Assigning Blame

Assigning Blame The Rhetoric of Education Reform

Mark Hlavacik
paper, 216 Pages
Pub. Date: September 2016
ISBN-13: 978-1-61250-972-3
Price: $32.00

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Despite a plethora of opinions on how to improve US education, a remarkable consensus has emerged that someone or something is to blame for the failures of the public school system, argues rhetoric scholar Mark Hlavacik in this new and insightful book examining the role of language and persuasion in the rise of the accountability movement. 


Assigning Blame is an invaluable guide to the rhetoric of educational policy. Whether pushing for privatization, more testing, or greater accountability, advocates in debates about public policy have consistently turned to the rhetoric of blame to animate their arguments and persuade their audiences. But, as Mark Hlavacik notes, this reliance on the rhetoric of blame to shape our understanding of public education has both rewards and consequences. — Kendall R. Phillips, professor of communication and rhetorical studies, Syracuse University, and president, Rhetoric Society of America

Hlavacik carefully intersects the fields of rhetoric and public policy to highlight the critical relationship between political rhetoric and policy making. This important book introduces the concept of ‘public blame’—tracing the persuasive role of calculated accusation as a strategy for garnering support for and against educational change. — Dana Mitra, professor of educational theory and policy, Penn State University

This fresh and provocative book by Mark Hlavacik explores the rhetorical power of blame in contemporary education reform. Using a series of illuminating and richly detailed case studies, he persuasively argues that a different discursive strategy will be required if we want our schools to have a more hopeful future. — Christopher P. Loss, associate professor, Vanderbilt University

Assigning Blame is a contribution that all educational researchers, policymakers, and the public in general need to add to their collections. — Bryan Mann, AJE Forum

And with the debate on 'school choice' set to continue for the foreseeable future, Assigning Blame is likely to remain important, if not essential, reading for those interested in the intersection of rhetoric and policy making. — Stephen Schneider, Michigan State University Press

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About the Author

Mark Hlavacik is Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at the University of North Texas in Denton. He specializes in rhetoric and public deliberation and his research focuses on contemporary and historical controversies over education policy in the United States.

In addition to Assigning Blame, Dr. Hlavacik has published work about the emergence of teachers union rhetoric, the opt-out movement, presidential rhetoric, and civic engagement on college campuses and in college debate. His work has appeared in Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Communication Education, Education Policy Analysis Archives, and Cultural Studies <=> Critical Methodologies. Alongside his work on the rhetoric of blame, Dr. Hlavacik is pursuing research concerning the rhetoric of education policy in the executive branch and the relationship between public education and propaganda analysis.

Dr. Hlavacik earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in the Department of Communication Arts & Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history with an endorsement in secondary education from Western Illinois University, where he was trained in a traditional teacher education program. He completed his student teaching in the Chicago Public Schools at Benito Juarez High School while coaching high school debate at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy.

Table of Contents


Blog Post: "The Paradox of Public Blame and the Prospects of Public Education"

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