Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 8-1-2022


Critical scholars in sociology, philosophy and cultural studies have long said what is wrong with schools, insofar as they function to perpetuate inequality rather than social uplift, generally. Despite this well-researched state of affairs, schooling—of the State-sponsored, public education kind—remains beholden to the economic interests of the dominant classes. Judging from current retention and attrition rates, proficiency levels, and college entrance numbers, schooling has continued to disproportionately benefit White people, especially in relation to their social class. Moreover teachers continue to be disproportionately White and female when compared with their students. Through a critical analysis of teachers’ discourse on Freire, I show how ideologies favorable to the matrix of domination bell hooks (2013) calls “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” stifle the possibility of critical pedagogy in public school contexts (p. 4). In tandem with these instances, I analyze how the only participant of color in this study voiced counterhegemonic discourse to challenge unconscious ideologies that his colleagues expressed. In presenting two critical incidents specifically, I share how multiple and conflicting ideologies circulated in the space of teacher study groups as professional development. Through this study, I show how engaging with critical texts and discussion with colleagues was personally and professionally meaningful for participants in spite of perceived limitations and dominant ideologies.

To understand how ideology functioned in teachers’ responses to critical pedagogy, I conducted teacher study groups on the whole of Paulo Freire’s text: Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I supplemented study groups with individual interviews and reflective journaling. Guided by Thompson’s (1990) critical hermeneutical framework for ideological critique I located ideological symbolic constructions in teachers’ discourse, which I then analyzed through examination of facework and the unsaid (Fairclough, 2010; Gee, 2011; Goffman, 1959). Exploring language and the worlds it creates in positioning self and others may be useful for other studies related to teacher discourse with and about students. My findings may also contribute to the collective work of realizing social justice education for preservice and in-service teachers at the level of consciousness, where ideology thrives prior to reflection.

Implications of the study can be used to inform the intersections of critical pedagogy, teacher education and Whiteness Studies. I recommend schools of education and professional development organizations doing critical work with teachers (who are primarily White) consider how teachers’ unexamined beliefs impede the realization of critical pedagogy, and how these beliefs can be challenged in a professional space guided by institutional norms. Some dominant beliefs teachers belonging to the dominant (White) group expressed supported a larger discourse of meritocracy in the service of colonial ideology, which esteems individual identity prior to group-belonging, the naturalization of oppression, and deficit views of students and families.


critical pedagogy, sociology of education, critical theory, critical discourse studies, ideology critique, teacher study groups

Document Type




Degree Name

Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Tryphenia Peele-Eady

Second Committee Member

Glenabah Martinez

Third Committee Member

Laura Haniford

Fourth Committee Member

Susana Martinez-Guillem

Available for download on Saturday, August 01, 2026