Drawing from a two-year ethnography of three school districts in Wisconsin, this project analyzes local school-board deliberations over education policy. Bringing together citizens with different values, knowledge, interests, and resources, these deliberations demonstrate the perils and promise of local enactments of democracy. My analysis of the deliberations focuses on four major themes: ideology, inequality, trust, and expertise. Analysis of these four themes demonstrates not only how these local Wisconsin communities handled complicated and sometimes contentious issues, but how we may imagine more inclusive, efficacious models of deliberation that foster engagement among members of diverse democratic societies.
Robert Asen is a resident fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities and a professor in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Asen conducts research and teaches in the areas of public policy debate, public sphere studies, and rhetoric and critical theory. His research explores relationships between social and economic inequality and public deliberation as well as issues that arise in theorizing a post bourgeois public sphere. Asen is the author of Invoking the Visible Hand (Michigan State University Press, 2009) and Visions of Poverty (Michigan State University Press, 2002). Asen has also co-edited two books (with Daniel C. Brouwer), Public Modalities (University of Alabama Press, 2009) and Counterpublics and the State (SUNY Press, 2001).