Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Intercultural Youth and Family Development

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Otto Koester

Commitee Members

Aida Hutz, Gregory Koger


education, race


University of Montana


Richert, Jennifer Kathleen, M.A., May 2007 IYFD Changing Attitudes: Congressional Rhetoric, Race, and Education Inequalities Chairperson: Otto Koester Through an analysis of Congressional rhetoric regarding public school in the context of racial equality, three terms emerge as reoccurring concepts that drive discussions on contemporary educational conversations: narrowing the gap, disadvantaged students, and accountability. I have designed this study to determine whether the way politicians in U.S. Congress use these terms have racial undertones that ultimately work to maintain a culture of minority oppression. This study opens with an introduction describing my personal interest, followed with an extensive literature review regarding educational inequality. This study then moves into an analysis of the three key terms: narrowing the gap, disadvantaged students, and accountability through the lens of Critical Race Theory. I found that while racist elements exist in Congressional rhetoric, evidence suggesting that these terms work as a unit to maintain concrete aspects of racial oppression remains questionable. When compared to narrowing the gap and accountability, the term disadvantaged as it is used in Congressional proceedings and on the No Child Left Behind website holds the most evidence for its role in contributing to racist undertones. Narrowing the gap may encourage the status quo among middle class white parents and students while accountability shows little evidence in terms of racist underpinnings. I employ the perspective of Critical Race Theory throughout the piece to construct a consistent foundation. Critical Race Theory is a legal theory developed by scholars of color to address racism from an institutionalized perspective. Those scholars cited in this study include Derrick A. Bell, Allan David Freeman, Richard Delgado, Gary Peller, and Charles R. Lawrence, III. I conclude that whites in the United States must constantly discern the difference between language commonly accepted as “politically correct” as it works to curb racism and language commonly accepted as “politically correct” which perpetuates racist attitudes. I call on this level of consciousness to avoid racist attitudes in educational rhetoric because it ultimately impacts children.



© Copyright 2007 Jennifer Kathleen Richert