Policy Sciences

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 13–34 | Cite as

Citizens’ use of policy symbols and frames

  • Ryane McAuliffe Straus


This paper argues that citizens are capable of developing and promoting complex policy symbols, and that these symbols include supporting frames that explain and justify them. Based on a long-term study of education policies in Los Angeles, California, the paper uses interpretive methods to reconstruct and analyze these frames. Citizens developed two specific policy symbols while the district was engulfed in a desegregation debate; citizens identified schools as places where students gained academic knowledge and as institutions that affected broader race relations. However, education policy in Los Angeles could not support these two symbols over a long period of time, and a political movement to end mandatory busing eventually caused the academic symbol (originally the weaker of the two symbols) to become dominant. This trend reflects broader national discussions, in which education is now discussed in terms of standards and accountability and is evidence of continuing racism in US policy.


Public policy Interpretive methods Education policy Desegregation Policy narratives Policy symbols 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Saint RoseAlbanyUSA

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