Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 5-10-2019


One-year Embargo

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Richard Thames

Committee Member

Ronald Arnett

Committee Member

Anthony Wachs


Neil Postman, Public Education, Technology


The public education system in America has long been criticized for its inability to prepare students for success as adults. While some engage in a narrative of blame, others ask what can be done to solve this problem. This dissertation examines a narrative crisis in the 21stcentury classroom through the lens of Neil Postman, a 20thcentury media ecologist whose fears about television may finally be realized with the advent of the personal digital device and its impact on the educational sphere. First the past narratives that guided the American school system will be traced from colonial America through present day. Then Postman’s work will be examined in its historical moment to provide context from which current educational narratives and initiatives will then be examined. Current educational trends, including technology and STEM based learning, career-focused learning, personalized learning, and using schools as public service facilities will be examined through his lens. Finally, using Postman’s philosophies as a guide, service learning, the Waldorf School model, and reconnection to a humanities narrative that includes the media ecology studies Postman called for in the 1980s will be examined as a way to balance the existing narratives guiding learning in American public schools.