Publicwashing in Education: Definition, Motives, and Manifestations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This essay coins and conceptualizes the term “publicwashing.” In educational systems and organizations, publicwashing is a symbolic communication that emphasizes organizational publicness for the purpose of a superficial repair of reputation. The essay defines publicwashing and describes its motives and manifestations. Additionally, it illustrates publicwashing by discussing the concept in the context of the U.S. charter school reform. Adopting the lens of symbolic communication in the charter school case illustrates how the discrepancy between the “public” label and private characteristics of charter schools is managed through public relations. Future studies of publicwashing in education can further apply the symbolic communication approach to various cases, contexts, and deceptive strategies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEducational Researcher
Early online date7 Jan 2022
StatePublished Online - 7 Jan 2022


  • change
  • educational policy
  • organization theory
  • organization theory/change
  • policy analysis
  • private education

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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