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ACADEMIC OVERVIEW The social foundations of education are a critical yet all too often overlooked component of teacher preparation. Future teachers almost always have the "opportunity to learn" and the "opportunity to practice": the opportunity to learn is the chance to gain pedagogical and pedagogical content knowledge (above and beyond one's specific content area); the opportunity to practice is the chance to use such knowledge in clinical field-based experiences. Yet far too few teachers are given the "opportunity to change": the opportunity for future teachers to be exposed to and to grapple with counterintuitive ways of thinking about and engaging with our educational system. There are many ways one can talk about this, such as "teaching against the grain" or "learning to think otherwise." Ultimately, though, it's about helping students to see the deeper issues and dilemmas within American education through distinct perspectives -- philosophical, sociological, historical, anthropological, and political -- and giving them the chance to reflect on how this impacts their perspective of themselves as future teachers and the role of schools in society.
Academic research is clear that new teachers feel deeply unprepared for their new roles, the systems they are in, and the children they are teaching. The social foundations of education offers a way forward. This is difficult, as most teacher preparation is a "downstream" structure that "goes with the current" of future teachers preparing to enter their anticipated profession; foundations, though, is an "upstream" endeavor exactly because it challenges the taken-for-granted ways that most of us have ever thought about and enacted education. Yet the social foundations of education gives us the chance to thoughtfully and critically reflect on and engage with key issues in education. Such reflection and engagement, in turn, is key to understanding one's future role in a highly complex and bureaucratic educational system that is itself within our contested and pluralistic democratic society.
Education is fundamentally a journey into the unknown, as it helps (and forces) students to confront new knowledge, new ways of thinking, and differing perspectives. These are not simple things -- going outside one's comfort zone, perceiving things from another's point of view, considering something antithetical to what one considers "obvious" -- are all discomforting moments. But this is exactly what the social foundations of education hopes to foster in the service of better preparing future teachers.