Document Type

Article in Response to Controversy


With the landmark passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in January 2002, a new era of accountability, standards, and sanctions have become solid fixtures in public education (see Cross, 2004; McGuinn, 2005; and McGuinn, 2006 for an extensive discussion of the evolution of standards in US public education). The implications of this federal mandate were viewed differently, depending upon the perspective of the viewer. Regardless, there has been and continues to be a great deal of skepticism regarding NCLB’s ability to change the educational experiences of children and youth, particularly those of poor and minority students (Fusarelli, 2004; Kantor & Lowe, 2006; Rogers & Oakes, 2005). Further, the political discourse surrounding NCLB has been very charged since its inception, with different camps supporting the legislation as an extension of the Brown decision (and hence, the realization of equality in US society), while others have decried it as discriminatory, marginalizing, and undemocratic (see for instance, Kozol, 2005; Paige, 2006; Slavin, 2006; and Stiefel, Schwartz, & Chellman, 2007 for examples of these different arguments). It is these arguments surrounding equality/equity, social justice, democracy (and education for democracy), and NCLB that this article will examine. Using the speeches of Secretaries of Education Roderick Paige and Margaret Spellings, we will illustrate how the federal government and NCLB, the federal education policy driving US public education, frames the notions of equality/equity, justice, and democracy to reflect the Administration’s conservative and market-driven ideologies. By engaging in an iterative process of critical discourse analysis, we will illustrate how the message conveyed regarding NCLB remains the same, even as the audience changes. As a result, the Bush Administration has been able to galvanize support across multiple communities, while simultaneously silencing opposition.

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