SOC 13181-1: Forming Citizens and Persons in America's Schools

Instructor: David Sikkink

Social Science University Seminar

This course investigates how elementary and high schools influence moral and civic formation of students. It focuses on how school organization and culture shape public and private virtues, including civic commitments and volunteering as well as moral commitments in personal and family life. By comparing religious and nonreligious schools, the course seeks to understand how schools can better prepare Americans to be active and productive citizens in our democracy. It seeks to answer questions such as: How and why do schools make a difference in forming good citizens? What organizational and cultural characteristics of schools affect the life directions of students? What social trends and structures create obstacles to an effective civic and moral education in schools? What advantages and disadvantages do religious schools have for moral and civic education? This class will strive to use the tools of sociology to analyze moral and civic formation, and to improve analytical and writing skills through class discussion and essays.

The ultimate goal of this class is to improve the state of civic and moral education in the U.S. by understanding from a sociological perspective how schools work and how they could be improved. The course will provide an introduction to what sociologists of education and religion think and do, and will work to apply a sociological perspective to issues of moral and civic formation in schools. More specifically, the course goals are to understand 1) how characteristics of school organization shape student experiences in school, 2) how student experiences affect civic education and moral and spiritual formation of students, 3) the differences in the organization of religious schools and public schools that may influence nonacademic student outcomes, and 4) how these organizational differences between schools shape nonacademic student outcomes. The course will place a strong emphasis on analytical and writing skills through class discussion and essays.

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