Anxiety and American Education: An Examination of 20th Century Federal K-12 Curriculum Reform in Moments of National (Security) Crisis
Fish, Sarah Reanna
MetadataShow full item record
My dissertation is a historical inquiry, one meant to provide another piece to the narrative about what it means to educate and be educated in America when national security crises become a part of national, regional, and local educational discourses. The project complicates our existing narratives about education as a means for individual (economic, social, and cultural) access and democratic participation, instead offering an alternative history accounting for the role foreign and domestic crises have had in 20th century educational shifts represented by the National Defense Education Act (1958), Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965), A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform (1983), and Goals 2000: Educate America Act (1994). I contend that the documents reflect a development of new policy written atop old policy regimes, and that then circulate forward national security terms (and thus, anxieties) as well as literacy priorities in the development how we construct (talk, represent) education. The research project examines each federal document through the lens of Demosthenes' and Cicero's crisis rhetoric first with the text's historical context; second with a rhetorical analysis, informed by Critical Discourse Analysis, of the entanglement of crisis-specific terms and the proposed aid for literate practices in the sciences and social sciences; and third with an outline of how the document and ideas circulated after publication. I argue that the ideas and institutions attached to national security in turn effect broader curriculum reform and maintain cultural hegemony through public education. More specifically, my argument is that Demosthenes' and Cicero's crisis rhetoric—a convergence of national security, anxiety, and the rhetoric of an authority (explained in the following chapter)—unites stakeholders across interests and thus pushes forward reform centered on not just improving education, but securing the nation. Furthermore, as I close the project, I argue that our current teaching (writing) situations are informed by decades-long history that promotes education as a solution for existing national security crises, thus narrowing our students' (and even our own) understanding of learning (writing).