Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

William F. Pinar


Present day America is perceived as immersed in a moral crisis due to certain cultural conditions; that national identity has fractured, resulting in a pervading sense of uncertainty and anxiety about the future; that public schools, as institutions charged with preserving the symbols of national identity and a morality that is the concrete expression of those symbols, have failed and must be reformed; and finally, that only through "schooling" can America be saved from this current cultural crisis. This rhetorical trajectory has a history that extends back to the Puritans who settled in America during the early seventeenth century and produced what was to become the New England Way, then Yankee Way and finally American Way. Puritans generated a symbolic narrative that assembled, as well as constrained, the possible ways of perceiving and embodying the American identity and a sense of sacred/secular historical mission attached to that identity. This group also supplied the forms by which this symbolic narrative would be given to future generations. The intent of this historical sortie is to explicate these elements within the American psyche by exploring the effects of the symbolism at different points in American history--Puritans during the 1600s and 1700s; the Gilded Age, the period beginning after the Civil War and extending to the first part of the twentieth century when the urban Protestant middle class ascended to cultural dominance; and the present age. A specific and vital operation will be to explore the relationship between the purpose of education (and how this term has shifted in meaning) and the notion of an American identity and morality perceived as crucial to the impulse to view America as having a sacred/secular purpose.