Creating a Crisis: Selling Neoliberal Policy Through the Rebranding of Education
AbstractHow is it that neoliberal education policies, often lacking evidentiary basis, come to be endorsed—often by the very people they alienate and marginalize? This work seeks to expose how this kind of exclusive policy is sold to a public through intricate hortatory tools. Using critical policy analysis with an emphasis on historical development and political sociology, I employ marketing literature on branding as the analytical framework for a case study of the government’s education platform in Ontario, Canada. At the conclusion, I propose that it is necessary to step away from accountability jargon to reconsider the purpose of education and to recuperate what it means to be responsible for rather than accountable to one another.
Abrams, M. (1952). The sources and nature of statistical information in special fields of statistics: Statistics in advertising. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 115(2), 258-264.
Alphonso, C. (2016, August 31). Ontario addresses math score decline amid worry from parents, educators. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from
Amrein-Beardsley, A. (2014). Rethinking value-added models in education: Critical perspectives on tests and assessment-based accountability. New York: Routledge.
Amrein, A. L., & Berliner, D. C. (2003). The effects of high-stakes testing on student motivation and learning. Educational Leadership, 60(5), 32-38.
Anderson, G., & Cohen, M. I. (2015). Redesigning the identities of teachers and leaders: A framework for studying new professionalism and educator resistance. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 23(85), 1-25. http://dx.doi.org/10.14507/epaa.v23.2086
Apple, M. W. (2001). Markets, standards, teaching, and teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 52(3), 182-196.
Apple, M. W. (2005). Are markets in education democratic? Neoliberal globalism, vouchers, and the politics of choice. In M. Singh, J. Kenway, & M. W. Apple (Eds.), Globalizing education: Policies, pedagogies, & politics (pp.209-230). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.
Ball, S. (2005). Education policy and social class: The selected works of Stephen Ball. London: Routledge.
Bartlett, L., Frederick, M., Gulbrandsen, T., & Murillo, E. (2002). The marketization of education: Public schools for private ends. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 33(1), 5-29.
Barwise, P., & Meehan, S. (2010). The one thing you must get right when building a brand. Harvard Business Review, 88(12), 80-94.
Beckmann, A., Cooper, C., & Hill, D. (2009). Neoliberalization and managerialization of “education” in England and Wales: A case for reconstructing education. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 7(2), 310-345.
Biesta, G. J. (2004). Education, accountability, and the ethical demand: Can the democratic potential of accountability be regained? Educational Theory,
Biesta, G. (2009). Good education in an age of measurement: On the need to reconnect with the question of purpose in education. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 21(1), 33-46.
Bracey, G. W. (2008). Cut scores, NAEP achievement levels and their discontents. The School Administrator, 65(6), 20-23.
Brennan, R. (1995, September 13). Minister called dishonest: Proposed creating 'useful crisis' in Ontario education. The Hamilton Spectator, p. A1-A2.
Brewer, C. A. (2014). Historicizing in critical policy analysis: The production of cultural histories and microhistories. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 27(3), 273-288.
Brown, L. (2009, December 01). Schools plan curriculum overhaul. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from http://www.parentcentral.ca/parent/education/
Carr, P. R. (2010). Re-thinking normative democracy and the political economy of education. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies,8(1), 1-40.
Csanady, A. (2016, September 5). Ontario’s math scores started declining as kids took the new curriculum, according to EQAO data. The National Post. Retrieved from http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-politics/ontarios-math-scores-started-declining-as-kids-took-the-new-curriculum-according-to-eqao-data
Dale, J., & Hyslop-Margison, E.J. (2010). Paulo Freire - Teaching for freedom and transformation: The philosophical influences on the work of Paulo Freire,
New York: Springer.
