Neoliberal Dis/Investments At A Charter School Teaching .

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Neoliberal Dis/Investments at a Charter School Teaching the Whole ChildbyKatrina N. HannaA Dissertation Presented in Partial Fulfillmentof the Requirements for the DegreeDoctor of PhilosophyApproved April 2020 by theGraduate Supervisory Committee:Daniel Brouwer, Co-ChairAaron Hess, Co-ChairJeanne PowersARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITYMay 2020

ABSTRACTThere has been a robust and ongoing investment in demystifying the discursiveand material conditions of neoliberalism. Scholars in communication have done muchwork to explore the various rhetorical effects and processes of neoliberal discourses andpractices. Many of these case studies have tethered their concerns of neoliberalism to theconceptualization of the public sphere. However, most of this research rests on theabsence of those that try to “make do.” By privileging rhetoric after the fact, such studiestend to provide more agency to ideology than everyday bodies that engage in their ownrhetorical judgments and discernments. In addition, scholarship across the board tends totreat neoliberalism as something dangerously and uniquely new. This framing effectivelyserves to ignore the longer history of liberalism and liberal thought that paved the path ofneoliberalism the United States is now on.With these two broad concerns in mind, this study centers a case study of acharter school in South Phoenix to focus on the vernacular rhetorics of those on theground. Guided by public sphere theory, critical race theory, and intersectionality, I takeup rhetorical field methods to explore how those involved with this charter schoolnavigate and make sense of school choice and charter schools in the age of neoliberalism.Within this context, field methods permit me to locate the various discourses, practices,and material constraints that shape running, being educated at, and selecting a charterschool. These various rhetorical practices brought to the forefront an interest and concernwith the school’s whole child approach as it is rooted within Stephen Covey’s (1989)seven habits. Additional qualitative data analysis brings about two new concepts ofneoliberal scapegoating and dialectical vernacular complicity. Finally, I discuss thei

implications of these findings as they speak to how rhetorical field methods, supported byintersectionality and critical race theory, invites critics to center more agency on peoplerather than ideas, and how that makes for a more complicated and nuanced neoliberalreality and modes of resistance.ii

ACKNOWLEDGMENTSThere are several people I would like to thank and acknowledge. First, I am soincredibly grateful and indebted to the various interlocuters I encountered during my timein the field. To the teachers and staff at Humanitas, I thank you for your time andgenerosity. The (grand)parents who took part of their day to interview with me, I thankyou for your insights and time. Finally, to the scholars, who also allowed me to shareyour various spaces with you and even allowing me to have some fun! I thank you forteaching me how to play foursquare and letting me to help you plant your sunflowerseeds.Second, to my committee and those in the department. Dr. Dan Brouwer, I willnever forget the number of times you reminded me that I am human and should thereforeembrace all the emotions that come with this “flesh packet.” Dr. Aaron Hess, thank youfor all your guidance not only for each milestone moment of this program, but helping mefeel confident and reflexive in my passion for rhetorical field work. Finally, Dr. JeannePowers, your insights and guidance on educational literature and research bolstered andmade this project what it is. All of you have put so much time and energy into this projectand me. I will forever be appreciative and humbled by this care and guidance. Thank youto additional faculty at the Hugh Downs School who have played a huge role in mygrowth as a scholar and teacher: Dr. Belle Edson, Dr. Sarah Tracy, Dr. Benny LeMaster,Dr. Alaina Zanin, and Jennifer Linde. I would also like to thank the amazing staff of theschool for all the things you have done to help me get to the finish line: HeatherFreireich, Suzanne Wuerster, Misa Pham, and Ira Ochs.iii

Third, to those closest to me: family and friends. Mom and dad, my parental units,who would have thought that I would be getting my PhD one day?! Thank you for beingmy rock and sounding board. Kristen and Nick, I also appreciate the numerous ways thatyou have supported me and loved me during the last six years as I have been away,working on my degrees. To my nieces and nephews who have brought so much joy andreprieve during my time away from school, thank you for reminding me to not takemyself too seriously. To G-Ma and G-Pa, you kept me well-fed and loved when I got tospend time with you. Your support has also not gone unnoticed. To the various fellowgraduate students who listened to me as I worked through the project and offered yoursupport, I thank you. There are too many of you to name, but you know I am talking toyou! And a final thank you to Chris Duerringer. It can often take just one person tochange your life and I am incredibly grateful that you told undergraduate, nineteen-yearold me that I should go to graduate school. Well, I heeded your advice and did just that.iv

TABLE OF CONTENTSPageCHAPTER1INTRODUCTION . 1Shifts from Liberalism to Neoliberalism . 3The Role of Education and Charter Schools . 7Chapter Overview . 132A REVIEW OF RACIAL AND INTERSECTIONAL ORIENTATIONS TOPUBLICS, NEOLIBERALISM, RHETORIC, AND METHODOLOGY . 16(Hi)stories of Exclusion: Public Sphere Theory, Neoliberalism, andEducation . 18Rhetorical (Field) Methods: An Ecological Approach . 29Exploring and Studying in South Phoenix . 323MAPPING AND SITUATING SCHOOL CHOICE AND CHARTERSCHOOLS IN U.S. HISTORY AND ARIZONA . 42The Landscape of Charter Schools in Arizona . 47The Ideological Dissonance of Charter Schools . 574HIGHLY EFFECTIVE SCHOLARS AND THE EMERGENCE OF ALIBERAL WHOLE CHILD APPROACH . 63Creating a Charter School . 64The Leader in Me: Empowering Students through the Seven Habits . 67Understanding the Seven Habits . 71Think Win/Win and Possibilities of Resistance in the Classroom . 78v

