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In Class/OutClassed: On the Uses of a Liberal Education

from String Theorists Hope to Classify the Cosmos

In Class/OutClassed:
On the Uses of a Liberal Education

Jody Cohen and Anne Dalke
Emily Balch Seminar, Bryn Mawr College, Fall 2011

Our Web "Events"
Preparing Our Final Portfolios

Our On-Line Forum

Our Talking Notes
Our On Campus Workshop On Class: Script and Photos
Our Password-Protected File of Readings

Photos of Us @ Work Together, Visiting Parkway,
Writing About Class @ Bryn Mawr, Believing
and Doubting Walker Percy
, Conducting Our
On-Campus Workshop...
and Sharing our Final "Teach In"!

Anne's Writing Conferences
Instructions for Weekly Postings

You have been in school for a number of years now, and you bring questions about the methods, means and ends of education. Wherever you may be positioned in this process, however settled into or skeptical of it you may be, this course is an invitation to reflect on the assumptions that shape education in the U.S., as well as on the habits of thought and action it encourages. Schooling in the U.S. has been subject to two competing claims: that it  “levels the playing field,” giving all children an equal chance to succeed, and that—like our homes, neighborhoods, and employment—it remains deeply segregated by social class, characterized by “savage inequalities.” 

In this course we examine the complex relationship between social class, being “in class,” and being “outclassed.”  How does class shape educational opportunities and outcomes? What kinds of changes does each of us expect education to bring about in our own social position? To help us address such queries, we will read a wide range of educational autobiographies and theoretical analyses, focus on the case study that is Bryn Mawr, visit with students from a West Philadelphia school, and conduct workshops and interviews on campus (a number of these activities are being sponsored by the year-long campus-wide Class Dismissed initiative). Throughout, we will use a range of compositional (and de-compositional) forms to help us explore, analyze, and reinvent education. We will end the course by reading Chris Cleave’s Little Bee, a contemporary novel that will take us beyond the classroom—as we ask what kinds of alternative scenarios we might discover, imagine, and create together.

Norbert Schoerner, "The Order of Things," from Mirror of the World

Part One: On Entering Class, and Learning to Classify

1. To arrange or organize according to class or category.
2. To designate as secret and available only to authorized persons.

1. A set, collection or group with an attribute in common (from Latin, one of six divisions of the Roman people)
2. A social stratum
3. A group of students who meet regularly.

Day 1 (Tues, Aug. 30)
Introductions and Classifications

Michael Foucault. Preface. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. 1966; rpt. and trans. New York: Vintage, 1973. xv-xxiv (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

Jamaica Kincaid. "Girl." Rpted. from At the Bottom of the River. New York: Farrar, Straus and Girous. 2000.

8 p.m. Wed. night (Aug. 31): introduce yourself in our on-line course forum: who are you, where are you from, what are you looking for?! **Return here every Sunday evening to make (public) note of your on-going thinking.**

Day 2 (Thurs, Sept. 1)
Richard Rodriguez, “The Achievement of Desire.” Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez. New York: Bantam, 1982. 43-73 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

Sandra Cisneros. “From a Writer’s Notebook.” The Americas Review 15, 1 (1987): 69-79 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

Lydia Minatoya. "The New House" and "Transformation." Talking to High Monks in the Snow: An Asian-American Odyssey. New York: HarperCollins, 1992. 25-36 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

5 p.m. Friday night (Sept. 2): writing assignment #1, 3 pp. telling the (most important or interesting part!) of the story of your education. E-mail this essay (and all future Friday night assignments) as a Word document to either or

8 p.m. Sunday night (Sept. 4): in our on-line course forum, post a paragraph reflecting on the educational autobiography you've just written. What insights and/or questions did writing it raise for you?

Day 3
(Tues, Sept. 6)
Wendy Luttrell. Preface, “Becoming Somebody,” Stories from the Field,” “Schoolsmart and Motherwise.” Schoolsmart and Motherwise: Working-Class Women’s Identity and Schooling. New York: Routledge, 1997. xiii-xv, 1-35, 118-121 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

Day 4
(Thurs, Sept. 8)
Reflecting on our writing together
Jane Tompkins, "Talking in Class," Higher Education" and "The Cloister and the Heart." A Life in School: What the Teacher Learned. Reading, Massachusetts, Addison-Wesley, 1996. 62-84, 207-223 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/).

