Culture, Institutions, and Society Core Seminar (spring)

This is a doctoral seminar required of and limited to first-year PhD students at Harvard Graduate School of Education, in the Culture, Institutions, and Society concentration. It exposes students to major strands of theory and research in culture, society, organizations, and institutions as they connect to education. Students will also grapple with the role of theory in research, developing skills in embedding empirical questions within theoretical frameworks and debates. The seminar will be organized around four key questions: (1) What is the role of education in society? (2) What is the degree to which structure shapes us as individuals or groups in society, and what is the degree to which our agency–individual or collective–shapes our actions and experiences? (3) Why do racial and class inequality persist despite equal rights legislation and the welfare state? What role does education play in shaping or attenuating inequality, and what are the levers for change? (4) How does the nature of organizations shape the educational experiences of individuals and groups in society? The course will draw from key theoretical and empirical readings in education, sociology, political science, history, anthropology, and organizational behavior.

Cultural Explanations for Racial and Ethnic Inequality in Education (fall)

Scholars, educators, and journalists often use culture to explain variance in academic achievement by race–sometimes insightfully and other times more clumsily. However, the evidence for cultural explanations is thin and difficult to assess. Cultural explanations for low achievement have sometimes been criticized as blaming children for their own low achievement, and for offering little to practitioners and policymakers on ways to reduce educational inequality. On the other hand, cultural explanations for high achievement frequently assume a model minority myth. This course attempts to understand how and when culture can lead to ethnic and racial inequality in education, in order to facilitate a better understanding of how to reduce educational inequality. We will analyze differences between and within ethnic and racial groups. Discussing solutions for reducing inequality will be an important component of this course. The course will be run as a seminar, and is open to Master’s and Doctoral students.

Students Interested in Studying with Natasha

Because of the overwhelming number of inquiries I receive every fall, and for reasons of equity in the application process, I do not schedule meetings with prospective PhD or MEd students. I continue to accept new students and advise students with interests in race, immigration, culture, and inequality at both the K12 and higher education levels. For advice on the admissions process, please contact the HGSE admissions office. PhD students should be sure to include in the application essay what has led them to an interest in a PhD in Education, and what they hope to do upon earning the degree. I enjoy advising and working with students at HGSE, and I encourage those interested in working with me to apply!