Contexts: bringing it together


Highlighting the increasing role of non-state actors in education policymaking, essentially, this book brings into question issues associated with the fast flurry over recent decades of dog whistling related to school educational policy. In fact, it’s a reflection of the deep mediatization of educational policy, as well as issues associated with what we mean by “educational policy”.

As with a growing onion, every dog whistle directed at school educational policy and practice imbeds another layer of deep mediatization, no matter how sneaky and sly that message might be. The dog whistle is a very pointed manifestation of the deep mediatization of school educational policy. It’s a sharpened form of attack weapon, highly politicized and directed towards certain sections of the voting public. It’s sneaky and covert, but nevertheless, highly effective. And it’s a political strategy forever being improved upon and implemented in varying political circumstances directed at school educational policy and practice.

Our aim here has been to follow the dog-whistle trail impacting in school educational policy and practice in the US, the UK and Australia to see how:

  • • As a form of deep mediatization, to what extent is the dog-whistle dynamic imbedded in school educational policy and practice?
  • • As a form of deep mediatization, to what extent does the dog-whistle dynamic affect our understanding of school educational policy and practice?
  • • How might we explain the continued dog-whistle dynamics impacting school educational policy and practice?

With increasing hegemony over school educational policy by national governments, analyzing and understanding dog-whistle dynamics should become increasingly an essential ingredient of school educational policy studies. This book has provided insights into associated moral panics, but in particular it has illustrated the degree of the influence to which the dog-whistle dynamichas on the resonance with old national fears and anxieties, and has attempted to explain this in terms of risk-society theory. Usually, when sections of society respond to a dog whistle it’s the result of old fears and anxieties, and the dog whistle is written and motivated by politics. With the sustained movement of school education decision-making to a national level, there has been a dramatic increase in the politics surrounding educational policy, particularly in the UK and in Australia, but arguably less so in the US, where state educational authorities enjoy more authority.

As a form of deep mediatization, to what extent is the dog-whistle dynamic imbedded in school educational policy and practice?

To proceed with a central thesis of this book, it was necessary to unmask the meaning of the term “educational policy”. Here, we challenged the contention made be leading researchers, such as Kingdon [1984/2003] who ran the thesis that the development and implementation of public policy isn’t a random event. Indeed, this present book has contended that an increasing level of school educational policy and practice is very much a random event, driven by media and politics, to the extent that even at times it can be described fairly as being irrational, maybe even approaching chaos theory.

Moreover, early, in tracing the impact of the dog-whistle dynamic on school educational policy we prompted a definition of the term “educational policy” complementing the definition provided by Lingard [2013]. By following the trail of the impact of the dog-whistle dynamic on school educational policy, we have demonstrated that this is anything but purposeful and rational. It’s highly random and strongly prone to politicization. Moreover, it’s transnational, with New York-based media moguls, through media deregulation, globalization and neoliberalism increasingly influencing school educational policy in multiple countries.

We have seen that researchers such as Hepp, et al [2018] had established the deep mediatization of educational policy, and in doing so had signalled the sustained interest by researchers in the mediatization of educational policy and practice. Indeed, our concern for the extent of the dog-whistling dynamic being imbedded in school educational policy and practice is a part of this enquiry, and we have seen how this phenomena stretches across the US, the UK and Australia.

Auspiciously, much of these media influences on school educational policy and practice can be traced back to the media deregulation that occurred as a result of globalization and the expansion of neoliberalism back the 1980s in the three countries which are the focus of our enquiry. Increasingly, as national governments assumed greater control over school educational policy, so did the process of deep mediatization intensify. But just as the dog whistling increases in its impact here, also there occurred the fake news phenomena, in a general media climate wherein “straight” news reporting was giving ground to opinion-based media news.

While researchers have shown which socio-economic groups are most opinion-based news, little has been done to reveal who’s taking the bait with dog-whistling school educational policy. This is despite the fact that dog-whistling school educational policy has been an important aspect of the political scene now for some decades, we really don’t know precisely who’s responding to the dog whistle — what members of which socio-political group are most likely to be taken in by it? Despite the important and enlightening research from such centres as the Washington DC-based Pew Research Center which has provided the voting public with such aspects of research as the question of trust in the mainstream news media, being able to distinguish between “fact” and opinion in “news” media, and questions concerning deeply divergent views about fake news and different responses to it, no similar research has appeared on dog-whistling dynamics.

