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Values: Waste Not, Want Not

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: February 6, 2006
Latest Update: February 6, 2006

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Index of Topics on Site Watching the Left Wing Reframe an Issue: Waste

This lecture is based on Joe Nocera's New York Times article on February 4, 2006 in the Business section: Good Luck With That Broken iPod at p. B 1. Backup. I accessed the article on February 4, 2006, to illustrate how both Republicans and Democrats are reframing arguments to reflect basic values on which they differ. (see Dissolving Marriage: If everything is marriage, then nothing is..

What This Lecture Is About: (Repeated in Waste Lecture.)

I'd like to examine the two articles, one on marriage, one on obsolescence and waste, as a means to understanding reframing in terms of values. We are experiencing an unprecedented appeal to sophisticated reasoning in an electoral climate which is both never-ending and given to sound bites. The sophisticated reasoning was not taught to most us - my generation is often unaware of it because of the newness of the cognitive linguistics field. And it has never been taught below college level, to my knowledge. The sound bites in our campaign literature and materials use values to persuade, and the values are often mis-represented.

Basically, what I'm saying is that if you want to know what's going on in our government discourse right now, you're gonna have to understand reframing and an appeal to values. Something Americans haven't practiced in a long, long time. Then once we understand that, we'll try to figure out where all this fits in No child Left Behind.

We've been discussing how the rising tide of frustration amongst the half of the U.S. who voted for the oppostion is forcing politicians, folks, and scholars to question how the administration has been able to consistently sell an agenda that is so unpopular with many of us. That's a valid question. It illustrates how we need our theory and application from research to guide us more effectively through the social system. It also seems to represent a much stronger division in the U.S. than most of us think really exists. We've come to think of red states and blue states, as though these were not social constructions that demand a much more thorough investigation than they've been given yet, except for politicians trying to figure out how to win an election.

George Lakoff, who identifies himself as a progressive, explains this reframing as part of cognitive linguistics, a new field he teaches at Berkeley. He reports research in his field that suggests that facts (like evidence in court) are only processed when they fit a frame the listener is used to and accepts. For example, in choosing a jury for a criminal trial, lawyers want to know that the juror hasn't got any pre-formed opinions about guilt or innocence. So when a juror says "Well, he must be guilty because he's here in court and the police arrested him," the juror is dismissed because he/she is already biased against the defendant. And the judge may remind that juror that in the United States one is innocent until "proven" guilty.

Why dismiss the juror, and not just explain that to him/her? Because the juror has indicated that he/she is receiving information or facts in a frame that includes a belief that "good people don't get arrested." The frame continues to operate, even when the juror is told that that is an unacceptable bias. If the juror believes it, he/she is going to interpret facts through that perspective. So he/she must be dismissed in the interest of a fair trial.

What triggers a frame? Words or actions ("sound bites") that have been associated with values or key concepts the juror has learned that suggest the frame. Lakoff says those words or actions make the frame active. In this case, the defendant is in a court room as a defendant. He must have done something wrong. Frame activated. Bias will block the processing of what is said that conflicts with that bias.

Analysis soon . . . jeanne

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