The task of Social Foundations is to examine issues that reach beyond the given roles and goals of educational specialists and practitioners and delve into the complex interrelationships between school and society, education and culture. In this context, schools are viewed as social organizations whose policies affect and are affected by social and intellectual currents both in the U.S. and abroad. Education, in turn, is broadly conceived and includes both schooling and non-schooling enterprises. Because Social Foundations offers a perspective on education in its larger dimensions, it functions as the "humanities of education."
The graduate degree offerings in Social Foundations are aimed at providing students with conceptual tools essential for a full understanding of educational processes. Unlike most graduate programs in education, Social Foundations makes use of a range of academic disciplines to better understand education. Its multi-disciplinary approach affords insight into questions regarding the aims and consequences (intended or unintended) of any given educational activity or of education taken as a whole. An interdepartmental area of emphasis is offered in Educational Policy Studies. This area is a joint endeavor of the Department of Leadership, Foundations & Policy, the Center for Higher Education, and Social Foundations of Education.
By exploring the, broader questions regarding social and cultural contexts graduates in Social Foundations are equipped to perform valuable roles in education and in government. Since most graduates have a wide background in Social Foundations and a familiarity with other educational and academic fields, they bring to their tasks an intellectual orientation which heightens their sensitivity to the social implications of educational decisions. Graduate training in Social Foundations at the doctoral level can prepare individuals for positions in universities and colleges, for policy-related functions in schools and school systems, for work in educational research agencies, or for other positions in professional education. Opportunities also exist for graduates to find employment in various governmental agencies, domestic and international. Although graduate training in Social Foundations at the master's level typically functions as the initial phase of doctoral work for most students, those who complete their studies with a master's degree are likely candidates for employment in secondary schools and community colleges.
Our history as a graduate program in Social Foundations goes back to 1970, but we are linked to a broader field of inquiry pioneered at Teachers College, Columbia University in the 1930's and now encompassing most major universities in the United States. Like John Dewey, George S. Counts, and Harold Rugg, we insist that educational activities must be evaluated in terms of their social as well as their pedagogical outcomes. Like our colleagues in Social Foundations across the country, we maintain that there is much more to education than schooling and that there is much more to schooling than the technology of educational practice.