The Grassroots and the Gift: Moral Authority, American Philanthropy, and Activism in Education
AbstractParental activism in education reform, while often portrayed as an exemplary manifestation of participatory democracy and grassroots action in response to entrenched corporate and bureaucratic interests, is in fact carefully cultivated and channeled through strategic networks of philanthropic funding and knowledge. This paper argues that these networks are characteristic of a contemporary form of neoliberal governance in which the philanthropic “gift” both obligates its recipients to participate in the ideological projects of the givers and obscures the incursion of market principles into education behind a veneer of progressive activism. Drawing on archival research as well as personal interviews with Seattle-based reform advocates, representatives of philanthropic organizations, and school administrators, the paper points to the need to critically evaluate the “roots” in grassroots movements and trace their connections to larger institutions and agendas.
Copyright (c) 2014 Katharyne Mitchell, Chris Lizotte
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