CHAPTERPageThink Win/Win and the Possibilities of Resistance in MorningAssemblies . 86The (Neo)Liberlization of Whole Child Pedagogy . 89Pedagogical Resistance to (Neo)Liberalism . 93Reflections and Implications .1015NAVIGATING SCHOOL CHOICE THROUGH NEOLIBERALSCAPEGOATING AND DIALECTICAL VERNACULAR COMPLICITY .104General Reflections on Navigating School Choice .108Discourses About and Material Constraints of Teachers .116Neoliberal Scapegoating and Dialectical Vernacular Complicity.121Relationality, Neoliberalism, and School Choice: Reflections andImplications.1566CONCLUSION .160Theorectical and Methodological Implications: The Imperative ofIntersectionality, Post-Liberal Critique, and Immanent Politics .166Practical Implications: Employing Anticapital Antiracist Pedagogy.174Reflections and New Directions .176REFERENCES .182APPENDIXAINTERVIEW GUIDE . 202BIRB EXEMPTION FORM . 204vi

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION“The better the breed, the bigger and better the returns in every aspect.”It is 1921, and the above words are spoken by Richard B. Haydock in Oxnard,California in a speech to the local rotary club. With these words, Haydock is not speakingabout the pedigree of the town’s cattle, but of its school-aged children. During this time,Oxnard is attempting to shape its identity and future. As more Mexicans and MexicanAmericans move into the east side of town, the White, west side of town is concernedabout the negative impact this increasing population is going to have on the community.This White anxiety is felt most strongly in its local elementary school (García, 2018). Asthe principal of the school, Haydock is seeking to convince business leaders that MexicanAmerican children are not of “good stock” and are a threat to the breed of futureAmerican citizens and citizenry. Comparing these children to cattle, he advances that“some of these kids are going to become valuable assets, and some are going to becomemighty expensive liabilities” (Haydock, 1921, p. 3). The conclusion is simple: if we careabout the future of Oxnard, we should be cautious of educating Mexican and MexicanAmerican children. Why? Because they are not worth the investment. Haydock’sinfluence in his community led to a history of residential segregation in Oxnard so thatthe “expensive liabilities” would have their own school and the White students couldthrive in their own (García, 2018).This one historical moment begins to establish a number of important nationalthreads. First, this moment acknowledges that our history of K-12 education in thiscountry is one continually re-defined on racism, because if a society and its people areracist, so is education (Asante, 2005). Haydock’s concern about cultivating a future1

American citizenry is one that is racially exclusive and can be traced to the valuesinherent in liberal thought and practice. As expanded below, the rise of liberalism isheavily tied to the rise of capitalism. This means that education in the U.S. must beunderstood through a racialized and classed lens because the history of education is oneof residential segregation, compounded with racism. Second, our history of K-12education is fraught with what we would call neoliberalism. The logic in Haydock’sargument of assets, investments, and a public “profit” are an early manifestation of aneoliberal belief that our daily decisions should be guided by economic metaphors andsystems. Much work has already been done to connect the dots between neoliberal logicand how it has played out in K-12 schools and higher education through critiques ofstandardized testing, charter schools, and recent forms of school choice, like vouchers(e.g., Apple, 2004; Convertino, 2017; Hermansen, 2014; Ravitch, 2016).The entry point I take acknowledges and builds off this work. The project is alsoinvested in taking a stronger historical-contemporary dialectical approach to how weunderstand the relationship between (neo)liberalism,1 education, and what it means to beactive within the public sphere. To do so, I begin with the premise that, in the U.S.,education became a powerful and pivotal space for cultivating, circulating, and upholdingneoliberal logics. It is not enough to point to current K-12 conditions as a symptom ofneoliberalism but a producer of its logic as well. Support for this argument begins in thefollowing pages with a historical tracing of (neo)liberalism and its relationship to1Throughout this project you will see me use (neo)liberalism. This is a short-hand argument thatacknowledges the historical and ideological connections between liberalism and neoliberalism.Neoliberalism is not radically different from liberalism, but the product of its long-term growth andexpansion with some nips and tucks there. When I am specifically referring to what makes liberalismculturally and materially distinct from neoliberalism, I will use the terms separately.2

capitalism and education within the context of the U.S. The subsequent chapters willprovide theoretical insight and analysis to make sense of these histories via a case studyof a local charter school in Phoenix, Arizona.Shifts from Liberalism to NeoliberalismThe idyllic rise of the public sphere rests on the emergence of liberalism as asocial framework and capitalism as its economic partner. Unlike England, limited by itslong history of monarchy, the colonization of the U.S. was the fresh breeding ground fora liberal democracy (Russell, 1945). This historical fact forces us to recognize howliberalism itself has different manifestations depending on where you are in time andcontext. Within the U.S., liberalism can be understood as a philosophical, political, andsocial theory that rejects the divine right of kings to rule, is rooted in Protestant values(and sometimes stands for religious toleration), places a value on commerce and industry,favors the middle class over that of the aristocracy, and has a tendency toward democracy(see Locke, 1689/2015). The subject of liberalism, the “liberal,” is seen as a “consumer offreedom” (Foucault, 2008, p. 63). In practice, this means that the liberal has the freedomto buy and sell the market, property rights, discussion, and expression. The ability to ownand keep private property