Alternative Education Perspectives: Sustainability as a key issue

Sonja Darlington
Education and Youth Studies, Beloit College


Alternative perspectives in education is an introductory course focusing on public and private educational institutions in the US and also Africa. The central question for this course, while engaging in a discussion of many curricular possibilities, focuses on education and the planetary emergency described in David Orr's Earth in Mind.

Course Size:

Course Format:
Small-group seminar

Institution Type:
Private four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Context:

This is an introductory education course open to all undergraduate students; it also serves as the initial course required for Education and Youth Studies majors.

Course Content:

Alternative Education Perspectives focuses on the meaning of place in American and International Education. The topics covered include education and the planetary emergency, deterrents to a just American school experience, immigration issues that change the educational environment, unions and their challenges to places of learning,and schooling alternatives in Africa.

Course Goals:

  • to consider education and sustainability-related issues
  • to investigate schooling alternatives; e.g., Dewey Lab School, Montessori schools, Waldorf schools, religious schools, charter schools.
  • to read about and discuss Native American schools, progressive education, immigration and environmental change, African American education and integration, unions and their historical significance, and schooling alternatives in Africa
  • to visit four alternative schools

Course Features:

This course has a reading intensive format that includes student-led discussions. During the semester, students visit four schools and relate their on-site experiences with the class readings.

Course Philosophy:

As a discussion-based course in an introductory education class, this course focuses on sustainability as a key issue of debate.


The assessment for the course includes papers, intensive class participation, and summaries of the class visits.


Teaching Materials:

edys_102 ( 46kB Jun7 10)

References and Notes:

Orr, David. (2004). Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect. Washington: Island Press.

Addams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull-House. Edited by Victoria Bissell Brown. (1999). Bedford, MA: St. Martin's.

Abdi Ali and Ailie Cleghorn. (2005). Issues in African Education: Sociological Perspectives. NY, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Child, Brenda. (1998). Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Compton, Mary and Lois Weiner. (Eds.) (2008). The Global Assault on Teaching, Teachers, and their Unions. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Dewey, John. (1938). Experience and Education, New York: Simon & Schuster.

Hefner, Robert and Muhammad Zaman. (Eds). (2007). Schooling Islam: The Culture and Politics of Modern Muslim Education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University

Orr, David. (2004). Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect. Washington: Island Press.

Walker, Vanessa. (1996). Their Highest Potential: An African American School Community in the Segregated South. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

Additional Texts or Articles

Apps, Jerry. (1996). One-Room Country Schools: History and Recollections from Wisconsin. Amherst, WI: Amherst Press.

Barnard, Henry. School Architecture. (1854). NY: New York: Charles B. Norton; the Michigan Historical Reprint Series.

Bowers, C.A. and Apffel-Marglin, Frederique. (Eds.). (2005). Rethinking Freire: Globalization and The Environmental Crisis. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Callahan, Raymond. (1962). Education and the Cult of Efficiency: A Study of the Social Forces that Have Shaped the Administration of the Public Schools. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Cobb, Amanda. (2000). Listening to our Grandmothers' Stories: the Bloomfield Academy for Chickasaw Females, 1852-1949. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.

Cremin, Lawrence. (1977). Traditions of American Education. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Feinberg, Walter. (2006). For Goodness Sakes: Religious Schools and Education for Democratic Citizenry. New York, NY: Routledge.

Freire, Paulo. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York, NY: The Continuum Publishing Corporation.

Fuller, Wayne. (1994). One-Room Schools of the Middle West. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas.

Hutchison, David. A Natural History of Place in Education. (2004). NY: New York, Teachers College Press.

Kaestle, Carl. (1983). Pillars of the Republic: Common Schools and American Society, 1780-1860. New York, NY: Hill and Wang.

Kliebard, Herbert. (1992). Forging the American Curriculum: Essays in Curriculum History and Theory. New York, NY: Routledge.

Levering, David and Willis, Deborah. (2003). A Small Nation of People: W.E.B. DuBois. & African American Portraits of Progress New York, NY: Amistad

Mayhew, Katherine and Edwards, Anna. (1965). The Dewey School: The Laboratory School of the University of Chicago 1896-1903. New Brunswick, USA: Aldine Transaction.

Merry, Michael. (2007). Culture, Identity, and Islamic Schooling. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Payne, Daniel. (1888, 1968). Recollections of Seventy Years. Nashville, TN: A.M.E. Sunday School Union, Arno Press.

Peabody, Elizabeth. (1874). Record of Mr. Alcott's School, 3rd ed. Boston: MA: Robert Brothers, (Reprint Michigan University).

Provenzo, Eugene. (Ed.). (2002). DuBois on Education. New York: AltaMira.

Rury, John. Education and Social Change: Themes in the History of American Schooling. 2002. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum

Smith, Shawn. (2004). Photography on the Color Line: W. E. B. DuBois, Race, and Visual Culture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Yee, Roger. (2005). Educational Environments, No2. NY, New York: Visual Reference Publications Inc.