Read more about Foundations of American Education: A Critical Lens

Foundations of American Education: A Critical Lens

(2 reviews)

Melissa Wells 

Courtney Clayton

Copyright Year: 2021

Publisher: VIVA

Language: English

Formats Available

Conditions of Use

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike


Learn more about reviews.

Reviewed by Mandy Olsen, Instructor, Western Oregon University on 3/2/22

This is a great starting point for problematizing American education systems. It gives a good overview of historical context and also discusses important concepts such as how deficit ideologies of educator's impact student's lived experiences in... read more

Reviewed by Demetrice Smith-Mutegi, Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech on 12/30/21

The text is very comprehensive, covering the profession of teaching in general, the history of education, as well as the future of teaching. Each chapter contained "myths" associated with the profession, as well as an opportunity to observe... read more

Table of Contents

  • Part I: Foundations of American Education
    • Chapter 1: The Teaching Profession
    • Chapter 2: Influences on Learning: Student Differences and Similarities
    • Chapter 3: Philosophical and Historical Foundations of Education in the United States
    • Chapter 4: Schools in the United States
    • Chapter 5: Ethical & Legal Issues in Education
  • Part II: Education in Action
    • Chapter 6: Curriculum: Planning, Assessment, & Instruction
    • Chapter 7: Classroom Environment
    • Chapter 8: And Now What? The Path Forward

Ancillary Material

  • Submit ancillary resource
  • About the Book

    In this survey text, readers will explore the foundations of American education through a critical lens. Topics include the teaching profession, influences on student learning, philosophical and historical foundations, structures of schools, ethical and legal issues, curriculum, classroom environment, and the path forward.

    About the Contributors


    Dr. Melissa Wells 

    I spent the first eight years of my career teaching in the South Carolina public schools as a third grade teacher, a kindergarten teacher, and an elementary literacy coach. All of my positions served Title 1 schools, which we will talk more about later in this book, but these are schools typically situated in less-affluent communities. When I was in fifth grade, I helped a kindergarten class at lunch, and this experience helped me decide that I wanted to become a teacher one day. While opening milk and mustard packets (trust me, they are so much worse than ketchup packets) were some of my early responsibilities as a lunchroom volunteer, I also got to visit the class during other parts of the day, such as instruction and recess. I met one little girl in the class named Aubrey. Aubrey stood out to me early on because she was one of the only students who could tell me apart from my twin sister (who also helped with the kindergarten class), her love of giving the tightest hugs, and her unique communication techniques (I figured out one day that she stuck out her tongue just a little to request that her hot dog be cut into tiny pieces, and she stuck out her tongue more if she wanted her hot dog in larger, but still anti-choking-sized, pieces). Aubrey also happened to have Down Syndrome. While this meant that Aubrey had some special learning needs, I was able to work with her teachers to see so many of the things Aubrey was capable of instead of just what she wasn’t. I knew then I wanted to be a teacher who saw possibilities, who focused on what students do bring with them instead of what they don’t.

    Dr. Courtney ClaytonBeing an educator was not my goal when I graduated from college. I majored in French Literature in college. I studied what I was passionate about, but when it came time to graduate, I realized I was in the minority of students at my school: most of them wanted careers in business, law, or medicine. I knew med school was out–too much blood; went to one interview in a suit for a large business firm–nope. When I really started to consider applying to law school, I realized that wasn’t for me either. I decided to go a different direction and ended up in something that piqued my interest: video, film and commercial production. I worked in this industry for many years, becoming increasingly disillusioned, until one day I remember distinctly that I was on a commercial shoot for eyeglasses. The director was yelling at the producer, my boss, saying that she couldn’t get anything right, and I stood there thinking, “Seriously, this is what I am doing with my life?” I went home that night and considered what else I might want to do for a living.

    I thought back to when I was in elementary school and how much I loved my teachers; how school was a safe haven for me from my own family’s struggles; how much I loved reading and learning new things. That was it–I wanted to try teaching. Before I jumped head-first into a teaching licensure program, I wanted to see about getting my feet wet first. I applied and was hired for a position as an assistant teacher at a school for boys that serviced a residential treatment facility. All of the students in the facility had been removed from their families due to significant emotional and physical trauma. The work was tough, but I loved it. I loved working with young people. Even in this very traumatic setting, the students needed their teachers and looked to them for instruction and guidance.

    I went on to get my teaching license in K-6 education with a CLAD (Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development) certificate and Master’s degree in Education. The CLAD certificate was something that California had started requiring in the mid to late 1990s (when I was doing my certification) to be qualified to teach the linguistically and culturally diverse student population we were to encounter in schools, including English Learners. Though nothing can completely prepare a White, suburban-raised woman for the rich diversity of schools, I did study topics like applied linguistics, second language acquisition, and multicultural education at a time when most colleges of education had not begun to consider the importance of these issues and topics.

    After teaching in California for several years, I moved to Boston. I taught at an independent school first since my teaching license did not transfer (we will discuss license reciprocity more in Chapter 1), and then got hired at the International School of Boston, which ran a dual language program in French and English. I was trained as an ESL specialist and taught 2nd grade. As a teacher there, combined with my experience in California schools, I became more and more interested in students whose first language was not English, and more importantly, the best ways to instruct them. I decided to pursue my PhD, and my dissertation focused on what made an effective teacher of English Learners in full classroom settings, not as ESL teachers. Since that time, I have worked in supporting preservice teachers to learn about how best to work with our English Learners in schools, particularly in the area of using culturally and linguistically responsive teaching.

    Contribute to this Page

    Suggest an edit to this book record