5 p.m. Friday night (Sept. 9): writing assignment #2, 3 pp. reflecting on the connections and distinctions you see between your educational autobiography and others we've read (including those of your classmates).

8 p.m. Sunday night (Sept. 11): in our on-line course forum, map your access to education.
You could do this verbally or visually, using an on-line spatial drawing software, or in the form of a poster (if you choose this option, please take a photo and upload that on-line).

Day 5 (Tues, Sept. 13)
Both sections meet together, to compare our access maps
Dorothy Allison. Two or Three Things I Know for Sure. New York: Plume, 1995. 7-12 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

“On the Uses of a Liberal Education.” Harper’s Magazine. September 1997: Mark Edmundson, “As Lite Education for Bored College Students,” and Earl Shorris, “As a Weapon in the Hands of the Restless Poor.” 39-59 (both in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

The Class ("‘Entre les Murs’)

Part Two: Class Matters
Outclass: To surpass decisively, so as to appear of a higher class.

Class Action: A lawsuit in which the plaintiffs bring suit both on their own behalf and on behalf of many others who have the same claim.

Day 6 (Thurs, Sept. 15)
Anzia Yezierska. “College.” Bread Givers. 1925; rpt. New York: Persea, 1975. 209-234 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

John Dewey. "Experience and Thinking.” Education and Democracy: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York: Macmillan, 1916. 163-178 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

5 p.m. Friday night (Sept. 16): writing assignment #3, 3 pp. reflecting on the relationship between access and education. Be as concrete as possible as you explore your current thinking, both about access to education, and about education as access to....? Mail a copy of this paper both to Anne or Jody (as usual) AS WELL AS to your writing partner.

8 p.m. Sunday night (Sept. 18): in our on-line course forum, share w/ your classmates an insight that arose for you in reflecting, in your Friday night paper, on the relationship between access and education.

Day 7 (Tues, Sept. 20)
Paulo Friere. Chapter 2. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Trans. Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: Continuum, 1990. 52-67 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

In-class workshop on writing-and-revising

Day 8 (Thurs, Sept. 22)
bell hooks, Introduction, “Engaged Pedagogy,” “Paulo Friere” and “Confronting Class in the Classroom.” Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge, 1994. 1-22, 45-58, 177-189 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/).

5 p.m. Friday night (Sept. 23): writing assignment # 4, 3 pp. revising/rethinking/reworking paper # 2 or 3, in response to the comments of your writing partner and your professor (perhaps also w/ a hand up from Dewey, Freire or hooks....)

8 p.m. Sunday night (Sept. 25): on our on-line forum, begin to explore your evolving philosophy of education. Do you think that education "levels the playing field"? Why? How?

Day 9 (Tues, Sept. 27)
Pedro Noguera. Preface and “Finding Hope Among the Hopeless.” City Schools and the American Dream: Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education. New York: Teachers College Press, 2003. xi-xvi, 1-22 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

Day 10 (Thurs, Sept. 29)

James Traub. “What No School Can Do.” New York Times Magazine. January 16, 2000.

Preparing for our visit to Parkway

5 p.m. Friday night (Sept. 30): writing assignment # 5, 3 pp. rethinking your thinking about the possibility that education can (or can not) "level the playing field."  Use one of the quotes distributed in class as a springboard for this reflection.

8 p.m. Sunday night (Oct. 2): on our on-line forum, post a paragraph describing what you anticipate from our visit to Parkway. What are your expectations? What are your questions?

Day 11 (Tues, Oct. 4)
Noguera and Traub, continued...

Karen Russell, "St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves." St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves: Stories. New York: Vintage, 2007. pp.225-246 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/).

[Russell will be delivering the Balch Lecture on Oct. 19.]

Day 12 (Thurs, Oct. 6)
Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir, The Packing Problem: Time, Money, and the Science of Scarcity (book proposal).

In class writing workshop

5 p.m. Friday night (Oct. 7): NO WRITING DUE!!!!!!

