"Hey! They're trying to learn for free!": An Analysis of The Simpsons as a Satirical Portrayal of Neoliberal Influence on Public Education
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Rooted in the philosophy of Michael W. Apple, this thesis examines how The Simpsons has portrayed neoliberalism’s influence on public education. This thesis begins by reviewing literature related to The Simpsons’ ideological thrust. It considers how The Simpsons is rooted in a left-of-centre antagonism towards American hegemony, yet the program will mock anything it deems worthy of ridicule. Next, a framework of neoliberalism as it relates to public education is built using the works of Michael W. Apple. Four specific categories are put forth: privatisation, marketisation, performativity, and the enterprising individual. These categories form the basis of the conceptual content analysis that sampled each of The Simpsons’ 12 seasons before the 2001 introduction of No Child Left Behind, the United States’ widely-discussed neoliberal reform package to public education. The research data is explicated in a series of four chapters, each discussing how The Simpsons’ portrayals of education reflects neoliberalism as perceived by Apple. What emerged was that while The Simpsons tended to critique teachers and schools in a manner similar to what neoliberal ideology contends, when Springfield Elementary enveloped the neoliberal values and reforms that are believed to be a “fix” for education, it was most often further damaged. Because of this cynicism towards neoliberal reforms, this thesis concludes that The Simpsons provides wider opportunity to expose and discuss the folly of neoliberalism’s influence on public education.
DegreeMaster of Education (M.Ed.)
CommitteeBurgess, David; Orlowski, Paul; Prytula, Michelle; Woodhouse, Howard
Copyright DateAugust 2011