Agents of Change

By Dan Miles
Oregon State University

Ken Winograd | OSU Ed.M. K-12 Education Program

Ken Winograd, Ph.D.
Professor, Oregon State University College of Education

Ken Winograd wanted to change the world.

That's what led him to become a classroom teacher. He saw education and its potential for shaping children's lives as a powerful means of creating positive change. "I came out of the late '60s. I was a little political," Ken said. "I saw teaching as a way to change the world, to make it a better place, a more just place."

After teaching third through sixth grades in Grand Junction, Colorado for many years, Ken decided he could have exponential impact by becoming a teacher of teachers. He earned his doctorate at the University of Northern Colorado and has been a faculty member in Oregon State University's College of Education since 1990. Ken teaches courses in the K-12 master's program that's delivered entirely online through OSU Ecampus.

He has written books about classroom teaching, including "Good Day, Bad Day: Teaching as a High-Wire Act," where he describes his transformative experience of returning to classroom teaching while on sabbatical as a non-graded primary classroom teacher at Lincoln School in Corvallis, Oregon.

Ken still wants to change the world. He's passionate about making our world better – socially, environmentally and ecologically. Like many people, he has become increasingly concerned about the harm we are committing to our planet, and to each other.

"The violence done by the system to the planet is analogous to violence done to poor people and developing countries through exploitation and exhaustion of resources. It's all connected," he said.

Is your classroom socially just?

Here are 3 questions to ask:

Is my curriculum multicultural? Does it reflect many views? Does it reflect actual experience of different groups of people such as women, African Americans, indigenous peoples, LBGT or single-parent households?

Does my curriculum invite students to pose their own questions? Does it help teach kids to find the answers to their own questions? Is it provocative around students' questions?

Am I teaching kids to critique bias? Are they learning to automatically look at who is authoring the content, whether it's a text book, art, a newscast or movie?

This led Ken to develop the Social Justice in Education (TCE 590) course. It is part of the required professional core curriculum in the K-12 master’s program online. Social Justice in Education examines social, environmental and ecological justice in educational settings and how power inequalities in society shape injustices in systemic ways. It supports the core values of diversity and social justice in a global society.

“The focus of the class is to connect the concepts to teaching practice. Students develop curriculum related to their educational settings, so it’s practical,” Ken said.

Students learn to critique their instructional materials for bias and write standards-supported curriculum to teach their learners to identify bias themselves.

“Point of view is important to Common Core standards,” Ken said. “Kids learn to critique bias in text and how it serves a dominant culture by excluding or marginalizing others. The critique of bias is a central focus of a new book, ”Critical Literacies and Young Learners: Connections to the Common Core” which Ken edited and published in Sept. 2015.

Students in the course also learn to respond to expressions of stereotypes by colleagues, students or in textual resources that diminish certain ethnic, racial or gendered groups.

Social Justice in Education is delivered completely online through Oregon State Ecampus will be offered fall term 2015 and fall and spring in 2016.

“Our students who take this course, they ‘get it.’ As practicing teachers, they see every day how what goes on outside the classroom impacts student achievement inside the classroom,” Ken said