Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education, Educational Leadership & Policy Studies

Date of Defense

5-1-2012

Graduate Advisor

Charles J. Fazzaro

Committee

Bevel, Mary B., Ed.D

Brown, Kathleen S., Ph.D.

Davis, Matthew D., Ph.D.

Lema, Pickett P., Ed.D.

McNichols, Tyrone J., Ed.D.

Abstract

The purpose of this Critical Enquiry was to describe how literature taught in American public school can be viewed as an instrument of governmentality. The late popular Twentieth century philosopher/historian Michel Foucault viewed governmentality as a perspective of rule within a society, or more accurately, the pervasive thought attached to power of the given ruling structure of a particular historical time period. Foucault’s governmentality provided a framework in which to examine the relationship between citizens' voice as a collective "We, the People" or as "I, the individual." These balancing voices appear in literature taught in American education and parallel the discourse of the political structures that form the basis of governmentality. In short, like an archeological dig, this enquiry was a search for parallel shifts in the "We" / "I" relationship between literature taught in American public schools and events recorded in American political history. Keeping with the literary theme of this enquiry, the analysis revealed five political chapters (periods) and only three literary chapters. The political chapters of American history identified for this discussion include: America–From Conception to Birth (1492-1800s); Trauma of Wars (1812-1880s); From Optimism to Depression (1890-1933); American Victory over Adversity (1933-1960s); Technological Transformation of the Individual (1960s-2008). The literary chapters include: Americans Explore Relationships in the New Land (1612-1787); The American Enlightenment (1801-1903); and The Notion of American Justice (1905-2010). Conclusions from this enquiry take three specific forms—philosophical, literary, and historical. The philosophical conclusions are consistent with those of Michel Foucault who argued that people/populations distinctively move through history in specific patterns that are not necessarily continuous, nor interrelated. The literary conclusions are distinctive. Selections chosen in the representative anthology reflect a hegemony of discourse citizens experience and government wish to reinforce. The historical analysis revealed a distinct shift in the politics of the "We" and the "I." The French philosopher/linguist Jacques Derrida maintained that once spoken, words become our history. In the case at hand, such discourse frames our governmentality–the political management of a population through the widely published stories of its people.

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