Duchesne, M. (1999). Mike is the message: Performing the Common Sense Revolution. Theatre Research in Canada, (20)1. Retrieved from http://lib.unb.ca/Texts/TRIC/bin/get6.cgi?directory=vol20_1/&filename=Duchesne.htm
Education Quality and Accountability Office. (2006). Annual report 2004-2005: Working together to improve student learning. Retrieved from
Education Quality and Accountability Office. (2010a). Ontario student achievement: EQAO’s provincial elementary school report on the results of the 2009–2010 assessments of reading, writing and mathematics, primary division (Grades 1–3) and junior division (Grades 4–6). Retrieved from http://www.eqao.com/en/assessments/results/assessment-docs-elementary/provincial-report-elementary-grade9-2010.pdf
Education Quality and Accountability Office. (2011a). EQAO’s province-wide tests: The power of good information. Retrieved from http://www.eqao.com/pdf_e/11/Cpogi_ne_0211_WEB.pdf
Education Quality and Accountability Office. (2011b). Highlights of the provincial results. Retrieved from http://www.eqao.com/en/assessments/results/
Education Quality and Accountability Office. (2016). EQAO’s provincial elementary school report: Results of the 2015–2016 assessments of reading, writing and mathematics, primary division (Grades 1–3) and junior division (Grades 4–6). Retrieved from
Eppert, C. (2000). Relearning questions: Responding to the ethical address of the past and present in others. In R.I. Simon, S. Rosenberg, & C. Eppert (Eds.), Between hope and despair: Pedagogy and the representation of historical trauma (pp. 213-230). New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
Ferguson, R. (2016, September 12). Five highlights from Kathleen Wynne’s throne speech. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/09/12/throne-speech-highlights.html
Fetscherin, M. (2010). The determinants and measurement of a country brand: The country brand strength index. International Marketing Review, 27(4), 466-479.
Fletcher, F. (1999). Political communication and public discourse. Research Project: Canada Watch, 7(6). Retrieved from www.yorku.ca/robarts/projects/canadawatch/pdf/vol_7_6/?fletcher.pdf
Gledhill, J. (2007). Neoliberalism. In D. Nugent & J. Vincent (Eds.), A companion to the anthropology of politics (pp. 332-348). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Government of Alberta: Education. (2010). Standards: Curriculum, assessment, achievement. Retrieved from http://education.alberta.ca/admin/testing/achievement/standards.aspx
Gummesson, E. (2008). Total relationship marketing (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Elsevier.
Hall, K. (2003). Listening to Stephen read: Multiple perspectives on literacy. New York: Open University Press.
Hammer, K. (2010, November 26). Ontario school system ranks among best in world, report says. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario/ontario-school-system-ranks-among-best-in-world-reportsays/article1816001/comments/?service=mobile&tabInside_tab=0
Howarth, D. (2010). Power, discourse, and policy: articulating a hegemony approach to critical policy studies. Critical Policy Studies, 3(3-4), 309-335, DOI: 10.1080/19460171003619725
Heble, A. (1997). New contexts of Canadian criticism: Democracy, counterpoint, responsibility. In A. Heble, D. P. Pennee, & J. R. (Tim) Struthers (Eds.) New contexts of Canadian criticism (pp. 78-97). Peterborough, ON: Broadview.
Hollis, N. (2005). Ten years of learning on how online advertising builds brands. Journal of Advertising Research, 45(2), 255-268.
Hopmann, S. T. (2008). No child, no school, no state left behind: schooling in the age of accountability. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 40(4), 417-456.
Kapferer, J. N. (1998). Strategic brand management: Creating and sustaining brand equity long term (4th ed.). Philadelphia: Kogan Page.
Kerr, L. (2006). Between caring and counting: Teachers take on education reform. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Klinger, D. A., DeLuca, C., & Miller, T. (2008 July). The evolving culture of large-scale assessments in Canadian education. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 76. Retrieved from https://www.umanitoba.ca/publications/cjeap/articles/klinger.html
Kohn, A. (2000). The case against standardised testing: Raising the scores, ruining the schools. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Kohn, A. (2004, November/December). Joyless endeavors. Teacher Magazine, 16(3). Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2004/11/01/03view.h16.html
Kohn, A. (2010). How to create non-readers: Reflections on motivation, learning and sharing. English Journal, 100(1), 16-22.
Levinas, E. (1989). The Levinas reader. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
Mackenzie, H. (1998). Education funding in Ontario: How the Government used its new funding formula to short-change our children’s future (Research Report No. 5). Retrieved from Ontario Federation of Labor website: http://www.ofl.ca/uploads/library/economy/tp5.pdf
Moore, Paddy. (2003). Party platforms: Education. Canada Broadcast Corporation. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/ontariovotes2003/features/ed_platforms_052903.html#liberal
Murphy, S. (2001). “No-one Has Ever Grown Taller as a Result of Being Measured” revisited: More educational measurement lessons for Canadians. In J. P. Portelli & R. P. Solomon (Eds.), The erosion of democracy in education: Critique to possibilities (pp. 145-167). Calgary, AB: Detselig Enterprises.
