Seth Pearce '12

Seth Pearce profile photoMiddle School Social Studies Teacher, Brooklyn, NY

Thesis Title: What's So Bad About Educational Inequality?

Social Studies to me was a process of great intellectual discovery. Through the breadth the program gave me, I was able to explore my own interests and try out many way of seeing the world. As I entered the program, I wanted to study questions of identity and equity on a very grounded level. I never had much love for pure theory, even after the trial by fire that is Social Studies 10. But after anthropology and sociology courses that failed to answer my questions, I enrolled in Professor Tommie Shelby's philosophy course Race and Social Justice and Rev. Jonathan Walton's divinity school course Martin, Malcolm and Masculinity. These courses opened my eyes to the beauty of social theory. I witnessed the power of rational philosophical engagement as we untangled complex debates and evaluated our moral commitments. These courses inspired me to complete a theoretical thesis during my senior year on the idea of educational justice within a Rawlsian framework under the guidance of Professor Shelby. Were it not for the freedom that Social Studies gave me, I would not have been able to experiment with such a wide variety of disciplines and find one that really ignited my intellectual interests.            

For the last 7 years, I have taught Social Studies to middle schoolers in Massachusetts, Ohio, and New York. Although the curriculum is focused on history, my love of social theory has become a core part of the curriculum over the years. As we study the Industrial Revolution, my students wrestle with the question of whether or not an economic system based on self-interest benefits all members of society. For the Cold War, students debate whether or not it is possible to "spread freedom." Our unit on the Great Depression questions whether or not government intervention can improve economic conditions. These debates engage my students in meaningful discussions relevant to our world today. I am deeply grateful to Social Studies at Harvard for deepening my approach to these questions and giving me the tools to wrestle with them alongside the next generation.