FALL BREAK (Oct. 7-16)

5 p.m. Sunday night (Oct. 16): writing assignment #6. Take some time to look over all your postings and papers. Reflect on what's working and what needs working on, both for you as an individual learner and for the class as a learning community. How are you using the class? How do you see others using it?  Are there additional ways you can imagine our using it, to expand our understanding? E-mail these reflections, as usual, in the form of a 3-pp. assignment to Anne or Jody; then write a 1-paragraph summary,  capturing the key points of your assessment, and post that on-line.

Day 13 (Tues, Oct. 18)

Visiting Parkway

7 p.m., Wed, Oct. 19: Karen Russell gives Balch Lecture in McPherson Auditorium, Goodhart

Day 14 (Thurs, Oct. 20)
Make some notes, comparing your writing assignment #5 with the notes you took on our visit to Parkway.  Bring to class your notes/work done towards revising that paper in light of that visit.

In-class discussion of our mid-semester assessments
Class-wide discussion of our visit to Parkway
In-class writing workshop 

Switching up the posting this weekend:
5 p.m. Friday night(Oct. 21): respond to one (or more!)of the Parkway students' postings @

8 p.m. SUNDAY night(Oct. 23): 3 pp. paper due revising assignment #5. In doing so, consider both our visit to Parkway and your conversations about this paper w/ your prof and your writing partner.

"The photo on our front cover and back covers [of the
Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin (November 2005)] shows students at The Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry performing a skit, "Wealth and Poverty," in 1930. Opened in 1921, the School offered scholarships for programs in political economy, science and literature to factory workers until 1938. The first of its kind, it was the vision of President of the College M. Carey Thomas, who recognized the importance of women's roles in Progressive-era social reform."

Part Three: A Classy, Classical Education
Stylish, elegant.

1. Of the highest rank or class.
2. Serving as an outstanding representative of its kind; model
3. Having lasting significance or recognized worth.

Day 15 (Tues, Oct. 25)
We will be joined today by Jen Rajchel, BMC '11, now the Digital Initiatives Intern.

Helen Horowitz,  “A Certain Style of  ‘Quaker Lady’ Dress” and “Behold They Are Women!” Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women’s College From their Nineteenth-Century Beginnngs to the 1930s. New York: Knopf, 1984. 105-133  (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

Day 16 (Thurs, Oct. 27)
Florence Goff and Karen Tidmarsh, Examining Our History: Inclusion/Exclusion at Bryn Mawr. Making Sense of Diversity: A Series of Friday Noon Conversations at Bryn Mawr College. November 18, 2005.

Jan Trembley. Chasing Academic Elitism: I did not "know myself."  2011.

Nicole Gervasio. Balancing the Pay Scales for Student Employees. The Bi-College News. April 17, 2005.
-----. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Really? The Bi-College News. July 24, 2008.
-----. Perspectives: Working at College. The Bi-College News. March 1, 2009.  
-----. The Uglier Side of Paradise. 2009. Postscript, 2011.

Women of Summer: The Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers, 1921-1938 (videorecording). Dir. Suzanne Bauman. New York: Filmakers Library, 1985. (55 mins.).

5 p.m. Friday night (Oct. 28): for writing assignment # 8, find a space on campus that is meaningful to you. Take one or several photos while you are there, and use them to develop a claim about how space relates to/informs/structures/illuminates class and education. Think about the image as a quote, to be explained w/ the help of some of our readings.

8 p.m. Sunday night (Oct. 30): in our on-line forum, make two postings:
1)  as a COMMENT in our on-going dialogue w/ Parkway students @
2) post your image along with a brief description
of why you chose it and what you see in it;
the EASY WAY to post an image is to open a posting window--> scroll to "featured image,"
browse (your desktop to grab the one you want), then upload. 

Day 17 (Tues, Nov. 1)
Walker Percy. “The Loss of the Creature.” The Message in the Bottle: How Queer Man Is, How Queer Language Is and What One has to Do with the Other. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975. 46-63 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

In-class, "Percy-like" revising workshop of paper #8 into paper # 9.

