Date of Award

Winter 3-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Jeffrey Kuzmic

Second Advisor

Hilary Conklin

Third Advisor

Gonzalo Obelleiro


For centuries, schooling has served as the primary precursor to jobs and careers, and ultimately the window of opportunity toward economic mobility. Vocationalism describes the economic potential of education, represented by the synthesis of educational policy, curricula, and ideology. This study contends that vocationalism has conditioned the public toward the disposition of education as a social commodity for the development of human capital. In turn, this study explores the significance of vocationalism through a critical-historiographical case study of educational reforms within Milwaukee during the Progressive Era. This study asks the question, how has ideology contributed toward the establishment of vocationalism in Milwaukee? This exploration of Milwaukee’s educational history provides an examination of the construction and promotion of vocationalism that has influenced the purpose of schooling within a community that has epitomized proletarianization. The findings of this study focus on inferences made by the review of primary archival materials and secondary sources from a historiographical, critical constructivist paradigm. The findings suggest that vocationalism in Milwaukee was socially constructed in response to four themes (a) emerging tensions between vocational schooling and academic education; (b) an ideology of altruism in response to an economic decline; (c) the discourse of grassroots reforms; and (d) the emergence of a democratic, egalitarian education that aimed to develop youth in preparation for work.