New UC Education Faculty Member Honored With National Award
Sarah Stitzlein is honored this month for her book that examines the role of citizenship and political activism in education.
A new faculty member in the UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services
(CECH) is also a national award-winning author. Sarah Stitzlein, a UC associate professor of education, received the American Educational Studies Association (AESA) Critics Choice Award for her book, “Teaching for Dissent: Citizenship Education and Political Activism.” Stitzlein received the award earlier this month at the association’s national conference in Seattle.
The AESA is a society of professionals dedicated to teaching and research in relation to the philosophy, history, sociology, anthropology, politics and economics of education. Each year, a committee of AESA members selects a number of titles it regards as outstanding books that may be of interest to those in educational studies.
These books are designated as AESA Critics’ Choice Award
winners and are displayed prominently at the annual meeting.
Stitzlein’s book, published by Paradigm Publishers, is a reference for K-12 teachers as well as professionals who work in politics-related education. The book examines building students into critical-thinking citizens and political activists, and also reveals what Stitzlein calls some alarming trends in education that are stifling the voices of both teachers and students.
“One of the chapters examines limitations on free expression among teachers and children, after the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002,” explains Stitzlein.
“Teachers were questioning the heavy use of tests and how that was changing their teaching, and as a result, some of them were fired for asking questions. The chapter examines what happens when teachers work in a climate in which they can’t speak up to share their professional judgment about the quality of teaching in their schools, and how that idea trickles down to students to be obedient and passive and silent.”
Stitzlein’s writes that in some of the nation’s most economically-challenged, high-minority schools, there are policies calling for silent classrooms, silent hallways and silent lunchrooms. “The belief is that this will raise test scores and narrow the achievement gap, but it eliminates the development of critical thinking and interest among the children,” says Stitzlein. “It becomes a very rote way of learning, and this is happening in some of the country’s touted charter schools as well.”
In contrast, Stitzlein says that children in more well-to-do, primarily white districts are taking part in classroom activities meant to develop them into critical thinkers and political activists.
The book also holds ideas for teachers on developing lessons about these issues, and also recommends sources for teaching materials. “This is especially going to come up in social studies and history classrooms, but also in science classrooms,” says Stitzlein. “Those topics would involve global warming or insemination of an egg – topics that can become quite controversial in regard to political understandings.”
Stitzlein joined the UC faculty this fall and comes from the University of New Hampshire in Durham. She earned her PhD in philosophy of education from the University of Illinois.
Stitzlein says one of the reasons she was interested in joining the CECH faculty was because they were looking for an educational theorist. “UC traditionally had a practitioner-applied program, and as part of building their national presence and improving the quality of teaching, they were looking for someone who was well-trained in theory to supplement their research and practice. That spoke a lot to me about the quality of education that UC provides for its students in education,” says Stitzlein.
“Also, CECH is nationally recognized for its strong urban mission and approach to social justice education. Our urban partnerships with K-12 schools are well-established and respected, and are getting national recognition for the quality of interaction between the university and its K-12 partners,” says Stitzlein.
UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services has been dedicated to excellence in education for more than a century. With more than 38,000 alumni, close to 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students and more than 350 faculty and staff, the college prepares students to work in diverse communities, provides continual professional development and fosters education leadership at the local, state, national and international levels.
Stitzlein also received the AESA Critics Choice Award in 2008 for her first book, “Breaking Bad Habits: Transforming Race and Gender in Schools.”