Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Capstone Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)


Public Policy and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Michelle Wade, Ph.D., MPA

Committee Member

Kristen Crossney, Ph.D.


This capstone examined the National Defense Education Act’s (NDEA) (1958) gifted education policy elements and associated discourse through a social constructivist policy lens. Specifically, the capstone considered: 1) how the NDEA describe the nature of giftedness and 2) how the NDEA’s discourse-based elements converged and diverged from the NDEA’s enacted statutes.

The NDEA was America’s first piece of federal legislation which addressed gifted education providing direct funding to states and local education authorities. Nevertheless, the NDEA does not explicitly define giftedness. As such, the NDEA and its associated discourse provide insight into the implicit conceptualization of giftedness.

The capstone utilized a discourse-historical approach (DHA) framework to examine the NDEA's Congressional testimony and statutes. As DHA seeks to integrate the context of the discourse into its analysis, references to the socio-political climate of the 1950s were noted in addition to references associated with giftedness. As such, the discourse-based analysis allowed for implicit discourse elements to emerge and be critiqued.

By examining these discourse materials, the capstone found the NDEA’s discourse supported an intelligence-based understanding of giftedness. However, the NDEA’s testimony and enacted legislation did not support a large-scale national intervention; the intervention was limited to a testing scheme and counseling program.

The NDEA lacked an explicit conceptualization for gifted children. In the absence of explicit definition, associated discourse provides an avenue to understand how a target population is understood. In the case of the gifted children, the NDEA reinforced traditional values resulting in undeserving status.