NEW ONLINE PROGRAM ALERT - Cultural Foundations of Education Then & Now - What can I do with a Master of Education in Cultural Foundations of Education?

professionals dressed in bright cultural attire giving a presentation

Education is not only about learning skills and information. Education—whether formal schooling or learning through life experience—is deeply embedded in every society. Education plays a number of roles in society as well. Examining the relationships between varied kinds of education and society is what you will be asked to do when studying cultural foundations of education.

What is Cultural Foundations of Education?

At its core, the study of cultural foundations of education is the study of the educational issues affecting the nation and the world through the lenses of the humanities and social sciences.1

Cultural Foundations of Education “understands education to be a broad and complex undertaking that is best understood through the lenses of a range of disciplines and fields of study.”2 Students and scholars in Cultural Foundations also view education through interpretive, normative, and critical lenses.

History of Cultural Foundations3

The field of foundations of education was born in the early 1930s at Teachers College, Columbia University. It was developed by a small group of professors concerned about the relation of schooling and teacher education to the society in which it existed. In particular, they shared a faith that education-by which they meant schooling-could change or “reconstruct” a society that, at the time, was plagued by uncertainty and economic depression. Many, if not most, of these scholars had also “come of age,” so to speak, during the progressive era, had lived through the First World War, and had seen the United States become a player on the world stage.

Since they shared a considerable faith that schooling could play a role in ameliorating social problems, they were very interested in the education of teachers. They believed that, if teachers were to be more than mere technicians-which, of course, they would have to be if they were to preside over the education of children who would “reconstruct” society-they needed a thorough grounding in the humanities and social sciences to give them the knowledge and skills these disciplines had to offer.

Cultural Foundations in Present Day4

Foundations of education were then, and is still, an interdisciplinary field, whose purpose is to bring the humanities and social science disciplines--particularly history, philosophy, and sociology--to bear on the study of the educational enterprise in the United States and around the world. In addition, the field encompasses a wide range of disciplines and area studies, including history, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, religion, political science, economics, cultural studies, gender studies, comparative and international education, and educational policy studies.

Study in the foundations of education looks at education writ large, arguing that deliberate and important teaching and learning occur in a wide variety of settings, which interact in increasingly interdependent ways. While much foundational study focuses on schooling, it approaches schooling issues from the point of view of their relation to the roles and influence of other settings and professionals, as well as to the politics and processes of the wider society and culture(s) in which they are embedded. This is particularly the case with respect to democracy and what might be called its “discontents.”

Why Kent State University?

The Master of Education in Cultural Foundations at Kent State University promotes students’ knowledge as change agents in a range of educational settings, including schools, higher education, community organizations, cultural and religious institutions, and civic associations.

Our Faculty
Our faculty specializes in the normative and critical dimensions of education, including the challenges of marginalization and inequality, the challenges of education for religious pluralism, and the roles of social movements and educator activism in educational change.

Our Students
Our students and alumni work in schools, universities, and centers of nonformal and informal education. Many plan to use their advanced degree in the Cultural Foundations to open up new opportunities for themselves within their current setting or to move their organizations and institutions in new directions.

Some of our students see this advanced degree as a way of opening up new avenues in their professional lives while contributing also to their communities.

In short, all of our students, and maybe even you, seek to bring a scholarly orientation to their educational and activist endeavors.

Alumni Spotlight - Ph.D. Program
Nick Morris - Teacher, researcher, and practitioner in environmental education

Nick Morris

Nick Morris came to the Cultural Foundations program at Kent State University with a background in science and education.

Nick was drawn to Cultural Foundations where he could ask why do we do education this way? “It just seemed to be the right program for me”, Nick said about the types of classes being taught in the Cultural Foundations program.

Nick stated that “Working with such a diverse group of classmates was the most profound aspect for me. This program puts people together in a room who may not otherwise be together. The discussions among these groups were always interesting because of the varied perspectives”.

Read more about Nick and his time at Kent State University.

NEW PROGRAM! Enroll today in the Online Master of Education in Cultural Foundations of Education at Kent State University

The Master of Education degree in Cultural Foundations engages students in exploring education through a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives:

  • philosophy of education
  • history of education
  • sociology of education
  • comparative/international education
  • anthropology of education
  • multicultural studies

Students examine the social contexts of education, with particular emphasis on structural inequalities, issues of access and the distribution of educational opportunity, normative considerations about the purposes of education, and the transformative potential of education.

Graduates of the program have the knowledge and skills to interpret and critique educational policies and practices and to promote innovative practices in a variety of educational settings, domestically and worldwide.

Graduates of the program will be able to:5

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the social, cultural, economic, and political assumptions shaping educational policies and reforms in the United States and other societies.
  2. Understand the nature of the democratic challenge for schooling in answering such foundational questions as: “What should be taught?” “Who should be taught?” and “Who should teach?”
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the convergence of social class, race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability as barriers to and opportunities for educational change, domestically and internationally.

For more information on Kent State’s Online Master of Education in Cultural Foundations, visit

1 Retrieved on March 26, 2021, from
2 Retrieved on March 23, 2021, from
3 Retrieved on March 26, 2021, from
4 Retrieved on March 26, 2021, from
5 Retrieved on March 26, 2021, from

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Dr. Astrid N. Sambolín Morales is an Assistant Professor in Kent State Online’s 100% Online Master of Education degree in Cultural Foundations. She received her PhD in Educational Equity and Cultural Diversity from the University of Colorado Boulder and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research provides a more nuanced picture of the agency, resistance, and empowerment enacted by displaced Puerto Rican m(others) in the U.S., and her work was funded by several grants, including the University of Colorado Natural Hazards Center, the BUENO Center for Multicultural Education, the URBAN Research Network, and the NAEd Spencer Foundation.
Felesia McDonald, ’14 is an adjunct instructor in the iSchool, teaching courses in the 100% Online Master of Science in User Experience. McDonald is also the Sr Manager UX Design at Optum, a branch of UnitedHealth Group.