Publication details [#2400]

Beckman, Christine M. 2007. A rhetorical analysis of the No Child Left Behind Act: A metaphoric perspective. Flagstaff, Ariz.. 116 pp.


The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2002 reauthorized and dramatically changed the language of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The primary purpose of this qualitative study was to describe the language used in NCLB, and to offer an interpretation about how policy language reveals underlying assumptions. An exploration of commercial Web sites reflecting NCLB policy language, documented how these assumptions were reinforced in public rhetoric. This rhetorical analysis was designed as a hermeneutic phenomenological study. Hermeneutic phenomenology describes and interprets text in the lived world. Today, the Internet is part of the lived world for the majority of those living in the United States. Both NCLB and commercial marketing messages are on the Internet and reflect a segment of the lived world connected to public education in the United States. The methodology used in this research was metaphoric criticism. Metaphoric criticism provided both a philosophical perspective and structured process for this study. Metaphoric criticism is based upon a philosophical belief that conceptual metaphors are a primary way humans constitute reality (Foss, 2004). As a research process, metaphoric criticism deconstructs texts to discover how symbols are used to construct reality (Foss, 2004). NCLB language and commercial Web sites were critiqued based upon the contemporary theory of metaphor (Lakoff, 1993). The contemporary theory of metaphor reflects the view that metaphoric thought precedes metaphoric expressions. This theoretical framework provided the foundation for determining a basic underlying assumption woven throughout NCLB: public education is a competitive race. Ten examples in NCLB reflected different versions of the competitive race conceptual metaphor. Ten commercial Websites directly mirrored the NCLB examples. The findings of this study suggest that future language research based upon the contemporary theory of metaphor, will provide new insight about education policy and its influence in the public sector. Education policy will change, therefore future research will reveal whether the conceptual competitive race metaphors in NCLB persist or change. There are many segments of the public sector, or lived world. Future studies focused upon different sectors, will cast unique insights about public policy influence. Hermeneutic phenomenology, metaphoric criticism, and the contemporary theory of rhetoric, all provided research tools for examining the underlying assumptions in NCLB language. This study combined an approach, a methodology, and a theory to describe and interpret the phenomenon of conceptual metaphors framing NCLB language, and influencing commercial rhetoric. As qualitative research, it presented, illuminated, explored, and interpreted a phenomenon. The goal was to provide new insight concerning NCLB and the influential nature of policy language. (Dissertation Abstracts)