Date of Award

12-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education

Major Professor

Barbara Thayer-Bacon

Committee Members

David Houston, Michael Fitzgerald, Ralph Brockett

Abstract

From 2011 to 2012, in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker and legislative republicans passed ACT- 10, a law severely limiting public sector/teachers union’s collective bargaining rights. This legislative effort shocked the nation with the bold move toward stricter regulations concerning the public sector, as Wisconsin is historically one of the most progressive states concerning labor within the United States. Teachers unions within the state took ACT-10 as an assault on their very profession. Shortly before the passing of the act, sit-ins and protests abounded within the capital of Madison that caught attention from both the local and national media.

To answer questions pertaining to the media, policy, government, and public sector unions, this dissertation analyzes articles from three major newspaper sources (The New York Times, The Wisconsin State Journal, and The Capital Times) from 2011-2015, utilizing both critical discourse analysis and philosophy, to examine the media’s framing of the issues pertaining to public sector/teacher unions within Wisconsin. By analyzing these media sources, three data strands emerged: The Language of Battle, Neoliberalistic Discourses, and Teacher as a Defunct Agent. The three strands reveal a picture that illuminates the unions and the teacher members as the ‘enemy’ that is destroying the education system within the United States. All the while, the government is portrayed as the savior of the education system by passing policies that restrict the unions, eliminating their “corruption,” and giving control of the education system seemingly back to the teachers and administrators. However, at the same time, the teachers’ accountability and professionalism were found to also be called into question within this media framework. By portraying such a politically motivated agenda, fueled by ideas surrounding neoliberalism, the media creates social justice issues, such as hegemony, whereby they call into question the need and abilities of such organizations as unions within a highly globalized society. Per the findings of this research: what is at stake is the future of what working in America will look like with portrayals such as what can be found within the discourse presented to the public through the media.

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