College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree

Interdisciplinary Studies


reverential language


With teachers leaving the profession in greater numbers over the last ten years, many organizations have turned to assess the reasons behind the growing national teacher shortage. My thesis examines how specific language with origins in Christianity, mythology, and folklore, used to describe teachers in educational and political spaces, as well as public media, is deeply detrimental to progressive initiatives in public school systems across the United States. Through an examination of the history of our modern public school system in the United States, I argue that the use of this language, which I will call reverential language throughout this paper, was intentional, creating a willing public teaching workforce that was white, Christian, underpaid, and female, in order to assimilate or erase growing immigrant and Native American communities in the United States. Few realize the problematic origins of the language that has become so commonplace in education, or connect this language to an overwhelmingly white and female teacher workforce and expectations of student conduct. Reverential language, still prevalent today, sculpts an identity out of what should be a profession, normalizing low pay in education, causing high teacher turnover, higher rates of teacher burnout, and harming student growth and development as a result. In the last portion of my paper, I propose various ways to combat the effects of reverential language within the framework of our existing public education system.