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De-/Re-Constructing the Ideological Terrain of Social Justice in Education

howe, emily (2022) De-/Re-Constructing the Ideological Terrain of Social Justice in Education. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The need to redress antiblackness, colonialism, heteropatriarchy, and other intersecting, systemic oppressions in education, US society, and globally remains urgent and dire. Yet, the extent to which these oppressions are recognized and how they are conceptualized in educational spaces greatly varies. My dissertation analyzes how ideology and epistemology inform different understandings and engagements with social justice and equity in educational contexts and what the practical implications of these differences are.
The first two papers present case studies of two ongoing debates in educational policy. In the New York City public schools (NYC DOE), the debate centers around the historically contentious issue of admission screens and whether they promote segregation or educational opportunity. The second case focuses on the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) and the current debate over a proposal to remove all school police officers from the district. In both studies, I use historical analysis and critical discourse analysis to highlight ideological contestations that exist between the different stakeholder groups, particularly around shared language. In the NYC DOE, the groups had different assumptions about meritocracy, opportunity, and equity which
corresponded with different policies, social theories, and visions for the future. In PPS, stakeholders engaged in divergent ideas of safety and discipline. In both cases, different understandings and engagements with systemic oppression are key to stakeholders’ divergent ideological meanings.
To better understand the connections between individual sensemaking and systems of power that undergird ideology, the third theoretical paper outlines philosopher Kristie Dotson’s (2014) account of epistemic oppression. I argue that epistemic oppression and its related concepts can help teachers and teacher educators understand how dominant ways of knowing (i.e., epistemologies) and their constructions of reality often normalize oppression. I also discuss practices of epistemic resistance (Medina, 2012) and epistemic reflexivity (Dotson, 2011), which provide a means to learn new epistemologies and resist epistemic oppression both inside and outside of the classroom. I emphasize that resisting and dismantling the dominant epistemologies
(and ideologies) is not only difficult cognitive work, but deeply relational work that requires change through ongoing solidarity and collective action.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
howe, emilyevh15@pitt.eduevh150000-0002-0877-1016
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCorrenti, Richardrcorrent@pitt.edurcorrent
Committee MemberKokka, Karikokka@pitt.edukokka
Committee MemberBartow Jacobs, Katrinakbjacobs@pitt.edukbjacobs
Committee MemberMayorga,
Committee MemberTorrey,
Date: 10 January 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 2 June 2021
Approval Date: 10 January 2022
Submission Date: 23 November 2021
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 207
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Learning Sciences and Policy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: social justice, systemic oppression, ideology, teacher education, educational policy, epistemic oppression, epistemology, racialized meanings, critical discourse analysis, admission screens, school policing
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2022 18:17
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2022 18:17


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