Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Policy discourses...

Many moons ago, when I was putting together my slides for a class where I introduce my students to critical narrative approaches to policy analysis, I came up with the following. I think it's quite clever and amusing, even looking back on it, so I thought I'd reproduce it here.

In the spirit of Deborah Stone's causal stories I tell my students a story, with a beginning...

"Once upon a time there was a village called Ricarston. All the villagers lived peacefully, growing crops to eat and working very hard in the local University. But, on a hill above the village was a cave and in the cave lived an evil dragon called Napier. Mayor Matthews, who ruled Ricarston benevolently, was scared of the dragon..."

A middle...

" dark and stormy night Napier swooped down from his cave and breathed fire throughout Ricarston. The poor villagers fought the fires on their thatched roofs. At number three Hermiston Walk, poor Mrs Chapman, the widower who took in orphans, burnt to death along with three-year-old Tommy..."

An elaboration:

"...Napier also swooped over the fields, scorching the earth and burning all the villagers’ crops. It was too late in the year for the seeds to be sown again so the villagers only had the food that could be saved from their stores. By the end of semester two they were so hungry they failed their exams..."

And an end:

"...The villagers were very angry. Just when they were going to give up and move to Edinborough, the great and fearless knight Sir Gov Ernment rode into town swinging his battleaxe with great big knobs on. He led the villagers on a charge up the mountain to Napier’s cave. After a short skirmish Napier was captured and imprisoned. He spent the rest of his live providing sustainable heating to the village of Ricarston by breathing fire."

I ask my students to identify who the story positions as the victim, who is to blame and who was the hero.

I then present an entirely different story, taking from the mythical policy document: Together, Forever: A Policy on Dragon-Village Relations in Edinshire

"Under the Universal Dragon Rights Directive, all dragons have a right to reside where they settle without interference from local communities. There should be an expectation on local communities to reinforce their dwellings from fire using steel sheeting and asbestos. Communities near a dragon nesting site should also take necessary action to ensure a secure supply of food in case of fire-based communication breakdowns..."

To demonstrate how causal stories can be hidden in technical language but still apportion blame and heroic status. So, do you support dragon rights?

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