Term of Award

Winter 2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)


Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Dr. Ming Fang He

Committee Member 1

William Schubert

Committee Member 2

John Weaver

Committee Member 3

Daniel Chapman

Committee Member 3 Email



This study explores the experiences of four students in a Southeast Georgia high school. Theoretically drawing on critical pedagogy grounded in critical theory (Horkheimer, 1982) and Joseph Schwab’s four commonplaces: teachers, learners, subject matter, and milieu (Schwab, 1970), I explore how the structure of schooling perpetuates the apathetic attitudes of the four students from various ethnicities and backgrounds who participated in this study (Freire, 1978; McLaren, 2007; Giroux, 2000; Kincheloe, 2008). Methodically, I used interviews in order to allow my participants to tell their stories (Denzin & Lincoln, 1998; Ladson-Billings, 2007; Spradley, 1979; Kyale 2006) in regards to their schooling in a Southeast Georgia high school. The Four participants, David, Delilah, Kevin, and Julie each faced adversity in the schooling process and in life. They were excluded from true meaningful participation in the educational process by the school structure and climate as well as the attitudes of the educators.

There are six meanings that emerged from my study. (1) In order to enjoy what they learn, learners must feel valued, be given equal opportunities and accesses, and be allowed to voice their concerns and perspectives about what they experience every day in school. (2) In order to engage learners in active learning with joy, the subject matter should not be standardized; rather it should be culturally relevant, academically engaging, and intellectually challenging. (3) Contemporary public schools reproduce power structures and perpetuate inequalities that negatively affect student achievement. (4) There is a pressing need for a critical analysis of how the restrictive and oppressive structure of contemporary high schools, intensive standardized testing, and accountability mandates have a detrimental effect on the school success of learners. (5) It is of paramount importance to develop a critical pedagogy of caring and justice that cultivates critical consciousness within teachers, learners, school leaders, and other stakeholders. (6) An inspiring learning environment needs to be created where the four commonplaces of curriculum interact dynamically among teachers, learners, subject matter and milieu so that diverse funds of knowledge held by learners can be used to develop learners’ capabilities in reading, thinking, writing, and knowing.