this week I was in Rome for the AMICAL annual conference. It was an amazing experience for me because it was my first AMICAL conference to attend, and because I got to meet my online friends and spend a really nice time with them. I also made new friends, which was beautiful!
So this week I missed class because I was in Italy but I worked a lot of the course material. We had an online blackboard discussion board assignment. We were asked to write our answers to a question and respond to a peer’s answer to the other question. I actually started working on this assignment in the Cairo airport at 3 am, at which point I emailed José a question about the assignment and actually came up with the examples I will use, so apparently late nights and airports inspire me 🙂 I’m not usually a night owl, but it looks like I will be a good one if I decide to be.
I also worked on the other assignment, which I will blog about when I am done with : )
I found these particular assignments really interesting because they were designed in a way that would help us relate all the content and readings of the course to each other and to discuss them as educational policy analysis; the goal of the course. So for the discussion board I chose to answer the following question:
Kaplan (1993) argues in favor of narrative as a useful tool in the argumentative approach. How would you explain this relationship?
I know that upon reading this question a lot of people might not get it at first, but by reading my answer hopefully things will come into perspective.
Answer: Using narrative or stories as a tool in argumentation is not only an approach that leads to the argument being more enjoyable, but is also a strategic one. The reason I say this is because stories have the power to provide logical as well as emotional reasoning and allow listeners to follow the argument in a manner conducive to the particular point the speaker is making or leading to. After reading Fisher and Forester, one cannot understand this relationship between narrative as an approach to argumentation without also thinking of the duality of substantive analysis and cogent articulation. Powerful stories used in policy are not there just to entertain or inform people (‘infotainment’ as advertisers would call it) about an incident they didn’t previously know about, rather they would ideally contain this duality of delivering a substantive message using language strategically and intelligently. While powerful narratives or stories sound appealing, are easily understandable and enjoyable, they also usually have a powerful and impactful message, which leads to the argument being both politically astute as well as rationally sound. However, we need to be very careful with this approach to argumentation and be able to distinguish between stories and plots. According to Kaplan, stories are meant as the “organized discourse” that has a beginning, middle and an end. In other words, it’s a series of events that start somewhere, have a climax or a main message, and lastly has an ending point. Plots commonly contain specific interpretations that are tightly interwoven in the story, which oftentimes makes it challenging to distinguish between facts and the interpretation of these facts. As much as these interpretations can help people better understand complex policy scenarios and stories, they could also be biased and misleading, which is a popular criticism of interpretation. Thus, as policy analysts, we need to exercise caution in both using and analyzing the narrative approach in argumentation.
I don’t think I want to blog about my colleague’s answer and talk about my response to her, but she raised some very interesting and important points about Evidence Based Policy Making (EBPM) so I enjoyed reading as well as responding to her answer.
I need to run to attend the keynote session now but I will be back soon to reflect on next week’s assignments, which I am very excited to work on because they touch on controversy, disagreement, cogent articulation and substantive analysis.