Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Deron Boyles - Chair

Second Advisor

Wayne Urban

Third Advisor

Susan Talburt

Fourth Advisor

Philo Hutcheson


ABSTRACT ARE PUBLIC SCHOOLS WORTH SAVING? IF SO, BY WHOM? by Philip Kovacs While there is a loose coalition of individuals and organizations attacking the institution of public schools, there does not appear to be a coordinated defense of public schools. Without a coordinated defense of the institution, public schools will arguably 1) grow increasingly regulated and/or 2) be shut down altogether. Given that progressive scholars believe schools should exist to maintain a pluralistic and participatory democracy, should 1) or 2) continue, the progressive goal of democracy through education becomes increasingly removed from possibility. The failure of progressive educational reformers to enter the same spheres as think tank and foundation-housed neointellectuals is partially to blame for the increasingly corporatist ideology governing public school reform. While scholars such as Henry Giroux call for “new articulations,” new languages, and new theories, I believe the problem lies not in the message but in the failure of progressives to promote their ideas in various public, private, and legislative spheres. In order to defend public schools as sites for the generation and maintenance of a participatory democratic social order, this research investigates the possibility that progressive educational reformers, acting as prophetic pragmatists, can save public education by acting publicly and politically to check, counter, and silence the anti-democratic educational initiatives forwarded by neoconservative and neoliberal educational reformers.