Blog Post

What do Think Tanks Produce?

Watching Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner being interviewed by David Wessel about the U.S. economy and financial challenges (C-Span; Peterson Institute 2012 Fiscal Summit) I pondered again how nuts&bolts technical communications might contribute to the project of producing a well informed citizenry. And more: how this might become part of our education system.

It seems to me the biggest contribution a think tank might make is to explicate the ideological basis of various opinions. (see Andrew Hoffman, School of Natural Resources and Environment UMichigan and Ross School of Business in my "Climate Change; Science and Public Opinion") Immediately what comes to mind is how "courseware" can provide a method for students and teachers to deconstruct and explore those thoughtful presentations.

What are the facts? What is the data, and what are our interpretations? What meaning do we project onto what we find in our world?

p.s. In the mid 70s I helped produce a series of public consultations on foreign policy, specifically treating how GATT impacted matters of social justice. At the end of the day I was deflated, feeling that all we'd done was contribute a set of confident opinions that were a yard wide and an inch deep. thinking about rhetoric I came up with "convince; compel; coerce; conquer". only many years later, reading Jurgen Habermas, did I realize how true discourse can dis-solve the problematic.




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