Education Inequality: Broadening Public Attitudes through Framing

This article was originally published in the Journal of Social Issues (December 2016, Vol. 72, Issue 4). The final publication is available at Wiley Online Library.

Research over the last 50 years have been remarkably consistent when it comes to addressing education inequality: background factors like family and socioeco- nomics matter to school success. Yet policies remain narrowly focused on school- based reforms like testing, standards, and charter schools due in large part to the American public’s limited understanding of education and inequality. I argue that scholars, as the experts, are ultimately responsible for changing how policymakers and the public think about these issues—a duty they have yet to embrace. In this connection, the use of framing can help education researchers broaden attitudes and stimulate political will. Drawing mainly from disciplines outside education, this article explores the potential of framing as a communication tool for education scholars. Specifically, I examine how it has been used in science, political, and marketing communication to broaden public opinion. I also offer ways to frame the issue of education inequality to help the public, including decision makers and influencers, conceive of solutions and opportunities beyond the status quo.

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