Day 18 (Thurs, Nov. 3)

Eve Tuck. "Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities." Harvard Educational Review 79, 3 (Fall 2009): 409-427 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

Discussing our upcoming visit from Parkway,
our on-campus workshop and on-campus interviews

Parkway "panel" with Jody & Alice, Jomaira & Sarah,  Sam & Samyuktha

5 p.m. Friday night (Nov. 4): writing assignment # 9, 3 pp. revising paper #8.
Consider here both our earlier prompt--
to think about your image w/ the help of some of our readings--
and your response to Percy's advice on "seeing for yourself."
What's the relation between these two activities?
How can another writer/thinker help you in the believing-and-doubting that is academic work?

8 p.m. Sunday night (Nov. 6): post twice in our on-line forum, once in our
DiaBlog w/ Parkway, once envisioning our on-campus workshop.

Day 19 (Tues, Nov. 8)
We'll be joined today by Jennifer Redmond, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow and Project Director of the Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women's Education in Canaday's Special Collections.

Alison Cook-Sather. "I Am Not Afraid to Listen': Prospective Teachers Learning from Students." Theory Into Practice 48 (2009): 176-183 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

Kathleen Cushman. "SAT Bronx:  A  Collaborative Inquiry Into the Insider Knowledge of Urban Youth. Theory Into Practice 48 (2009): 184-190 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

Michael Patton. Chapter 5: Depth Interviewing. How to Use Qualitative Methods in Evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 1987. 108-143 --> BUT YOU CAN STOP ON PAGE 126! (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

Day 20 (Thurs, Nov. 10)
In-class workshop preparing for our interviews:
How might you apply what Jen has told us to conduct your individual on-campus interviews?
Who might you want to interview? What might you want to ask? What might you hope to learn?

2-3:15, Fri, Nov. 11: On-Campus Workshop (in Rhoads Dining Hall)

5 p.m. Friday night (Nov. 11): NO WRITING ASSIGNMENT DUE;
please conduct three (20-30 minute) on-campus interviews this weekend.

8 p.m. Sunday night (Nov. 13): post twice in our on-line forum, once in the poll included in our
DiaBlog w/ Parkway,
and once about what you learned from our on-campus workshop--
including what questions you left with.

Day 21 (Tues, Nov. 15)

Visit from Parkway students! MEET IN DALTON 300.

By classtime, e-mail Anne or Jody, and the members of your new writing group,
both your questions and your notes, including "writing your impressions across":
take 15-30 more minutes, after you have written up your interview notes,
to reflect on/begin to make sense of your data:
where are you seeing intersections, differences, outliers?

Day 22 (Thurs, Nov. 17)

Discussing the Parkway visit and ongoing conversations.

In-class writing workshops: turning your reflections on the on-campus workshop, your interview notes (and those of your writing partner?) into paper #10.

5 p.m. Sunday night (Nov. 20): 3-pp. assignment # 10, in which you 1) develop a research question, 2) use the qualitative data you've gathered (from your interviews, those of your writing partner, and the on-campus workshop) to address the question, and 3) make a claim backed up by that data.

8 p.m. Sunday night (Nov. 20): in our on-line forum, share what you feel-and-think about doing this sort of academic writing.

Jack Lee, Decomposition

Part Four: "De-classification" (and "de-composition"?) --
Pushing the Boundaries of Academic Writing

To undo the action of classification; spec. to remove (information, etc.) from the category of being ‘classified.’

Day 23 (Tues, Nov. 22)
Patricia Williams. "Excluding Voices" (Chapters 1, 2, 3) and Chapter 5, "Crimes Without Passion." The Alchemy of Race and Rights. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1991. pp. 3 - 51, 80-97 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

Thanksgiving Break (Nov. 23-27)

Day 24 (Tues, Nov. 29)

Chris Cleave, Little Bee. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009.

Day 25 (Thurs, Dec. 1) 

Marian (Paia) Dalke, “For what(ever) It’$ Worth: Reflections, thoughts, and suggestions on Class Privilege, Inheritance, and Inequity from a young white woman of wealth." Self published. January 2009.

Marian will join us for class.


* By 8 p.m. Sunday night (Dec. 4):
make 2 postings in our on-line forum,
-- 1 responding to the diablog poll to be created by Parkway students this week
1 reflecting on the class dimensions of academic writing, plus!
what ideas do you have for other ways to express and communicate ideas?

