Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Jason A. Chen
Stephanie J. Blackmon
Public support for market-based education reforms persists despite evidence that these reforms exacerbate the educational marginalization of Black and Brown students. Even among Democrats and ostensibly equity-minded policy actors, support for reforms like charter schools is widespread. How do people come to support racially stratifying policies despite their supposed commitment to ethic of social justice? The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between the theories of unconscious racism (Lawrence, 1995a) and moral disengagement (Bandura, 1999) in the state takeover of a majority Black school district by a majority white state government. Methods included a critical race analysis of Doe v. Arkansas Department of Education (2016) and a critical discourse study of the state takeover speech of elite white policy actors. Findings included two parallel appeals: to the legal precedent on which Lawrence based the theory of unconscious racism, from the court in Doe v. DOE; and to the mechanisms of moral disengagement, from white policy actors justifying the takeover. It is therefore plausible that public support for racist education policies is a result of morally disengaging policy rhetoric, and that these policies are protected by strict legal obstacles to discrimination claims. Recommendations include increased political involvement on the part of school leaders, including principals; further critical policy studies of pre-adoption policy discourse and policy outcomes; and deeper interdisciplinary investigation of the moral disengagement of individual policy actors and citizens in an education policy arena.
© The Author
Clement, Davis, "Education Reform as Moral Disengagement: the Racist Subtext of the State Takeover of Little Rock School District" (2018). Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects. William & Mary. Paper 1550153696.