This dissertation identified ideas and prototypes framing the notion of “preschool” in two types of influential public discourses in Arizona during the 1987-2014: a) editorials, op-editorials, and opinion letters appearing in the Arizona Republic and Arizona Daily Star and b) political documents, including Senate and House Committee Meeting Notes and Comments, Gubernatorial Speeches, Executive Orders, Comments, Proclamations, Memos, and Press Releases. Seventy seven newspaper articles and 43 political documents that substantively addressed debates about preschool in Arizona were identified from an initial pool of 631 documents, of which, 568 were newspaper articles and 63 were political documents.
This dissertation argues little progress can be made in education policy by ignoring the unconscious and automatic levels of thinking, which are not easily dissuaded with rational and factual arguments. Haas and Fischman’s (2010) model for identifying prototypes provided an analytical method to capture the richness and diversity of the educational policy debate about preschool in Arizona. Prototypes captured the values, ideologies and attitudes behind the discourse of “preschool.” Prototypes provide a window into the unconscious thoughts of the authors of the editorials, op-editorials, opinion letters and political documents. This research identified five newspaper prototypes: “Last Resort,” “Community and Family,” “Evidence-Based for At-Risk Children,” “New Knowledge Community,” and “Learner of 21st Century.” It also identified four political political prototypes: ,three of them (“Community and Family,” “Evidence-Based for At-Risk Children,” “Learner of 21st Century”) were aligned with the newspaper prototypes. The fourth prototype was “Arizona Citizen.”
This research concluded that: (1) Multiple “truths” of the concept of “preschool in the newspaper and political documents existed between 1987 and 2014, (2) An inter-relational cross-over existed between the newspaper and political documents effecting the policy debate of preschool, and (3) In less than 30 years, the newspaper and political prototypes narrowed to one. Movement away from the rational policy model, and a broader use of prototypes and discourse analysis in education policymaking, is advocated.