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Crafting policies about controversial values: How wording disputes manage a group dilemma

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Over a six-month time period a school board and its community discussed their district's strategic plan goals about diversity. This article analyzes that discussion within the practical theory frame articulated by Craig. Meeting talk and documents were analyzed to determine how the group's policy deliberation became an argument over what words to have (or avoid) in the strategic plan document. Proposals about document language were framed as technical editing, as inadvertent changing of a policy, and as wordsmithing. In addition to each frame being used, each was also challenged as to its being used to advance some group members' interests at the expense of others. Moving back and forth between using and resisting wording proposal frames, we suggest, is a reasonable way for groups to manage a dilemma they face in crafting policies about controversial, abstract issues. The paper concludes by identifying implications for dilemma theorizing and future study of groups.
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Keywords: Practical theory; group deliberation; institutional discourse; interactional dilemmas; policy discussion; wordsmithing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Communication, University of Colorado-Boulder 2: Department of Education, University of Colorado-Boulder

Publication date: 01 November 2001

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