By Statement and Omission: Media Representations of School Failure in the Standards Era
In this thesis, I explore media content as a gauge of the dominant American cultural norms, values, and interests around school failure. I problematize the persistence of inequalities in American schools, and situate this problem in the historical context of the standards movement in American education in general and the No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law in 2002, in particular. To help construct this narrative of school failure, I anchor this history in the social structures of racial inequality, in the role of ideology in shaping policy and perception, and in the concept of exploring media representations to gain insight into the cultural understanding of each of these. I center my investigation in a frame analysis of the content of newspaper articles from New York State, 2000-2006, which tell the story of school failure. The depictions of failure in schools, as represented in the news articles, are persistent ways to communicate mainstream social norms and values and to show who resides outside of that mainstream. This study showed, through analysis of the explanatory frames that emerged from the sample of articles, that the dominant American ideology of meritocracy, colorblindness, and equality of opportunity creates an understanding of failure is as an individual shortcoming, showing who isn?t trying hard enough, who resides out of the mainstream, and who isn?t normal?in this case, white, suburban, and middle-class. I argue that this understanding conceals real structural inequalities that make success all but impossible for many students and can impede efforts to at effective reform.
education, NCLB, media content analysis, failure, race, class, ideology