Neumeier, M. (2006). The brand gap: How to bridge the distance between business strategy and design. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.
Noddings, N. (2003). Happiness and education. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Olson, L. (2007). Ontario pins hopes on practices, not testing, to achieve. Education Week, 27(9). Retrieved from http://www.michaelfullan.ca/Articles_07/Articles_07a.pdf
Ontario Liberal Party. (2007). Moving forward together. Retrieved from
Ontario Ministry of Education, Royal Commission on Learning. (1994a). For the love of learning. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/
Ontario Ministry of Education, Royal Commission on Learning. (1994b). For the love of learning: Short version. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/abcs/rcom/short/short.html
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2007). Tutoring initiatives. Retrieved from
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2008a). Ontario Focused Intervention Partnership (OFIP). Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/ofip.html
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2008b). Teaching-learning critical pathways: Moral imperative. Retrieved from http://www.curriculum.org/secretariat/
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2009). The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/moreinfo.html
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2010a). Schools on the move: Lighthouse program. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/schoolMove.html
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2010b). The K–12 school effectiveness framework: A support for school improvement and student success. Retrieved from
Ontario. Ministry of Education. (2010c). Growing success: Assessment, evaluation, and reporting in Ontario schools. First edition, covering grades 1 to 12. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/growSuccess.pdf
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2011). School information finder. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/sift/
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2016). Elementary education: Links section. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/elementary.html
O’Sullivan B. (1999). Global change and educational reform in Ontario and Canada. Canadian Journal of Education, 24(3), 311-325.
Pinto, L. E. (2012). Curriculum reform in Ontario: ‘Common Sense' policy processes and democratic possibilities. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Popham, W. J. (2001). The truth about testing: An educator’s call to action. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Pouchol, M. (2006). The power of large companies. In B. Laperche, J. K. Galbraith, & D. Uzunidis (Eds.), Innovation, evolution and economic change: New ideas in the tradition of Galbraith (pp. 71-85). Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.
Radwanski, G. (1987). Ontario study of the relevance of education and the issue of dropouts. Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Education.
Ricci, C. (2007). Poisoned apples: An insider exposes the victimization, abuse, politics, associated pain and SOLUTIONS to our educational crisis. Retrieved from http://www.nipissingu.ca/education/carlor/books/Poisoned_Apples.pdf
Rodgers, J. (1952). The use of statistics in advertising and marketing. The Incorporated Statistician, 3(2), 6-22.
Sattler, P. (2012). Education governance reform in Ontario: Neoliberalism in context. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 218, 1-28. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ971058.pdf
Scott, D. M. (2015). The new rules of marketing and PR: How to use social media, online video, mobile applications, blogs, news releases, and viral marketing to reach buyers directly. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Shanklin, N. (2010). New puzzles / next moves: Inventing your way into high-quality student discussions. Voices From the Middle, 18(2), 63-65.
Sichel, D. E. (1994). Inventories and the three phases of the business cycle. Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, 12(3), 269-277.
Simanis, E. (2009, October 26). At the base of the pyramid. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/
Sleeter, C. E. (2007). Facing accountability in education: Democracy and equity at risk. New York: Teachers College Press.
Stevenson, V. (2016, August 31). Half of Ontario’s grade 6 students failed to meet math standard. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2016/08/31/
Tellis, G. J. (1988). Advertising exposure, loyalty, and brand purchase: A two-stage model of choice. Journal of Marketing Research, 25(2), 134-144.
Tikly, L., & Barrett, A. M. (2011). Social justice, capabilities and the quality of education in low income countries. International Journal of Educational
Development, 31, 3-14.
Wilson, J. (2007, September 20). Election promises. CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/ontariovotes2007/features/features-promises.html - lib
Winton, S. (2010). Democracy in education through community-based policy dialogues. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 114. Retrieved from http://www.umanitoba.ca.ezproxy.library.yorku.ca/publications/cjeap/articles/comm5-winton.html
Zegarac, G., Drewett, B., & Swan, R. (2008, May-June). Closing the gap as the overarching goal: Changing special education practices and outcomes. Paper presented at the 2008 Annual Conference of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education, Vancouver, BC. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/research/specEd_AERA_CSSE.pdf
Copyright (c) 2017 Lana Parker
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
a. Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
b. Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
c. Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.