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English/Education-EN 280/ED 250: Tales out of School/The Aims of Education: Theories and Representations of Education and Schooling

Block 1 - EN280: Topics in Literature: Tales out of School, Jessie Dubreuil

Block 2 - ED250: Topics in Education: The Aims of Education, Traci Freeman


This course fulfills the Critical Perspectives: The West in Time requirement.

Course Description:

This FYE pairs two courses that would usually be taught separately at Colorado College in order to examine the topic of education, and the storied theme of learning, from both a literary and a theoretical perspective. We will be concerned with the practices, processes, poetry and prose that have described the pursuit of knowledge in the narrative of the Western tradition, and with how each has shaped what it means to be a citizen and a scholar from antiquity to the present. From the ancient Greek concept of paideia (education or upbringing, especially with a view to public life) to the pedagogical challenges of the contemporary American classroom, we will investigate the varied expressions, experiences, philosophies and methods that contribute to our modern understanding of what we call an education. We'll consider changes within educational systems, how learning has been conceived and delivered, and the various values and meanings attributed to individual progress through formal structures of knowledge from the symposium to the schoolhouse. 

Block 1:

In Block 1, Tales out of School, we will focus on representations of education and schooling both within and adjacent to the traditional classroom. Drawing upon the rich body of literature centered on formal learning and the parallel genres of quest, personal narrative, and bildungsroman, we will investigate the common themes and universal tensions that emerge from the process of education, and analyze the drive to found and find the self in the context of a culture or a classroom. Our practice will be based upon close reading and analysis of texts including poetry, prose fiction, autobiography, criticism, drama and the novel. Beginning with Plato’s Socratic dialogues and the Allegory of the Cave, we will move through classical, medieval, and renaissance representations of education to tales of Victorian, Romantic, and modern schooling. Readings may include, among others, Plato, Chaucer, Bacon, Locke, Pope, Rousseau, Wordsworth, Joyce, and Woolf. Students will practice skills for understanding, interpreting, and writing about literature, and hone habits of reading closely and well. We’ll immerse ourselves in the formal and narrative structures through which these stories gain life and meaning on the page, and examine the impact of authorial art and compositional craft on the reader’s experience and interpretation of the text. By examining works of poetry and prose, fiction, nonfiction, film and theory, and by delving into depictions of learners and learning across time periods, we will explore the roots and history of institutional learning, the ideals that citizens in a variety of cultural contexts have invested in the activity of education, and the personal, psychological, social and political frameworks involved in the experience of schooling.

Block 2:

In Block 2, The Aims of Education, we will survey major theories in education in the Western tradition—behaviorism, experimentalism, cognitive theory, constructivism, critical pedagogy—and will emphasize how educational theories are represented in students’ own experiences; in literary, film, and multi-media texts; in contemporary schooling practices; and in public debates about education. Readings may include selections from Plato, the Sophists, Aristotle, Dewey, Montessori, Washington, Dubois, Piaget, Vygotsky, Ban dura, Freire, Giroux, Schor, Ravitch. Students will be able to identify, describe, contrast, and critique major theories in education and will draw from theories of education to analyze educational practices in their own experiences; in classroom observations; in literary, film, and multi-media texts; in contemporary public debates; and in the key educational texts like the Common Core Standards. Students will also have the opportunity to apply their knowledge of educational theories – traced in debates about educational practice from their origins in ancient Greece through the modern moment— to school-based community learning opportunities. 

A two-block course with a different instructor in each block; separate grades will be given for each block. This Community Based Learning (CBL) course will also offer the opportunity to spend time in local and will provide practicum hours toward the Education major.


  • There will be occasional afternoon field trips, film screenings and discussions.
  • This course carries a Community Based Learning (CBL) Tag and will involve regular morning and/or afternoon sessions in local area classrooms.
  • The course may involve an overnight trip to the Baca campus.
  • Students will have the opportunity to work on a project at the Press at Colorado College.