Main Article Content
As social and economic problems change, so do the goals of education reformers. This content analysis of presidential debates transcripts, state of the union addresses, and education budgets from 2000 to 2015 reveals the ways in which presidents and presidential candidates have framed education goals thus far in the twenty-first century. Using Labaree’s (1997) framework of competing goals in American education, we found that democratic equality, social efficiency, and social mobility made their way into education discourse. Democratic equality occurred most frequently, followed by social efficiency, then social mobility. Presidents also used these goals in concert, applying symbolic language of equity to promote education policy initiatives framed as bolstering economic growth, America’s global competitiveness, and the opportunity for individuals to achieve the American Dream. Implications for federal education policy trends and frameworks for understanding the education goals of U.S. presidents in the 21st century are discussed.