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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Gary Malaney

Second Advisor

Ximena Zuniga

Subject Categories

African American Studies | American Politics | American Studies | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Economic History | Economic Theory | Educational Sociology | Education Economics | Finance | Growth and Development | Inequality and Stratification | Labor Economics | Latina/o Studies | Liberal Studies | Macroeconomics | Other Education | Political Economy | Political Theory | Politics and Social Change | Race and Ethnicity | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Sociology of Culture | Work, Economy and Organizations


Over the past forty-years, neoliberal education reform policies in the U.S. have spurred significant resistance, often galvanized by claims that such policies undermine public education as a vital institution of U.S. democracy. Within this narrative, many activists call to “save our schools” and return them to a time when public schools served the common good. With these narratives in mind, I explore the foundational and persistent power structures that characterize the U.S. as a means to reveal the fundamental purpose of its public education system. The questions that guide my research include: (1) With an understanding that capitalism, white supremacy, settler colonialism and heteropatriarchy are inherently inequitable, incredibly violent and undemocratic; how can we expect meaningful and lasting social protections or even emancipation within a nation-state constituted by these structures? (2) Consequently, can we then expect public education - an institution constructed and controlled by these structural forces - to be transformed into an equitable and democratic institution? (3) Is it even possible to attain state protections for the common good within the current global domain of finance capital? In this extensive historical analysis, I examine these questions using a critical theory lens, historical revisionism and discourse analysis to interrogate primary source materials, scholarly work, news stories, policies and industry publications. This research shows that public education is an extension of a duplicitous and despotic cultural political economy and thus has never been, nor ever could be, an institution that serves democratic or emancipatory purposes. I contend that it is imprudent to strive to transform public education to serve democratic purposes. My research makes evident how current education policies are a continuation of the original design of public education, yet modernized to bolster the imperious and ubiquitous interests of global financialization.