.

Modern day racism can also be observed in the process of resource distribution. Poor school districts, which are notoriously composed of minorities, have a much lower cost per pupil allowance and are consistently equipped with inexperienced or under prepared teachers.

Dr. Stutelberg closed her lecture by hosting an active discussion with the audience regarding these democratic visions and unjust realities in education.

Audience members presented much different arguments which came from diverse personal experiences, with race being a tense factor in responses.

One minority student particularly resonated with Dr. Stutelberg’s discussion of race inequality within schools.

“I didn’t really understand that segregation still existed in schools today until tonight but it makes sense now,” SU junior Jada Taylor said.

Taylor explained that she had attended a variety of schools, coming from low income schools in New York before moving to more affluent districts on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Reflecting upon this transition, Taylor better understands how race and income can play into educational quality.

On Monday Oct. 16, PACE will continue their lecture series with the next lecture being led by Angeline Prichard.  An SU research and instruction librarian, Prichard will be giving a lecture entitled “Checking Out Democracy: ‘Dewey’ Need Libraries, Anyway?”

As a reminder, all PACE lectures in this series are open to any SU student or member of the Salisbury community.  The weekly lecture takes place in Fulton Hall Room 111 at 7 p.m. on Mondays.

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