The President of the United States as public educator: A new historical perspective

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cultural Foundations of Education


John Briggs


Political science, American history, Educational theory

Subject Categories

Other Education


This study examines what scholars have written about the educative influences of the presidency and the Presidents of the United States. Asserting that the presidential role of public educator has always existed and is important, the author reviews works of history, political science, and biography, yielding evidence that several scholars have noted instances or aspects of presidential teaching, but very few have analyzed the phenomenon directly.

A conceptualization of public education is developed from existing definitions of education and an existing theory of public speech. Bodies of literature not regularly accessed by presidential scholars, including works on cognitive styles, rhetoric, and communication, are discussed and used to explain why presidential scholarship has rarely emphasized the educative nature of Presidents' words and deeds. A President-by-President analysis of the public educator role, based upon interpretation of scholarly writings in the context of new perspectives, is conducted for several twentieth-century Presidents. Implications for future Presidents and future researchers interested in public education or the presidency are discussed.


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