1st Edition

Ethnography of a Neoliberal School Building Cultures of Success

By Garth Stahl Copyright 2018
    192 Pages
    by Routledge

    192 Pages
    by Routledge

    As a school ethnography, this book explores the controversial schooling practices and strategies embedded in charter school management organizations (CMOs), as well as how these practices influence teaching and learning, school leadership, teachers’ professional identities, and students’ understanding of success. By theorizing the common practices within the organization, Stahl connects current research in neoliberal governance, neoliberal structuring of educational policy, aspiration and social reproduction in schooling. Honing in on the discourse on education reform, Stahl demonstrates that a "unique blend" of neoliberalism and social justice values have permeated the CMO’s institutional culture, promoting the belief that adopting corporate practices will fix America’s schools and ensure equity of opportunity for all. The inclusion of institutional texts (emails, Blackberry messages, posters, and rubrics) balances the personal-subjective and inter-subjective to capture a blend of neoliberalism and social justice reframing.

    List of Figures



    Chapter 1: Introduction

    Part I

    Chapter 2: School ethnography, school effects and schooling in neoliberal times

    Chapter 3: Charter schools, the reform movement and CMOs

    Chapter 4: Corporatization, CMOs and the "unique blend"

    Part II

    Chapter 5: Leadership

    Chapter 6: Teachers

    Chapter 7: Students

    Chapter 8: Assessment

    Chapter 9: Reflections

    Appendix A – Qualities of Exemplary Teaching (QET) Deliverables Rubric


    Garth Stahl, Ph.D. is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Education at the University of South Australia and Research Fellow, Australian Research Council (DECRA). His research interests lie on the nexus of neoliberalism and socio-cultural studies of education, identity, equity/inequality, and social change. Currently, his research projects and publications encompass theoretical and empirical studies of learner identities, gender and youth, sociology of schooling in a neoliberal age, gendered subjectivities, equity and difference, and educational reform.

    "This richly theorised, fascinating ethnography of charter schools is a must-read for all those concerned about the impact of neoliberalism on schooling. In an analysis that both grips and challenges the reader, Garth Stahl uncovers the harmful consequences of privatisation on schooling in the US, setting out the corporate and managerialist policies and practices that are hollowing out public schooling not just in the US but increasingly across the globe. Ethnography of a Neoliberal School brings powerfully to life the damage wrought by educational policies that focus remorselessly on competition, individualism, and raising aspiration without recognising wider social and economic realities. In doing so it bears damning witness to neoliberalism's contributions to the injuries of class and race." --Diane Reay, Professor of Education, University of Cambridge


    "In this groundbreaking book Garth Stahl combines thick ethnographic description with sociological theory to unravel the rich tapestry of everyday neoliberalisation in the ‘post-disciplinary’ environment of a US charter school management organisation. Using descriptive scene-setting vignettes and personal reflections, Stahl draws our attention to the role and impact of different species of corporate logic and the enterprise form to confront the messy actualities of stealth privatisation in public education in the US, and offers penetrating insight into the contrived pedagogies, technologies of expertise, cults of efficacy, and ideologies of deliverology resulting from these machinations. Moreover, Stahl uniquely captures some of the conflicting tendencies at the heart of these reforms, namely precariousness and permanence, and explores the significance of these trends to cultivating performative workers and the smooth functioning of neoliberalisation more generally. This book is essential reading for practitioners and researchers interested in the deeper frames and