HIST 155
School Wars Spring 2025
Division II Writing Skills

Class Details

Throughout the 20th century, parents, students, teachers, and policymakers have fought bitterly about the purpose of and practices in public schools. Public schools have been the site of a series of intense conflicts over the meanings of democracy and equality; the relationship between the individual, the family, and the state; and about completing claims to recognize the rights of teachers, children, and parents. Organized both chronologically and thematically, this course examines a series of “school wars” in the 20th century, focusing especially on battles over religion, race, and sex. Topics will include evolution/creationism, segregation and desegregation, bilingual education, sex education, free speech, and school prayer. This course asks how, why, and with what consequences schools have been an arena of cultural conflict in the United States? How do these debates help us understand the contested relationship between the rights of children and students, the rights of parents and families, the rights of communities and states, and the obligations of the federal government? How can historical analysis shed light on our present-day “school wars”? Many of these conflicts wind up in court, and we will be looking at some key Supreme Court decisions, but we will also draw upon memoirs, social histories, oral histories, popular culture, and other archival and documentary sources that focus on the experience of teachers and students. Tutorials meet in pairs. Every week, each student will either write an essay (1000-1250 words) that responds to and analyzes the readings OR a short essay (no more than 500 words) that responds to their partner’s paper and raises further questions for discussion.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 3438
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: four to five tutorial papers (approximately 5 pages) and four to five short response papers (approximately 2 pages)
Prerequisites: first-years or sophomores
Enrollment Preferences: first-year students, and then sophomores who have not previously taken a 100-level seminar
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
WS Notes: Students will write bi-weekly 5-page papers about the readings, and bi-weekly 2-page responses to their tutorial partner's paper. For the final paper, each student will revise and expand one of the papers they wrote in the semester. Students will receive regular written and oral feedback on their work from the professor and their tutorial partner. Students will receive from the instructor timely comments on their writing skills, with suggestions for improvement.
Attributes: HIST Group F Electives - U.S. + Canada
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