Day 26 (Tues, Dec. 6)
Little Bee, continued...

Day 27 (Thurs, Dec. 8)
Skyping with Parkway, and finishing [sic!] our in-class conversation

By 5 p.m. Friday (Dec. 9): writing assignment # 11, 3 pp. (or equivalent) "de-classifying" your writing for this class, going beyond the weekly 3-pp. papers you've been writing for Jody and Anne. What would you like to say to the whole Bryn Mawr community -- or to the whole world?? -- about issues of class and education? What new format might you play with, to say these things? (Marian's zine may have given you some ideas....)

Publish this on Serendip. You can do this by going to the course forum, and posting your thoughts there, as usual, w/ ONE ADDITIONAL STEP: be sure to tag your project as "Student webpaper -->InClass/OutClassed" (in the box above the body). Then check to make sure that it's shown up on our course web paper page. [think about audience here too: who would want to read a "webpaper #11"?]

7-9 p.m. (Sun, Dec. 11) in the English House Lecture Hall
Final Performances
about the uses of a liberal education:
What role does it play in class mobility?
How might it function differently, in this regard, than it has historically?

Post a description of your final performance on-line.

12:30 p.m., Fri, Dec. 16: writing Assignment #12 (due as
part of your final portfolio)--revise and expand an earlier paper.

Additional Resources (or other stuff we read together in preparation for the class...)

Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin. Selections (October 1921-May 1935-- in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

Rita Rubinstein Heller. "An 'Unnatural' Institution." "The Women of Summer: The Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers, 1921-1938." Dss. Rutgers University, 1986. 1-36 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/).

Jonathan Kozol. “Looking Backward,” “Life on the Mississippi: East St. Louis, Illinois,” “The Dream Deferred, Again, in San Antonio.” Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools. New York: Crown, 1991. 1-14, 23-34, 38-39, 206-213, 229-233.

Annette Lareau, “Concerted Cultivation and the Accomplishment of Natural Growth” and “Social Structure and Daily Life.” Unequal Childhood: The Importance of Social Class in Family Life. Ewing, NJ: University of California Press, 2003.

Nicholas Lemann. “Henry Chauncey’s Idea,” “The Glass Slipper,” “Afterword: A Real Meritocracy.” The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy. New York; Farrar, Straws and Giroux, 1999. 3-9, 20-26, 343-350.

Shirley Geok-lin Lim. Among the White Moon Faces: An Asian-American Memoir of Homelands. New York: The Feminist Press, 1996.

Betsy Leondar-Wright. "Overview" and "Obstacles to Alliances." Class Matters: Cross-Class Alliance Building for Middle-Class Activists. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers: 2005. 1-23, 116-123 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/).

Jay MacLeod. “Social Immobility in the Land of Opportunity,” “Social Reproduction in Theoretical Perspective,” “The Sources of Variation” and “The Political Implications of Social Reproduction.” Ain’t No Makin’ It: Leveled Aspirations in a Low-Income Neighborhood. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1987. 1-6, 9-22, 129-136, 156-163.

Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton. “The Missing Link.” American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993. 1-16 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/ ).

David Nurenberg. "What Does Injustice Have to Do with Me? A Pedagogy of the Priviieged." Harvard Educational Review 81, 1 (Spring 2011): 50-63.

George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language."

Ruby Payne. A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Highlands, Tx: aha! Process, 1996.

Karen Pittelman and Resource Generation. Classified: How to Stop Hiding Your Privilege and Use It For Social Change. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull Press, 2005 (in our password-protected file: /~adalke/esemf11/).

Mike Rose. Preface. “Our Schools and Our Children,” “Crossing Boundaries, “Epilogue: Lilia.” Lives on the Boundary: The Struggles and Achievements of America’s Underprepared. New York: Free Press, 1989. xi-xii, 1-9, 205, 221-226, 233-242.

Margaret Wald, "Jamaica Kincaid's 'Girl': A Marxist Reading. VirtuaLit: Interactive Fiction Tutorial. St. Martin's Press.

David Foster Wallace, "Tense Present: Democacy, English, and the Wars Over Usage," Harper's Magazine (April 2001).