Neoliberalism, Resistance, and Self-Limiting Language


  • Christopher Lubienski Indiana University and East China Normal University



education policy, education reform, equity, critical theory


This discussion offers an overview of the articles and themes developed by the papers in this special issue on Chicago school reform, and also some critical comments on such scholarship.  It highlights how these reforms are not organic, as they are often portrayed, but are instead a result of strategic efforts by policymakers and special interests.  As the authors of these articles show, these reforms essentially experiment with education “innovations” on poor and minority children in a context where segregation appears to be increasingly accepted.  But while the efforts of equity-minded researchers in addressing these issues should be lauded, this discussion goes further and offers some critical commentary on researchers’ use of language, arguing that we too often alienate ourselves from both the policymakers we seek to influence and from the people we seek to help.  By adopting exclusive language common in critical theory’s attack on “neoliberalism,” scholars may try to enhance their own credibility by demonstrating familiarity with obscure terminology, but in doing so, may be creating another echo-chamber which excludes them from policy discussions that can effect substantive change.


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Author Biography

Christopher Lubienski, Indiana University and East China Normal University

Christopher Lubienski is a Professor of education policy at Indiana University, and also a fellow with the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado and Visiting Professor at East China Normal University in Shanghai.  His research focuses on education policy, reform, and the political economy of education, with a particular concern for issues of equity and access.  His recent book, The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools (with co-author Sarah Theule Lubienski, University of Chicago Press), won the 2015 PROSE Award for Education Theory from the American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence, and his next book, The Impact of Market Mechanisms on Educational Opportunity around the Globe (co-edited with Bekisizwe Ndimande), will be published by Routledge in 2017.




How to Cite

Lubienski, C. (2017). Neoliberalism, Resistance, and Self-Limiting Language. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 25, 60.



Restructuring and Resisting Education Reforms in Chicago’s Public Schools