Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Religious and Theological Studies

First Advisor

Katherine Turpin, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Antony Alumkal

Third Advisor

Judy Marquez-Kiyama

Fourth Advisor

Edward Antonio


American dream, Higher education, Meritocracy, Public theology, Social class, Sociology


U.S. political discourse about education posits a salvific function for success in formal schooling, specifically the ability to "save" marginalized groups from poverty by lifting them into middle- class success. The link between education and salvation is grounded in the historic relationship between Christianity and the establishment of public education in the United States. Initially, churches invested in schooling to form a Christian society. Today, the public institutions of education operationalize the ideology of meritocracy and promise individual success in the economic realm. Discourse analysis of political speeches and charter school programs demonstrates that education primarily offers its salvation to racial minority or working class students from communities deemed deficient because of their failure to adhere to dominant culture values. Theologically, this inadequate criterion for salvation embodies idolatry of the market and false belief in the saving power of human institutions. Depending solely on education for individual economic salvation overburdens formal schooling at the expense of considering other communal approaches to economic and social justice. An alternative theological vision seeks to free education from its role of credentialing savior to instead offer a more robust type of liberation, one that has been witnessed to throughout the history of popular education movements, and to chasten its public role as the sole path to economic salvation.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Hannah Kristine Adams Ingram

File size

174 p.

File format





Theology, Religion, Educational Philosophy