Date of Graduation

Fall 2017


Master of Science in Applied Anthropology


Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Chair

Margaret Buckner


studying up, Texas, public education, social network analysis, policy, neoliberalism, ethnography

Subject Categories

Anthropology | Education | Education Policy | Other Anthropology | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social and Cultural Anthropology


For decades, public education in Texas has been entrenched in neoliberalism-inspired policies that research shows largely fail to produce promised results and have a tendency to perpetuate the very problems advocates claim the policies will solve. This raises questions about the decision-makers and what is happening in the public education policy process. In line with Laura Nader’s directive for more anthropologists to make those in power the subject of their research, I used both ethnographic and social network analysis methods to ‘study up’ in Texas public education. This study describes some relationships of members of the Texas State Board of Education and Texas Legislature, discusses implications of these relationships, and offers things that members of the general public can do to become more involved in the public education policy decision-making process. My investigation revealed that some actors have high degree centrality in the network, that homophily is present, and that opportunities for the general public to become more involved already exist; however, many people are unaware of them. Furthermore, people who utilize those opportunities often are ignored due to their behavior, their lack of knowledge on key issues, and/or their inability to present a reasonable alternative. Educational policy and practice are resistant to change due to the high levels of homophily. If people want to change policy, they must take advantage of opportunities and learn better advocacy methods.


© Hollie Wright

Open Access