Citation

"You'd better have a good story": Meaning structures and educational development

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Abstract:

This paper is a contribution to debates within globalization theory regarding the structure and role of discourses and discursive formations in the global diffusion of ideas, and uses the case of internationally-driven education policy reform in developing world contexts as a point of departure.

Specifically, it begins with the observation that contemporary debates in development have made much of the global spread of managerial orientations that promote the use of time-bound targets and numerical benchmarks, as well as a focus on 'measurable results,' as guides for policymaking and analysis. However, these orientations – reflected in frameworks that include the EFA Fast Track Initiative and the Millennium Development Goals – have often been criticized as insufficiently attentive to meaning and local context, whose explication demands more hermeneutically sensitive methods. This paper questions the utility of this familiar opposition by positing a relation of duality between, on the one hand, “rhetorics” that promote decoupling and abstraction, and, on the other hand, “stories,” which re-embed knowledge in historicity, personality, and agency. The distinction between rhetorics and stories is used as a baseline for developing a more complex understanding of how 'global discourses' operate across different social and institutional contexts.

Examining qualitative materials from different development organizations and foundations, this paper focuses on the education 'success story' as emblematic of this duality. It uses arguments developed by the sociologist Harrison White, who argues that actors operating in institutional fields characterized by a high degree of uncertainty and complexity must seek footing – temporary grasp over situation – by 'making meaning.' In this framework, rhetoric and story are deployed to rationalize contingencies, tame uncertainties, and extract meaning from the material, social, and temporal instabilities of context, providing actors with 'fresh' semantic resources capable of being exploited for future action.

Author's Keywords:

discourse
Convention
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Association:
Name: 55th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society
URL:
http://www.cies.us


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p486545_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Shiotani, Andrew. ""You'd better have a good story": Meaning structures and educational development" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 55th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society, Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Apr 30, 2011 <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p486545_index.html>

APA Citation:

Shiotani, A. , 2011-04-30 ""You'd better have a good story": Meaning structures and educational development" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 55th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society, Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth, Montreal, Quebec, Canada <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p486545_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: This paper is a contribution to debates within globalization theory regarding the structure and role of discourses and discursive formations in the global diffusion of ideas, and uses the case of internationally-driven education policy reform in developing world contexts as a point of departure.

Specifically, it begins with the observation that contemporary debates in development have made much of the global spread of managerial orientations that promote the use of time-bound targets and numerical benchmarks, as well as a focus on 'measurable results,' as guides for policymaking and analysis. However, these orientations – reflected in frameworks that include the EFA Fast Track Initiative and the Millennium Development Goals – have often been criticized as insufficiently attentive to meaning and local context, whose explication demands more hermeneutically sensitive methods. This paper questions the utility of this familiar opposition by positing a relation of duality between, on the one hand, “rhetorics” that promote decoupling and abstraction, and, on the other hand, “stories,” which re-embed knowledge in historicity, personality, and agency. The distinction between rhetorics and stories is used as a baseline for developing a more complex understanding of how 'global discourses' operate across different social and institutional contexts.

Examining qualitative materials from different development organizations and foundations, this paper focuses on the education 'success story' as emblematic of this duality. It uses arguments developed by the sociologist Harrison White, who argues that actors operating in institutional fields characterized by a high degree of uncertainty and complexity must seek footing – temporary grasp over situation – by 'making meaning.' In this framework, rhetoric and story are deployed to rationalize contingencies, tame uncertainties, and extract meaning from the material, social, and temporal instabilities of context, providing actors with 'fresh' semantic resources capable of being exploited for future action.


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