reed magazine logosummer2007


I went into my thesis knowing that I wanted to do something about education, a field that I had lightly touched from a few directions in some classes and my junior qualifying exam. One area of interest was the development of school choice plans, especially charter schools. Something that I discovered in my initial research was that very few people have explored the historical development of school choice in any serious way. My thesis allowed me to examine whether and how the development of public school choice was enabled by struggles surrounding school desegregation.

While I based my research within a framework drawn from sociology, my historical research was much more in-depth than would have been possible had I been working only within the sociology department. There are, of course, historical sociologists, but I was able to do more as an American Studies major than I would have been able to do otherwise. The only downside of my choice of majors and thesis topics was that I delved into an area that was almost totally unresearched, not only by professors at Reed but also by academics in the fields of American Studies, sociology, and education. Thus, my research was only an initial foray into a very complex, very extensive topic.

Of course, there were advantages to my struggles. I never got bored of my topic and never felt like I was running out of material, and, more importantly, I would be even more excited to continue studying this topic than I was when I first started. However, any further research is on a temporary hold, as I am going to spend the next nine months teaching English in France. While most people’s reaction to hearing my plans are, “Oh, so you were a French major,” I believe that having my understanding of American culture gained from my major will allow me to bring a deeper background to my teaching, and, furthermore, my experience abroad will allow me to come back to the United States with an enriched comparative perspective.

—Robin Blanc ’07, Public school choice: institutional change and educational organization in historical perspective (American Studies: history and sociology)