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Ursinus, PV School District to Partner on “Education and Inequality” Course through Project Pericles

John Spencer, an associate professor of education and education department chair, has been selected as a Mellon Periclean Faculty Leader and will teach the class, which will be modified from an existing course to include a civic engagement component with a community partner, the Perkiomen Valley School District (PVSD).

“I submitted the application just before the coronavirus pandemic hit, and the course’s focus on problems of educational access, including disparities shaped by race and social class, has only become more urgent since,” Spencer said. “I’m thrilled to be part of a project that will give Ursinus students the opportunity to explore first-hand how these issues play out in the world of schools.”

Project Pericles is a nonprofit organization that encourages and facilitates commitments by colleges and universities to include social responsibility and participatory citizenship as essential elements of their educational programs. Ursinus College is a founding member.

The faculty leadership program encourages college campuses to incorporate civic engagement into the curriculum while empowering students to use their academic knowledge to tackle real-world problems. Project Pericles provides a $4,000 grant to each Periclean Faculty Leader.

In the course, students will explore three essential questions, examining the interplay of individual educational stories and the larger historical and social forces (especially racial and class discrimination) that shape those stories. The questions, which overlap with those in the Ursinus Quest core curriculum, are: What is educational inequality? What are the causes of educational inequality? What should be done?

Ursinus students will then extend and apply their learning by choosing a specific area of interest, such as guidance counseling initiatives related to equity and college access, or inclusive special education, and engaging with members of the Perkiomen Valley School District on that issue.

“I hope that community-based learning will bring course readings and discussions alive for the students and drive home the complexity of the problems, as well as get them involved in constructive efforts to address those problems and make a positive impact on individuals and the community,” Spencer said. –By Ed Moorhouse