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A critique of the suburban scene in public communication pedagogy

Patricia R. W Clasen, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


In this study, I explored the dominant ideology that underwrites public communication pedagogy. Initially, I argue that textbooks are one site of ideological representation in pedagogical discourse. Further, scholars of communication studies, in particular have noted deficiencies in communication textbooks. In the current market condition, textbooks have been perceived as lacking theory, not reflective of contemporary communication situations, and insensitive to multiple cultural perspectives. ^ I explored the civic and professional traditions that have served as the justification for the study of communication. I explored how these traditions dovetailed with certain political and economic realities. This included the Red Scare, the economics of textbook production, and the traditional position of communication in the university. The communication discipline evolved with a pragmatic aim. A communication education was intended to help students become upwardly mobile. As such, the discipline was infused with the conflicting purposes of getting a better career and becoming a better citizen. ^ I discovered that these conservative impulses get represented in a dominant scenic motif. I conceptualize these motifs as the “suburban myth.” Then, through the use of Burkean pentadic criticism I explored the ways in which this scene influences the other elements of the drama. This myth emphasizes professional aims in communication and places the agent in a position of power. ^ Ultimately, this study argues that public communication textbooks have failed to take seriously issues of access and power in its description of the scene. The pedagogy implies that all speakers will succeed if given appropriate means. To legitimize the discipline, I posit an alternative pedagogy built on a more complex scene. An emphasis on material conditions and civic courage would encourage complicated, moral decision-making in public communication. ^

Subject Area

Speech Communication|Education, Curriculum and Instruction

Recommended Citation

Clasen, Patricia R. W, "A critique of the suburban scene in public communication pedagogy" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3092533.