Sandlin, Jennifer April
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The purpose of this study is to explore how ideologies about work are enacted and negotiated in educational programs for welfare recipients. The research questions guiding this study were: 1) What ideological content is presented in the formal discourse of the program?, 2) What ideological content is brought to the programs by teachers?, 3) What ideological content is brought to the programs by students?, and 4) How are the ideologies expressed by the formal program discourse, teachers, and students negotiated and made manifest in the curriculum-in-use? | Data for this study was collected over a six-month period in two publicly funded educational programs for welfare recipients. Data consisted of interviews with students, teachers, and program administrators, classroom observations, official documents and curriculum materials, and informal conversations with teachers and students. | Analysis revealed four major ideological areas manifest in these programs: expected outcomes of education, constructions of participants, views of success, and gender and race issues. Within each of these areas, the official program discourses typically stressed mainstream views in accord with myths of educational amelioration and myths and stereotypes about the welfare system and welfare recipients. Findings also indicated that students and teachers each held conflicting views about these four ideological areas. The contradictions that arose among teachers and students showed that they at times questioned the official discourse of the programs. When examining the curriculum-in-use, however, I found that although teachers and students at times problematized official discourses in their interviews, these discourses were usually upheld when ideologies were enacted and negotiated in the classrooms. When students raised questions in class and sought to discuss problematic issues, they were discouraged from doing so by teachers, who quickly led discussions back into "safe zones" which upheld the official discourses of the program. | Four conclusions can be drawn from the findings of this study. First, myths of educational amelioration and stereotypes about welfare recipients are alive and well within these programs. Second, while the official discourse was pervasive and almost seamless in its support of dominant societal myths concerning education, employment, and welfare recipients, teachers and students were aware of contradictions within it. Third, in spite of the contradictions raised by teachers and students, the dominant discourses were the strongest and ultimately were enacted in practice. Finally, findings raise questions concerning the ability of these programs to solve unemployment problems, and raise issues about whose interests these programs are serving.