Policy Process: All about agenda

With the recent acquittal of impeachment charges during the Senate trial, the concept of agenda is ever present in our great nation. The word agenda is associated with lists, plans and changes. All words that describe what has helped shape the United States into the ever changing, ever adapting melting pot of opinion that it is. Now while we can all read every headline that runs along the bottom of every news channel screen in the country, what issue has stood the test of time? What I mean by that is, what issue despite varying degrees of progress has continued to need to be reconsidered as time goes on? Also, who has the “power” to make these changes happen? Let’s find out! What does agenda mean? The term agenda as it relates to the course is defined as a list of things being discussed and sometimes acted upon by an institution, the news media or the public at large.

The concept of “sometimes” acted upon is the biggest disservice we as a nation can choose to ignore.

The term agenda setting is just as important if not more so than the agenda itself. While an agenda is the list of topics being discussed and possibly changed, agenda setting is the process by which problems and alternative solutions gain or lose public and elite attention. In order to raise awareness, we must understand what the difference between a social issue and social problem is. A social issue effects a large number of people.

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Of those people, it is common for them to have different views on what’s at stake and how to solve a particular issue. On the other hand, a social problem garners a lot more publicity and attention which in turn increases the likelihood of a societal action.

Due to social media, the likelihood of an issue/problem being brought to the public’s attention has never been higher. While many issues were reserved for adults, adolescents are starting to become aware of them due to social media. A survey that was commissioned by World Vision (a relief and development group) determined that nearly 44% of teens admit to raised social awareness because of their social media usage. It has also been claimed that while social media increases public awareness, it can also run the risk of inciting a crisis like scenario due to poorly crafted tweets and articles with minimal information other than a jarring title. With children becoming more aware of social issues, the attention regarding the safety of said children has been ever present.

Michelle Obama focused her concern on what kind of food the kids were eating but many believe that there is one issue that outweighs any nutritional program and that would be the social problem of school violence. School shootings have plagued our news outlets for the past two decades, from Columbine to Parkland. Many have opinions on the reason behind school shootings but the three primary “causes” mostly discussed are the availability of guns, shortcomings of school programs intended to detect and prevent violence and influence of popular culture on you. According to the text, nearly 80% of news media outlets focus on one if not more of the three “causes” listed when discussing school violence. Just a few days ago, there was a school shooting at George Washington Carver Elementary School in Jacksonville, Florida shortly after the school had closed for the day. This incident left two adults injured and a bullet hole in a door of the school itself. What qualifies an act of violence on school property to be considered a school shooting? According to CNN, the following parameters were set as of November 2019:

  • · The shooting must involve at least one person being shot (not including the shooter).
  • · The shooting must occur on school property, which includes but is not limited to buildings, athletic fields, parking lots, stadiums and buses.

Now if we were to focus on John Kingdon’s idea that suggests that school shootings should basically force policy makers to be aware of the epidemic that is school related violence, those in power would have no choice but to acknowledge the ever growing number of casualties that surround this issue. The fact that school shootings occur not only at K-12 locations but also at Colleges and Universities around the country can be labeled as what is referred to as an indicator. An indicator is defined as evidence of a problem. It is not just children and educators who feel the need to walk on eggshells upon arriving at what it supposed to be a place of safety and learning, but for those who choose to go on to higher education, the fear of this being the last class they attend casts a dark cloud over what is supposed to me a time of personal growth and memories.

Power is a fluid concept. It has been said that power often includes “the acts of men going about the business of moving other men to act in relation to themselves or in relation to organic or inorganic things”. What does that mean? Power is how the political activity generates a direct connection to the communities in which those in power were elected to serve. Now while we assume that only those in “power” can wield the sword of change, that couldn’t be further than the truth. Power is actually controlled and aimed by those who harness their energy and focus on reinforcing predominant norms and practices that provide proper support of the political process. In terms of power, we have those in fall into two separate groups, elitists and pluralists. Pluralists believe that power can be directly associated with issues and that these issues can be both fleeting or persistent. School-related violence would fall under the persistent column as there were forty-five school shootings in 2019 alone. Pluralism also states that power is spread through numerous groups in society.

The wide approach is used to explain how decisions are made and how government entities end up making the choices that they do. Interest groups fall under the pluralist approach in that they explain how power can be distributed between “competing” groups and not with one sole organization. Groups such as the Association of Teacher Educators dedicated a large portion of their annual ATE Conference to allot time for a forum to discuss the issues and concerns that directly affect school violence in grades Pre-K to twelfth. Elitism can be defined as the exact opposite of pluralism. According to elitist theory, few major pressure and interest groups such as the NRA or AARP have influence of change and that due to selected members of government being in true control, may not have nearly as much influence as they think.

Elite theory also states that policymaking is dominated by the best educated, wealthiest and most powerful of the elites. A major issue with elitists is that they do not move in unison towards a specific goal nor support the same agendas. Parkland shooting in Florida was nowhere near the first school shooting in recent history, however with many of the surviving students standing up for their fallen peers, change was demanded. Approximately a month after the Parkland shooting that left 17 dead, Congress passed the STOP School Violence Act of 2018. The primary goal of the act was to fund safety training for schools, students and local law enforcement; anonymous reporting systems to disclose threats; and threat assessment and crisis intervention teams.

With access to guns being one of the primary “causes” according to news outlets, the Trump administration issued a ban on bump stocks, which make firing rounds from a semi-automatic weapon easier. Washington was not the primary location for change in regard to gun control and school violence reform. According to the Gifford’s Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, there were 1,638 firearm bills in 2018, 67-gun safety laws enacted across 26 states. Change sounds wonderful in theory but very few understand just how many layers and the time that it takes to make change happen. In the past two decades, many children and adults alike have lost their lives and those who’ve survived have been forever altered by the ever present threat of school-related violence. Whether you believe in the concept of pluralism or the elite theory, one thing is for sure. One more child injured or killed due to school violence is one too many.

Work Cited

  1. Bachrach, P., & Baratz, M. (1962). Two Faces of Power. The American Political Science Review, 56(4), 947–952. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/1952796
  2. Birkland, T. A. (2019). An introduction to the policy process: theories, concepts, and models of public policy making (5th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor et Francis Group.
  3. Burroughs, D. (2011, April 21). Social Media Makes Teens More Aware of Needs of Others. Retrieved February 2, 2020, from https://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/activistfaith/2011/04/social-media-makes-teens-more-aware-of-needs-of-others.html
  4. Campisi, J. (2019, February 14). One year later: How has school safety, gun control policy changed since the Parkland shooting? Retrieved February 4, 2020, from https://www.educationdive.com/news/one-year-later-how-has-school-safety-gun-control-policy-changed-since-the/548377/
  5. Debnam, G. (1975). Nondecisions and Power; The Two Faces of Bachrach and Baratz. The American Political Science Review, 69(3), 889–899. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/1958397
  6. Wolfe, E., & Walker, C. (2019, November 19). In 46 weeks this year, there have been 45 school shootings. Retrieved February 2, 2020, from https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/15/us/2019-us-school-shootings-trnd/index.html

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Policy Process: All about agenda. (2021, Dec 25). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/policy-process-all-about-agenda/

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