Debbie Sonu

Professor of Education
By appointment only

Debbie Sonu is Professor of Education in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching and doctoral faculty at The Graduate Center, CUNY. She is the program coordinator for the Adolescent Social Studies Program and co-coordinator of the Clinically-Rich Childhood Education Program: Track 2.

  • Ed.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University
  • M.Ed. from Teachers College, Columbia University
  • M.A. from the Center X Teacher Education Program at the University of California, Los Angeles
  • B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Sonu teaches courses in the childhood programs, as well as doctoral courses at the Graduate Center.

  • Social Studies Methods and Curriculum Development in Elementary Education (CEDC 722/706)
  • Clinically Rich Fieldwork Seminar & Supervision (CEDC 772, 773, 774, 775)
  • UrbEd 751: Doctoral Seminars

Dr. Sonu’s scholarly interests include curriculum theory as it relates to urban education, politically oriented teaching in public schools, and youth and childhood studies. She uses qualitative research to examine educational experiences and seeks to understand how teaching and learning in public school classrooms can serve as vehicles for racial and economic justice.

Her work has been published in Race, Ethnicity and Education, Curriculum Inquiry, Critical Studies in Education, and the Journal of Teacher Education, among others. Her dissertation, …(in)Justice for All?: Brooklyn Youth and the Question of Social Justice, explored youth performances and the complications of teaching for social justice, and received the 2011 Division B Outstanding Dissertation of the Year Award and the 2010 Critical Educators for Social Justice SIG Distinguished Dissertation of the Year Award from the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

