Who is college for? What are the rituals of "getting in"? How does applying to and attending college affect individuals, families, high schools, and colleges? What are our assumptions about?educational opportunity?
This class will begin by looking at the labor of applying to college, especially the work of that peculiarly American document, the college application essay. Why do colleges emphasize stories of the self? Stories of community? What role do these kinds of stories play in admissions? What can we learn about American identities and ourselves as learners and citizens through an examination of this process?
Interdisciplinary readings will provide the tools that we need to address these questions historically, culturally, and in the context of public policy and law, including the University of Michigan’s past role in affirmative action debates and the most recent Supreme Court ruling on Fisher v. University of Texas. This is also a strongly writing-centered class. Students will write in response to the readings; they will also write about their own college application experiences while studying relevant national trends and debates.
Reading and other materials:
Short reading assignments will be on CTools; reading also includes three or four required paperback books. Readings include selections from Addams, Twenty Years at Hull-House; Dewey “The School as Social Centre”; Cintron, "A Boy and His Wall"; Dunbar-Odom, Defying the Odds; Lemann, The Big Test; Stevens, Creating a Class: Elbow, Writing Without Teachers; and Brandt, Literacy in American Lives.
We will also pay attention to two films and news media coverage of educational issues, visiting leaders in the field, including a faculty member who lead a workshop on ethnographic interviewing, high school counselors, scholars of higher ed policy, legal commentators, representatives of the Center for Educational Outreach, and recent U-M alums. A field trip to U-M’s Bentley Historical Library will introduce students to a research assignment using documents that reveal the history of applying to the University of Michigan from the nineteenth-century to the present.
Choice of Final Research-Based Essay: Your final essay must be grounded in a research project. You have three choices: 1) research using Bentley Historical Library documents dealing with “getting in” at the University of Michigan; 2) research on a public policy issue relevant to college admissions or college success in the news; 3) For students who are actively involved in educational outreach programs, through a Project Community class, a program of the Center for Educational Outreach, or a student organization, an assessment and analysis of the aims, activities, and impact of the program. All topic choices require instructor consultation and approval.
Written work may include individual and group assignments such as critical response assignments, in-class freewrites, an ethnographic interviews, critical analysis of college admissions web sites or "how to get into college" books, and “Policy Watch” and “Culture Watch” oral presentations that serve as conversation starters. A draft of your final essay will be revised through peer editing for submission in final form; you will also give an oral presentation in order to share your findings with the class. Attendance required.