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Sample Syllabus: History 422/522

HST 422 & HST 522
SUNY College at Brockport

Prof. W. Bruce Leslie                                                                                                                             Fall, 2008


            Education has global significance.  Societies once judged strength and national pride in terms of battleships and missiles.  Today their students’ and universities’ international rankings  indicate their modernity and ability to compete in a global economy.  American universities are rated as the best in the world, but American elementary and high school students have not ranked highly on international examinations.  This has made education a leading political issue and brought unprecedented Federal government intervention in the form of “No Child Left Behind”.  The accompanying debates are the educational echo of advanced economies shifting rapidly from high-volume industrial production to high-value knowledge-driven production.  For instance, only a small fraction of your computer’s cost is for hardware; you pay primarily for the thought that goes into the software, marketing, and servicing.

            But education has never been only, or often even mainly, about economic production.  Every generation has its “culture wars” and “political correctness”.  Groups try to control education to shape the next generation’s view of the “good society” and the “good life”.  In a country receiving constant waves of immigrants, American schools play an exceptionally important role shaping and re-shaping culture. 

Thus Americans have long placed exceptional burdens on education, expecting it to cure social problems, promote individualism, teach values, shape national identity, and provide equality of opportunity.  These high expectations give American education relatively generous funding, but subjects it to public scrutiny and exposes it to political conflicts.  Understanding the origins of these often  irreconcilable pressures brings some clarity to a difficult task.

Towards that end, we will examine this fascinating history by focusing on crucial develop-ments that have shaped the American educational system.  Among those are:  transplanting European models in strange soil; using schools to shape an American identity; creating the ‘common school’, the ‘comprehensive’ high school, and mass higher education; the use and abuse of education in race relations; religion’s role; the emergence of progressive education; ‘Americanizing’ immigrants; the impact of ‘The Sixties’; the battles over equity, access, and quality in the late 20th century education; and finally, the implication of these developments for you and your country in an increasingly interdependent 21st century world.  

BOOKS              Understanding such profound, and often traumatic, transformations requires a variety of tools.  Class meetings will combine lecture with discussion and will be supplemented by videos.  But the value of our classes depends upon your careful preparation.  Thus these books (available at the Liftbridge Bookstore and the College Bookstore) must be purchased. 

Sarah Mondale, School: The Story of American Public Education
                        Joseph Moreau, Schoolbook Nation
                        Jeff Moran, The Scopes Trial
Waldo Martin, Brown v. the Board of Education

ANGEL    The ANGEL system provides access to a rich variety of readings, once available only at considerable effort and expense.  The syllabus, schedule, class handouts, and many readings will be posted under “Lessons”.  Access ANGEL through the College’s Home Page.  Use your College e-mail UserID & Password and choose the course titled ‘History of American Education’.  If you don’t use College e-mail regularly, switch the e-mail address on ANGEL to your personal address.

            You are responsible for all course materials and announcements that appear on ANGEL.  Check assignments and announcements regularly.  Optional readings (marked “FYI”) should interest you and will certainly sharpen your understanding.
            ANGEL also helps us communicate outside the classroom.  Thus, I will use it to send announcements, corrections, and observations.

EXAMS    There will be three examinations.  On Monday, Sept. 22 an essay examination will ask you to reflect on the materials we’ve read and discussed in Unit I.  On Monday, Oct. 27 there will be a similar examination for Unit II.  Unit III’s exam is scheduled for Monday December 8, 4:30 – 6:30.  All exams will expect you to not only ‘know’ material, but to think about its meaning.

WORKLOAD            By College policy Brockport undergraduates are expected to spend a minimum of six hours per week preparing for each class.  Expectations are obviously higher for 400-level courses and higher still for graduate courses.  Graduate students are expected to perform at a more advanced level in discussion and on written assignments.  Graduate students will have more extensive and sophisticated requirements on examinations.

EVALUATION             Informed class participation is critical to creating stimulating classes and will be factored into the final grade.  Regular attendance is required; more than two absences are excessive and negatively affect your grade. 
            Three written examinations will enable you to demonstrate your growing understanding of the history of American education in writing. 
            The final grade will value classwork and each of the three exams at 25% each.

ACADEMIC HONESTY    The Brockport Academic Honesty Code applies to all work in this course.  If you are uncertain about its provisions, please consult Your Right to Know & Academic Policies Handbook (available in paper and on-line) rather than risk severe penalties.

GROUND RULES    Please be on time.  If you must be late, enter quietly through the BACK door and take the first available seat immediately behind your seated colleagues.  NEVER enter through the front door after class has begun.  Be certain that all portable phones and beepers are turned OFF.  Laptops may NOT be used.  We will normally take a brief in-seat break halfway through the class; I will need your total attention the rest of the period.  Side conversations and leaving the room are verboten, except in extreme emergency.  And no hats.  Anyone who finds these requests unacceptable should withdraw immediately.

SPECIAL NEEDS    In accord with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Brockport Faculty Senate, students with documented disabilities are entitled to specific accommodations.  SUNY Brockport's Office for Students with Disabilities makes the determination.  Contact the Office at (585) 395-5409 or “” to inquire about obtaining an official letter to the course instructor detailing any approved accommodations.  You are responsible for providing me with an official letter.  Faculty work as a team with the Office for Students with Disabilities to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

BEYOND THE CLASSROOM    Modern technology provides various ways to communicate.  E-mail often provides the most convenient form either through ANGEL or directly to  My phone is (585) 395-5691; if I do not answer please leave a message on my Voice Mail.  Or you may go directly to Voice Mail by dialing 395-5100 and then entering 5691# for my mailbox.  We can also communicate the old-fashioned way.  I will usually be available after class.  My office is 126 Brown Building & my office hours are Mondays 5:30 – 7:00, Tuesdays 1:30 – 2:30, and Wednesdays 5:30 – 7:00. 

LET US BEGIN    I look forward to exploring our fascinating educational saga with you.


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Last Updated 7/21/10


Our sincere congratulations to Matty Lynn Kuhar who won the 2016 School of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Undergraduate Award!

Dr. Alison Parker has been invited to be this year's Harriet Jacobs Lecturer at Purdue University. Her talk is entitled Mary Church Terrell, Black Women, and the Rise of the Democratic Party. 

Dr. Nishiyama has been invited to give a talk (title "Kamikaze Technology and Culture for War: Japan and the USA, 1941-2001") at the RIT.

Dr. Alison Parker facilitated significant donation of historical papers to Oberlin College and participates in its celebratory symposium on the life of racial justice advocate Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954).

Congratulations to Dr. Jose R. Torre on winning the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching!


History Forum will host Region 11&12 Meeting of the Association of Public Historians of New York State, on 4/30 (Saturday, from 9am to about 4pm) at McCue Auditorium (LAB104).

History Department Graduation Ceremony will be held in New York Room, Cooper Hall, at 10:30 am, May 14 (Saturday).