Educational Policy Analysis – Journal 13

I’m back in Cairo. I miss Rome and my friends. I miss the interesting discussions that I had with presenters and keynote speakers at the conference. But it’s not all bad because I get to have an interesting discussion in this week’s assignments for the course.

Ok, so I will include the questions and answers to the assignments here, and because this is a slightly less formal assignment, in the sense that it is not formulated as a research paper or essay, it’s pretty conversational and written in a familiar manner.

Demonstrate your knowledge about the content of this course by answering the following questions. Each answer must be within the range of 400 and 500 words, i.e., no more than one page per answer.

Question 1

Fischer and Forester (1993) claim that policy analysts ought to engage in the duality of substantive analysis and cogent articulation, which reflect the challenge of political astuteness and rational soundness. Given the policy analysis documents that you have read (for class and for self-enrichment) thus far, how have you understood this relationship to manifest in real terms? Feel free to provide real-life examples to support your answer.

Answer

The challenge of engaging in this duality of substantive analysis and cogent articulation is one that faces both policy analysts and policy makers. There is a tricky relationship and it is difficult, yet crucial, to find the balance between political astuteness and rational soundness. This duality of practice however is at the very core of argumentation as Fischer and Forester address it. Language is at the heart of this relationship as it is the medium people use to express the content as well as the way they deliver that content. The reason why it could be problematic if this balance is lacking is because if policy makers focus only on using language (without strong substance) to convey their message, there will be negative public feedback that there is absence of transparency. In addition, if they focus merely on conveying the situation as it is with absolute clarity, they will be faced with more anger and be accused of being heartless or inconsiderate. So it’s a tricky balance to achieve, yet it is crucial because as Fisher and Forester portray, one simply needs to exist in congruity with the other to achieve proper argumentation. Therefore, finding the language that would deliver a message accurately and at the same time not stir negative public opinion (or ideally stir positive opinion) is an important exercise policy analysts and policy makers face. I’ve understood this relationship, or the lack of it for that matter, to manifest in real terms with relevance to euphemisms used in political speeches and in societies. Real life examples of euphemisms used in political speeches are repeatedly found in Obama’s and the US Government’s public statements. An example, found in this article, that Obama constantly avoids using the word ‘war’ when addressing the US attacks on ISIS. He repeatedly refers to these violent attacks as ‘process’, ‘mission’, ‘unrest’, ‘fight’, ‘campaign’ or the most ironic, ‘a moment of American leadership.’ Another example of is Hillary Clinton’s speech on ‘business with Iraq.’ She said that Iraq has one of the largest oil reserves in the world so that makes it a potential business partner. A tweet by Jeanette Sandernista that includes a snippet of the speech said “#Hillary 2016’s “mistake” sent 67 sons & daughters of #Kentucky to their deaths in Iraq. But it was good business.” This portrays how politicians engage in political astuteness and use, or in this case I should say abuse, euphemisms when addressing the public in order to avoid saying the truth transparently. This example also shows the public’s reaction to this speech. This therefore highlights the lack of presence of this duality of rational soundness and political astuteness because they express the content in a sugar coated way without conveying the content, with its magnitude in a way fathomable to the public. That’s not to say that this is necessarily incorrect behavior, however it is to highlight the struggle of making both elements present upon addressing the public. The problem is they need to choose the language that will get the message across without offending, dismissing or negatively impacting anyone, while simultaneously choosing what to say so that it includes the important substance. In some ways this resonates with me as ‘political literacy’. I will end with a quote by the comedian George Carlin, who has a YouTube videoin which he talks about how politicians and consequently the society fall in the trap of using euphemisms as part of language nowadays and he said it perfectly; “You can’t be afraid of words that speak the truth, even if it’s an unpleasant truth….I don’t like words that hide the truth.” ~ George Carlin

 

Question 2

Rein and Schön (1993) differentiate between disagreements and controversies. How does this relate to frames? Provide a brief policy scenario to illustrate this difference.

Answer

Frames are essentially the eyeglasses through which people see and understand the world they live in and the circumstances that surround them. As a result, things cannot be separately and objectively analyzed and interpreted without the careful consideration of the individual frames that people possess or ‘look through’. The simplest way to identify the main difference between disagreements and controversies, with regards to Rein and Shön’s argument is this:

Disagreements occur within the same frame, meaning that there is no relativism to deal with because there is a standard common ground, while controversies occur between frames, which makes them complicated to mediate or resolve because there is no standard or common ground so this sets the bar of epistemological relativism. This is why, according to the authors, policy controversies are stubborn, immune to resolution and are rarely permanently resolved. Frames are the lenses through which individuals decide on and interpret evidence for problem solving and because the dynamics that trigger the resurfacing of policy are closely knit with individual frames, this leads to the lack of controversy resolutions. A policy scenario that would illustrate this difference is the case study of Peru’s educational reform outlined in Haddad’s Educational Policy-Planning Process: an Applied Framework. There was a coup d’etat in 1968 where a group of military officers, led by Velasco, overthrew the democratically elected government of Fernando Belaunde Terry. The military government then implemented a policy to reform the educational system, which was radical in that it proposed a complete reformation of the educational system and synoptic in that it was a) to be carried over the entire system in one sweeping motion and b) that it did not involve any interaction between governmental bodies; rather it was a decision taken by the governing military entity at the time. The reason I use this policy of reforming the Peruvian education system to illustrate my point is that there was a clear difference in frames (between the military government (Velasco) and the elected – then re-elected- (Belaunde) government) and also a difference within the frame (between the different interest groups under the military government). The policy was to provide universal diversified secondary schools (ESEPs) to all, so the general frame was that there should be an educational reform to take place as the current educational system was not satisfactory to both the government and the public. The disagreement was within the frame between the interest groups and the military government as all parties agreed that educational reform should take place, but they had different visions for the reform. The controversy was between the military government and elected government. Belaunde was keeping the educational system as is while Velasco, when he came to power, decided to carry out the reform. The proof of this major difference between frames is that shortly after Belaunde was re-elected and was back in power, he changed the educational system back to exactly what it was before he was overthrown. Moreover, proving the fact that it was a controversy, it was not resolved and it resurfaced more than just a decade after Velasco had supposedly resolved it. This matter of controversies and disagreements and their relation to frames deals with the concept of epistemological relativism that Rein and Schön discuss in their paper, which we also discussed in one of our class meetings. However, that would be a subject of another more elaborate discussion of the information and knowledge that set the basis for the reform as there is criticism of the research the military conducted saying that it was biased, relative and interpreted in a way to fit their revolutionary goals at the time.

We have our final class tomorrow, which José (my professor who is now a good friend of mine) has set up in a really cool and fun way. We are going to have a social gathering in the form of a dish party where everyone brings something to the table. I am mostly really excited for José’s peanut butter chicken, which he made last semester and I pretty much hovered, lol. Delicious!

More on the social gathering tomorrow 🙂

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