School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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Image of Graham Ashurst

Graham Ashurst

Research Student,


Research Summary

Research Summary

Current Status

PhD (part-time) - currently registered

Research Topic

A Rebel in Search of Tradition: Post-War American Education and the Career of Diane Ravitch

Research Summary

My PhD thesis will analyse the career of Diane Ravitch (born 1938), rated by Education Week in 2015 as the scholar contributing most substantially to public debates about education in the US. Since the 1960s, Ravitch has influenced American educational policy as an historian and writer, commentator and adviser, and - more briefly - as a government official, but there is currently no comprehensive study of her career. My thesis will use the medium of her career to explore the influence on American education of neoconservatism, multiculturalism, debates about educational standards, educational think tanks, and neoliberalism (with its emphasis on the 'reform agenda' of measurement, accountability and privitisation); it will also consider the recent growth of opposition to the 'reform agenda' in education.

My research will assess Ravitch's influence on American K-12 (kindergarten to 12th grade) education, considering how her career has developed in the light of the various ideological movements over the last 50 years, and identifying areas in which her contribution has been underregarded by existing scholarship. It will also analyse the extent to which certain of her current ideas (as a forceful critic of the 'reform agenda') are consistent with 'traditionalist' themes from her early career, based on defence of public schools, scepticism about voguish educational theories, and support for a broader curriculum taught by a respected teaching profession, which have developed through contestation with critics from both left and right.

Research Interests

  • American Educational History
  • Political Ideologies (Neoconservatism, The New Left, Neoliberalism)
  • Ethnic Groups and Multiculturalism
  • Contribution of Jewish-American Political Writers
  • Political think-tanks, particularly in the field of education
  • Teachers' Unions within the American Labour Movement

Research Supervisors

  • Dr. Christopher Phelps, Associate Professor of American History, University of Nottingham
  • Dr. Robin Vandome, Assistant Professor in American Intellectual and Cultural History, University of Nottingham

Research Institutes, Centres and/or Research Clusters Memberships

  • British Association for American Studies
  • Historians of the Twentieth Century United States
  • History of Education Society (US)

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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