  • Sonu, D. & Zaino, K. (2023). Breaking light on economic divide: How elementary school teachers locate class inequality in teaching and schools. Teachers College Record.
  • Sonu, D. (2023). From criticality to shame: Childhood memories of social class and how they matter to elementary school teachers and teaching. Theory & Research in Social Education.
  • Sonu, D. (2023). Disturbing development through drawing: Pre-service teachers’ visual representations of childhood and their links to teaching. Teacher Education Quarterly, 50(1), p. 53-76.
  • Medina, F., Zaino, K. & Sonu, D. (2023). Toppling the (hu)man: Posthumanism and the mattering of historical spaces. In B. Varga, T. Monreal & Christ, R. (eds.), Be(com)ing Strange(r): Towards a Posthuman Social Studies. (p. 38-50). Teachers College Press
  • Sonu, D. (Nov/Dec 2022). It’s time for class: Teaching economic inequality in fourth and fifth grade. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 35(2), p. 3-10. This article is accompanied by a short film produced with Portico Films.
  • Farley, L., Sonu, D., Garlen, J. & Chang-Kredl, S. (July 25, 2022). Nostalgia for childhoods of the past overlooks children’s experiences today, The Conversation.
  • Garlen, J., Sonu, D., Farley, L. & Chang-Kredl, S. (2022). Agency as assemblage: Using artefacts to examine children’s relations with schooling. Journal of Childhood, Education, and Society, 3(2), 122-138. DOI: 10.37291/2717638X.202232170
  • Farley, L., Garlen, J., Chang-Kredl, S. & Sonu, D. (2022). The critical work of memory and the nostalgic return of innocence: How emergent teachers represent childhood. Pedagogy, Culture & Society,
  • Sonu, D., Farley, L., Chang-Kredl, S. & Garlen, J. (2022). Sick at school: Teachers’ memories and the challenges that bodies present to constructions of childhood innocence, normalcy, and ignorance, Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies,
  • Farley, L., Sonu, D., Garlen, J. & Chang-Kredl, S. (April 23, 2021). How teachers remember childhood affects how they challenge school inequities, The Conversation.
  • Sonu, D. (2021). Possibilities for using visual drawing with student-teachers: Linking childhood memories to future teaching selves, Teaching and Teacher Education,
  • Chang-Kredl, S., Garlen, J., Sonu, D. & Farley, L. (2021). Models of possible selves: Prospective teachers’ reflections on their childhood memories of parents, Teaching Education,
  • Sonu, D. (2021). “What Stories, Like Water Hold: A Response to Fikile Nxumalo.” In Welcoming Narratives in Education: A Tribute to the Life-Work of Jonathan Silin, Bank Street Occasional Papers, 45, p. 34-36.
  • Benson J., Sonu D. (2021) Neoliberalism. In: Lester J.N., O’Reilly M. (eds) The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Critical Perspectives on Mental Health. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
  • Zaino, K. & Sonu, D. (eds.) (2021). Special Issue of Theory, Research & Action in Urban Education (TRAUE) entitled, “Changing the Subject: Foucault’s Ongoing Legacy in Educational Research, Theory, and Practice”
  • Sonu, D. & Deckman, S. (2021). Community-as-difference: Non-Black student experience in a Black university space. Educational Studies, p. 1-15
  • Sonu, D. (2020). Making racial difference: A Foucauldian analysis of school memories told by undergraduates of color in the United States, Critical Studies in Education, p.1 -15,
  • Sonu, D. (2020). Playing slavery in the first grade: When “developmental appropriateness” goes awry in the progressive classroom, Multicultural Perspectives, 22(2), p. 106-112.
  • Sonu, D & Yoon, H. (eds.) (2020) Special Issue of The New Educator entitled, “Culturally Constructed Childhood(s): Expanding the Meaning of the Child in Teacher Education”
  • Sonu, D., Farley, L, Chang-Kredl, S. & Garlen, J. (2020). The dreamwork of childhood memory: The futures teachers make from the schooling past. Special Issue of Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 35(4), p. 15-27.
  • Garlen, J., Chang-Kredl, S., Farley, L & Sonu, D. (2020). Childhood innocence and experience: Memory, discourse, and practice. Children & Society, p. 1-15
  • Farley, L. & Sonu, D. (2020). Histories and theories in childhood studies, In William H. Schubert (Ed.), Oxford Encyclopedia of Curriculum Studies. Oxford University Press.
  • Sonu, D. (2019). Social justice, B. Bolden, T. Christou, C. DeLuca, M. Ingersoll, H. Ogden & J. Wearing (Eds.), Key Concepts in Curriculum Studies: Perspectives on the Fundamentals. (p. 187-192). New York: Routledge.
  • Sonu, D. (2018). The sociality of post-truth: Neoliberal culture and its rationalities. Canadian Social Studies, 50(2), p. 28-32.
  • Sonu, D. & Bellino, M. (2018). Stranger-making as difference: Childhood memories of belonging and exclusion by undergraduates of color. Race, Ethnicity and Education, DOI: 10.1080/13613324.2018.1497960
  • Sonu, D. & Marri, A. (2018). The hidden curriculum in financial literacy: Economics, standards, and the teaching of young children, in Financial literacy for children and youth (2nd ed), edited by Thomas A. Lucey & Kathleen Cooter (pp. 8-26). New York: Peter Lang.
  • Sonu, D. & Aguilar-Moreno, L. (2017). When poetry visits you: Liberating the human spirit in second graders. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 30(2), p. 24-29.
  • Quinn, M. & Sonu, D. (2017). Following pebbles by moonlight: Elementary students shed light on power, peace, and violence in response to the classic tale Hansel and Gretal. Taboo, 16(1), p. 55-72.
  • Sonu, D. (2016). A young adult’s forgotten memories of a social justice high school education: Difficult knowledge and the impossibilities of schooling and research. Curriculum Inquiry.
  • Sonu, D. & Benson, J. (2016). The quasi-human child: How normative conceptions of childhood enabled neoliberal school reform in the United States. Curriculum Inquiry, 46(3), p. 230-247.
  • Sonu, D. & Gorlewski, J. (eds.) (2016) Special Issue of Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies entitled, “Unheard Learners: Children and Youth Experiences in Neoliberal Schools”
  • Snaza, N., Sonu, D., Truman, S., & Zaliwska, Z. eds, (2016). Pedagogical matters: New materialisms and curriculum studies. New York: Peter Lang.
  • Sonu, D. & Snaza, N. (2015). The fragility of ecological pedagogy: Elementary Social Studies standards and possibilities of new materialism, Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy, p. 258-277.
  • Sonu, D. & S. Hughes. (2015). The Youth Cultural Milieu, in M.F. He, B. Schultz & B. Schubert (Eds.), Guide to Curriculum in Education (p. 383-388). New York: Sage.
  • Chong, K., Davies, I., Epstein, T., Peck, C., Peterson, A., Sears, A., & Sonu, D. (2015). Education for the nation?: Teaching and learning within and across nations in a global age. Hampshire: UK: Palgrave-MacMillan.
  • Sonu, D. (2014). For the Sake of Diplomacy: The Educational (im)Possibility of Teaching Peace by New York City Elementary School Teachers. In R. Naqvi & R. Smits (Eds.), Framing Peace: Thinking about and Enacting Curriculum as “Radical Hope” (pp. 168-180). New York: Peter Lang.
  • Sonu, D. (2013). Friendship, Education, and Justice Teaching: The Professional Development of Two Teacher-Friends, Teaching and Learning: Journal of Natural Inquiry and Reflective Practice, 27(1), p. 19-34.
  • Sonu, D. (2012). Illusions of compliance: Performing the public and hidden transcripts of social justice education in neoliberal times, Curriculum Inquiry, 42(2), p. 240-259.
  • Sonu, D., Oppenheim, R., Epstein, S. & Agarwal, R. (2012). Taking responsibility: Using positioning theory to understand who’s responsible for a social justice education, Education, Citizenship, and Social Justice, (7)2, p. 175-189.
  • Farley, L. Sonu, D. Chang-Kredl, S. & Parekh, G. (2023-2024). Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Engagement Grant, Co-PI, entitled, “Children’s Museums and The Role of Storytelling in Learning from Difficult Knowledge.” $24,962
  • Sonu, D. (2021-2023). Racial Equity Special Grant, Spencer Foundation, PI, entitled, “Decolonizing Economics: A Qualitative Study on the Teaching of Racial Capitalism to Young Children.” $75,000
  • Farley, L., Chang-Kredl S., Garlen, J. & Sonu, D. (2018-2021). Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant, Co-PI, entitled, “A Multi-Site Study on Teacher Conceptualizations of Childhoods: Memories, Artefacts, and Cultural Tropes.” $60,734