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Current Issues and Their Relationship to Public Discourse

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: January 29, 2000
E-mail Faculty on the Site.

Current News as a Clue to Policy Directions
Essay added July 14, 1999.

Using a News Article to Make Conceptual Linkages Link added January 29, 2000.

Journal of the American Medical Association
Link checked January 26, 2000

The Shaken Baby Syndrome and New Definitions of Crime
Link added July 14, 1999.



Current News as a Clue to Policy Directions

Essay by Jeanne Curran and Susan Takata
Copyright July 1999. "Fair Use" encouraged.

We are used in the academy to following threads from theory to policy to practice. Current news issues offer us ample opportunities to follow those threads in a reverse direction. Theory, a "tried for" coherent picture of the world in which we live, is always with us. That theory informs our policy beliefs and attitudes. But we enter into spirited arguments over affirmative action, violence, the effects of the media, crime and its definitions, health care, with most of our focus on "facts," as we have just been given them, and not always by terribly reliable sources, and very little attention to the policies we are advocating and how those policies fit into our theoretical view of the world.

One plausible explanation as to why we are so poor at public discourse skills, why we inspire so little confidence in those who would guide us to self-governance (like Habermas) and so little fear in those who would usurp that right to self-governance (your choice of dictator or arrogant statesman), is that we have accepted methods of persuasion theory which do not call upon our assessing the argument. Such critical skills become even more crucial as electronic access means that more and more information will not only be there for you, but will sometimes be thrust upon you.

Since the primary goal of our site is the honing of public discourse and the provision of a forum in which to practice them, we will try to provide you with abundant practice material. The process of tracing the "story" that catches your attention will lead you to assess the policies being advocated, and then to think through those policies as competing policies amongst competing theories. There are no right answers. There aren't even very many "clear" barriers left in the social arena. Just when we think the Democrats have permanently adopted education as one of their issues, the Republicans display it pointedly in their platform.

Policies sound a lot alike. You'll need to trace them back to their theoretical underpinnings, to their unstated and privileged assumptions. And rhetoric will get in your way. Through the CURRENT ISSUES section, we'll try to address that. WE will not always be right in our interpretation of policy and theory. There is NO requirement that any of us be RIGHT. Only that we do our best to listen in good faith to all claims, and then verify to the extent possible the "facts" and clarify and state the assumptions of our theoretical position.

Bringing public attention to child abuse, which has for far too long remained concealed within the "private sphere," is one means of creating an awareness that our law in this area needs to change to protect children. That is never an easy task. There are often unforeseen consequences, even when the laws are written by seasoned legislators and well-respected jurists and legal professionals.

Laws designed to protect children from child abuse have offered tools to some adolescents that have been used against their parents. The tension between individual freedom and communal well being produces unanticipated results. This story on the shaken baby syndrome leads us to understand the need for protection. Locating sources through additional links, often supplied by the newspapers in their online editions, will often give you enough information to use the information in an academic setting.


Using a News Article to Make Conceptual Linkages

N.Y. times article, front page, January 29, on cancer victim compensation.

Link to helping.htm on what this definition of helping implies - is retribution helping? How does it take into account the community needs and costs and prevention?

Link also to Socrates to Psychoanalysis to Teaching and add to retribution, compensation, and prevention.