Theses Doctoral

Great Minds Speak Alike: Inter-Court Communication of Metaphor in Education Finance Litigation

Saleh, Matthew Christian

This project uses a mixed methods approach to analyze the communication of metaphors about educational equity and adequacy, between co-equal state supreme courts in education finance litigation (1971-present). Evidence demonstrates that a number of pervasive metaphors about students and educational opportunities (“sound basic education,” “marketplace of ideas,” students as “competitors in the global economy”) have been shared and conventionalized within judicial networks, with significant implications for how courts interpret educational rights under state constitutions. The project first conducts a qualitative discourse analysis of education finance litigation in New York State (four cases) using Pragglejaz Group’s (2007) Metaphor Identification Procedure, to identify micro-level examples of metaphor usage in actual judicial discourse. Then, it performs quantitative and qualitative social network analysis of the entire education finance judicial network for state supreme courts (65 cases), to analyze two different “relations” between this set of actors: shared citation (formal relation) and shared metaphor (informal relation). Data analysis shows that there exist both formal and informal channels of judicial communication—communication we can “see,” and communication we can’t—and commonalities in discursive strategies (informal ties) are, in some ways, potentially more cohesive than direct, formal ties. The project also finds that courts looking to break with existing state precedent are more likely to turn to inter-court metaphors to validate their holdings. This project seeks to describe how metaphors become diffuse within judicial networks, and more generally seeks to enhance understanding of the ways in which political viewpoints on public benefits and rights are communicated through elite channels.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Politics and Education
Thesis Advisors
Henig, Jeffrey
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 1, 2015