Research Interests

My research considers the ways in which powerful and wealthy non-governmental actors interact with communities and public institutions they identify as "vulnerable" or "underserved", particularly where they engage with public education.

I am particularly intrigued by corporate and philanthropic actors' exertion of control over priorities in education, and the funding of computer science and STEM initiatives, character education curriculum and equity oriented policies.

Selected Scholarship

Pipeline Philanthropy’: Corporate philanthropic action and education

In response to the COVID-19 crisis many companies, particularly technology companies, voluntarily responded to strains in the education sector by temporarily donating or discounting their core products, generating public support and gratitude. I analyze this type of contribution as ‘pipeline philanthropy,’ which offers a novel frame through which to evaluate the burgeoning philanthropic action of corporations in education during the COVID-19 era. This paper explores how the ‘pipeline philanthropy’ model of corporate giving differs from existing models of philanthropy in education. Through a selection of contemporary and historical illustrations, I evaluate the democratic implications and develop a framework for assessing this important and expanding type of giving in education.

For (y)our future: the vocationalization of education for the new digital economy

The orientation and increased emphasis in K-12 schooling toward preparation for future economic participation, particularly through the emphasis on STEM and Computer Science education, crystallizes the purpose of education around a primary pole of human capital development. I consider the discursive frames and undergirding logic that constitute these efforts, those that act both diagnostically and prognostically to construct the origins and solutions to the ‘digital divide’? Grounding this investigation is my interest in the coalitional role of private actors in influencing the priorities and purposes of education—particularly where they are agents of private sector and corporate interests—and the ways in which schools function to serve the interests of these and other political actors. This paper works to understand the contemporary mainstream emphasis on workforce training and career readiness in schooling, and the embeddedness of private, often corporate partnerships in provisioning the resources and materials needed for such training.

‘Adjunct to manufacture and commerce’: Elementary and secondary vocational and technical education in the U.S., 1917-2018

This project investigates the federal government’s role in advancing vocational education and considers how federal legislation is reflective of priorities held by individual and institutional political actors throughout the mid 20th and early 21st centuries. This project asks: how have the definition and components of vocational education shifted in relation to certain named national priorities over time, particularly through programmatic transition to ‘career and technical education’ for 21st century skills? I examine adjustments in programmatic management and priorities that emphasize “promoting links between public school needs and private sector sources of support.” This project draws on theories and methods of American Political Development to identify relevant political coalitions within existing and shifting institutional orders, moments of path dependency and ‘juncture’ that constitute meaningful political development, and the increased role of the private sector against the ‘submerged state’ resulting from restructuring legislation.

A moral philanthropist: generous justification for the status quo

In order to understand the proliferation and perseverance of charitable giving as a means of addressing undesirable social circumstances, I aim excavate select intellectual and philosophical grounds for charitable giving where it serves to motivate and justify philanthropic actors. To evaluate philanthropy in the contemporary context, I ask how certain political and economic arrangements—those in which substantial wealth inequality exists and persists—structures an appreciation for charitable giving, or philanthropy more broadly, as a normative good. In considering two strands of normative ethics, consequentialism on the one hand and Aristotelian virtue ethics on the other, I ask how charitable giving—philanthropy—is evaluated as a means of ameliorating the suffering of the most vulnerable. More specifically, how ‘effective altruism’ as a social movement adjacent to consequentialist utilitarianism is inhabited by elements of Aristotelian virtue. I demonstrate the limitations of atomistic Aristotelian virtue and consequentialist logic where it guides and justifies contemporary philanthropic action, and the ways accepting certain political and economic arrangements as a present reality undermines the ostensible goals of such projects.

Opportunities for Equity and Reimagining Education: Reformer Discourse During the COVID-19 Crisis, with Laura Ogburn

When COVID-19 emerged as a global health crisis, many states and districts issued emergency mandates or recommendations to close school buildings and facilities for the remainder of the school year, with rapidly developed accommodations for delivering educational content to students. For many districts, closures precipitated a massive temporary shift to online formats and an interruption of typical schooling operations. This interruption has been repeatedly framed by education reformers not just as a crisis or emergency, but also as an opportunity to make more lasting changes to the education system.