Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education Policy, Planning, and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Orkideh Mohajeri, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Cheryl Neale-McFall, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Chris Stangl, Ph.D.


Critical Race Theory (CRT) in public education is a hotly contested issue across the nation. Since 2020, multiple legislators in several states have introduced legislation that would ban the instruction of CRT in public universities. This qualitative study explored Discourse models supported and upheld by these bills along with Whitelash strategies used to promote them. I examined 53 bills proposed by lawmakers, most of which contained lists of phrases usually called “divisive concepts” or “discriminatory concepts” that professors were prohibited from discussing in their classrooms. In addition, I analyzed 26 statements made by supporters of the bills that provided justification for the anti-CRT bans. Along with Critical Discourse Analysis, I used Discourse model tools developed by Gee (2005, 2014) and legal analysis to complete the study. Four Discourse models supported by the bills and statements emerged from the data: Neoliberalism, Nationalism, Colorblindness, and Law as Morality. These Models revealed a growing tendency to use the powers of the government to excise the tenets of CRT from educational systems and to deny the existence of systemic racism in the US. The legal analysis exposed issues that may result if the bills are enacted. This study also discovered eight strategies of Whitelash used in the bills and justification statements: Legitimation, Denial, Fear, Legal Maneuvers, Rhetorical Versatility, Persuasion, Prophesying, and White Innocence. These strategies were used to endorse and bolster the Discourse models. Recommendations for future research include application of the findings to examine future bills that may be proposed affecting classroom instruction in public universities. This study contributes to the understanding of Whitelash strategies used by lawmakers to support legislation.