Magazine On-line [fall 2010]
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Around Campus

New major created in educational studies

A new educational studies major has been created for students interested in the broad philosophical concepts related to education, as opposed to the more methodology-centered curriculum of the traditional education major, which is intended to prepare students to become teachers.

The major was born of interest shown by students in courses like Schooling in American Culture, often taken by non-education majors to fulfill a general education requirement. This interest originally drove the creation of an educational studies minor, which is still being offered.

“Students would tell us, ‘I don’t want to teach, but I’d like to take more of these kind of classes,’” said education professor Angela Hurley, chair of the education, physical education, and exercise science division. “The educational studies major is a means of fulfilling those desires while creating a course of study that allows our program to delve more deeply into issues of educational philosophy, the history of ideas, and what it means to be an educated person.”

Besides Schooling in American Culture, some other courses offered in the major include Educational Philosophy, The Immigrant Child, Enculturation in Non-Western Societies, and Race, Ethnicity, and Social Class in American Education.

In addition to student interest, creation of the educational studies major was a priority with the program’s faculty members.

“All of us in the department felt it would be a great major to offer,” Hurley said. “It includes courses where we can really put our intellectual abilities to work and entertain ideas of what it means to deal with knowledge. With the regular education major, we have to spend a certain amount of time ensuring they can do the job of teaching.”

Senior Anna Kristin Lewis will be among the first to graduate with an educational studies major. She is able to complete the degree requirements in the major’s first official year because she had already taken many of the needed courses, and will complete the remainder this academic year.

The new major came along just at the right time for Lewis, who had gone in several different directions during her first two years. She originally declared a Spanish major, then started taking business courses. By the time she realized for sure that she wanted to teach, it was the fall of her junior year and too late to complete a traditional education major in four years. She first changed to a teaching Spanish major, but then had an observing experience at Garden Springs Elementary in Lexington that made her realize she wanted to teach elementary grades, not just focus on teaching Spanish.

“(Education professor) Dr. Amy El-Hindi Trail mentioned that I could go to graduate school and complete an elementary certification program there while also earning a master’s degree,” Lewis said. “By coincidence, that was also the point at which they were creating the educational studies major, and that gave me a framework for my goals. I’ve kept my Spanish major also, which will be very helpful to me. I’m so thankful to the education department for working with me and allowing me to do what I really want to do.”

Hurley’s doctoral degree is in educational philosophy, which is also the name of a new course designed to support the educational studies major. She feels the major will offer ideal preparation for graduate level studies that could prepare a person to work in educational policymaking in state education departments, to become part of a educational think tank, or to become an education teacher or philosopher, among other outcomes.

It can also be a good second major, she said, supporting a legal career, for instance, that would focus on school law, or a sociology career studying the societal aspects of educational issues.

Hurley is especially pleased with how the educational studies major is an excellent fit for Transylvania’s liberal arts mission.

“The major lets us use schooling and educational philosophy and the history of ideas to figure out who we are now and where we might be in the future, and that’s part of the liberal arts approach to learning,” she said. “I think that’s what every academic discipline is trying to do. This major just reflects our particular discipline’s angle of vision on ideas that are also considered in other areas of study.”

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