The above, however, has to do with dog-whistle dynamics in a general sense. The question of just who “takes the bait” with dog-whistling school education policy — a more specific question — is more obscure, and little attended to by researchers and commentators. And most surprisingly, this paucity in research comes in the quite clearly rise in occasions and reach of dog-whistling dynamics, resulting in a dire paucity of informed knowledge — indeed, media citizenship — in school communities. Although there’s likely to be some symmetry between those age groups that the Pew Center found to be most likely to distinguish fact from opinion in “news” reports and those how age groups which are able to “spot” the dog whistle. But severe questions remain concerning their voting intentions and their socio-economic groups.

The relationship between school educational policy and the Foxification of politics and news in the US, the UK and Australia is another topic little researched. With its ABC as a national public broadcaster, Australian media is similar to the UK, and has a more balanced audience. We know the Foxification of US politics and news is more intense than it is in the UK and Australia, this view also takes into account the massive alleged influence that we have recorded of News Corporation orchestrating political leadership in the countries we have under consideration in this book. Moreover, school educational policy and practice will not escape these developments, as power, the media and school educational policy and practice increasingly become daily proceedings.

Assuredly, there will be no reversing the globalization of school educational policy, supported by the continued spread of the dog whistle. This is, of course, a partisan view, as Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign testified, there is much political capital to be gained from opposing globalization. In the pages of this book we have seen how they worked with him in spreading a message that globalization “is a word that conjures many images, none of them good: shuttered factories, unchecked immigration and a distant cabal that, believers say, controls the economy and the media” [Stack: 2016, npj. That might be so, but we know in the US, the UK and Australia, that globalization has meant massive uplifts in export earnings from fee-paying foreign students attending schools, colleges and universities. Now, a country’s educational integrity, its educational standards, have a powerful meaning for national governments — as opposed to local, territory or state authorities — and increasingly is likely to attract media support and political and journalistic dog whistling, at the same time increasing the deep mediatization of school educational policy and practice.

Neoliberalism is another common thread in the deep mediatization of school educational policy through the political and journalistic dog whistle. Indeed, this book has revealed how the dog-whistle dynamic walks hand-in-glove with neoliberalism. In few other instances of dog-whistling school educational policy do we see the interplay of moral panics and risk-society imperatives coming together than in the instances of racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia. As educational authorities, schools and teachers combine to protect Muslim students — often perceived as “the other” — this dog whistling is not likely to be manifested in overt and condoned behaviour, but rather something that occurs in such informal places as playgrounds and bus stops with students’ cell (mobile) phones in the vanguard of the assault. Here, we see the deep mediatization of school educational policy being the outcome of the dual forces of social media-supporting and mainstream media.

With Brexit, Farage, Trump and Hanson came a fresh wave of dog whistling, and the subsequent intensification of the deep mediatization of educational policy across our three countries. At a national level, as globalization increased in intensity, school educational policy was becoming politicized to the extent that it was claimed by some that the simple act of picking up the TV remote or selecting a newspaper from a stand became a political act. As societies laboured under risk-society tensions and anxieties, with conservative politics moving inexorably to the right a new framework for dog whistling emerged — there have emerged new moral panics, new ways for social media to impact on our daily lives, and on school educational policies and practices.

In attempting to look for answers to this intensification of dog whistling, generally, and it being directed more specifically to school educational policy and practice across the US, the UK and Australia, we have looked to this notion built as it is upon post-industrial society and post-material society. We have seen how the idea of reflexive modernization provides answers to a process of what has become the deep mediatization of school educational policy. Here it is proposed that modernity directs its attention to the process of modernization itself. In Beck, Bonss and Lau’s [2003, 1] words: “When modernization reaches a certain stage, it radicalizes itself” Amidst much tension and anxiety, now “society begins to transform, for a second time, not only the key institutions, but also the very principles of society. But this time the principles and institutions being transformed are those of modem society” [Beck, Bonss & Lau’s [2003, 1].

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