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 US 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.


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