Competing discourses : a genealogy of adolescent literary discourses in New Zealand secondary education, 1870-2008 : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Education at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Massey University
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The thesis is a Foucauldian genealogy of adolescent, or secondary school, literacy discourses within Aotearoa New Zealand. It links cycles of competitive tension between local discourses of adolescent literacy to larger conflicts between national and international socio-economic discourses. Using Foucault’s view of discourse as epistemic formations that reflect the material contingencies of their time and place, I analyse why certain historical conditions generated particular taken-for-granted truths, knowledge and beliefs about literacy education and schooling for adolescent New Zealanders between the years 1870 and 2008. I apply Foucault’s analytic tools of discipline and control, biopower and governmentality to explore the complex relationship within New Zealand between adolescent literacy and early discourses of colonial economic development and social control (1870-1935), mid-twentieth century Keynesian national economic reconstruction and socially progressive education reform (1930s-1970s), and recent neo-liberal market and globalisation reforms of education (1980s-2008). In particular I examine the effect of international neo-liberal economic rationalist discourses advocated by the Organisation for Economic and Cultural Development (OECD) since the late 1960s, on contemporary conceptualisations of adolescent literacy and secondary schooling. I explain how the OECD’s international Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests reflect the OECD’s deeper discursive advocacy of managerial rationalist principles to frame an international policy consensus for national education policy making and reforms. Since 2000, PISA has emerged as a powerful global instrument of neo-liberal education policy standardisation that aims to comparatively measure the effectiveness of national secondary schooling systems and their teachers to generate literate adolescents as privatised human capital necessary to service the demands of the neo-liberal global economy. I conclude that New Zealand adolescent literacy education discourses have been continuously shaped by a priori positivist principles of post-Enlightenment scientific rationalism. These have variously emerged within subsequent discourses of classical, social and neo-liberal forms of economic rationalisation, policies of curriculum or syllabus reform, and historical conceptions of teacher identity. Notwithstanding their particular socio-cultural aspirations or intentions, all reflect the hegemonic dominance of the laws of market capitalism, and the need for schooling systems to satisfy its demands for trained, literate and credentialed human capital.
Language arts (Secondary), Adolescent literacy, Social aspects, Secondary education, High schools