Govt 210 – Public Policy
An AU Core Curriculum W2 Course
An introduction to our course
Tuesdays and Fridays 9:45-11am
Tuesdays and Fridays 4:05-5:20pm
James M. Quirk, Ph.D.
Politics is the art of the possible. – Otto Von Bismarck
Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable. – John Kenneth Galbraith
All great things are simple, and many can be expressed in single words: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope. – Winston Churchill
no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land – Warsan Shire
I grabbed a book at random from a bookstore, and it was Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton. All I knew about Hamilton was that he died in a duel. So I thought, “This will have a good ending at least.” – Lin-Manuel Miranda
Welcome. Welcome to Political Power and American Public Policy. We will explore what government does, why, how, and how to measure how well it does those things. We’ll call this the study of public policy. We’ll consider the contexts for policy making, government and non-government actors, theories and models of public policy, and policy analysis.
What is Public Policy? We will discuss specific definitions in class. You should keep in mind that Public Policy is both an analytical approach (with a variety of evolving models) and the subject matter of governments and politics. We’ll focus mostly on U.S. policy making and domestic issues, but we will also introduce U.S. public policy with respect to foreign affairs, comparative public policy (considering the approaches of other countries), and global public policy (multinational approaches to global concerns).
Your learning outcomes should include the ability to (1) identify and evaluate the contexts, theories, and actors of American public policy, (2) demonstrate knowledge and skills in the analysis of public policy choices, and (3) understand and articulate competing approaches to several current public policy controversies. That is, you will actively seek to:
∙ learn (at an introductory level) the institutions, actors, and methods of public policy,
∙ understand and appreciate the current issues and debates in the field;
∙ develop a relevant question and apply the tools of public policy to it,
∙ closely follow current events and consider them with respect to our study of public policy,
∙ demonstrate that you can eloquently discuss all this in written and oral formats.
Your full, active, attentive, inquisitive approach to this course should broaden and deepen your understanding of a wide range a political science topics and policy issues, while you strengthen your written and oral communication skills, your critical thinking skills, and your appreciation of ethics in policy debate.
AU Core Curriculum: W2. AU SPA’s Department of Government has changed this course to make it an AU Core Curriculum “W2” course. W2 means “Written Communication and Information Literacy II.” That is, the course bears the load not only of introducing undergraduates to the field of and questions in public policy, but also of serving as an intensive writing course. As a W2 course, we have additional expected learning outcomes: You will be able to
· identify and employ the genres of a discipline
· interpret the information and research of a discipline in order to find, evaluate, and contextualize credible and appropriate sources and information
· take a writing project through multiple drafts and revision based on reflection and interactive feedback in order to develop ideas or arguments.
· build on their ability to write clearly, concisely, and accurately (as learned in W1), in order to demonstrate the style, attribution, and correctness of a discipline
In a course of this type, difficult choices have to be made about areas covered. Some topics are necessarily treated too briefly or omitted entirely. We will address this in a number of ways.
· Some topics not directly treated in the readings we will cover in our on-going discussion of current events – more on which below.
· The textbook offers extensive background on economics and budget policy, health care, welfare and social security, education, environment and energy, and foreign policy and homeland security.
· We’ll draw some work from these, as well as from outside materials on marijuana, drones and self-driving cars, fracking and the Arctic, cybersecurity and the Internet of Things, and immigration and refugees.
· Additionally, you will have your choice of issues to consider when formulating a question that will serve as your paper topic.
· Finally, you will find off-campus opportunities to learn more about public policy. Washington offers one of the world’s best places to do this. You will be responsible for four short reports/reflections on the practice of issues in public policy; we will discuss this.
A particular note on this course is that it does not require higher mathematics. I urge you, however, to take at least one statistics course during your college coursework.
Finally, ask me about the three numbers you should always know, and why they matter.
You are responsible for all of the specific readings assigned below, whether we discuss them in class or not, and everything we discuss in class, whether it relates to a particular reading or not.
Office hours. I will hold regular office hours in Hurst 206P; we will discuss in class. I would like to meet with each of you at least once during the first few weeks – I will circulate a sign-up sheet. In addition, I will hold online “midnight office hours” during certain parts of the semester. You can reach me at JQuirk@american.edu, which I will check each morning. You can reach me most of the time on our facebook group, or by fb msg. You should join our Facebook group [link on Bb], which includes students from my other courses. It is “closed” – your classmates and I can only see your “public” profile (maybe this is a good time to check your privacy settings). We’ll use it for some tasks in our class, and for notices, discussions of current events, etc. (We’ll also talk about whether it would be easier for future students if I used a different app for this.)
Kraft and Furlong, Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives, 5thedition, Sage/CQ Press, 2015. You can buy new, buy used, or rent. You do not need the much more expensive 6th edition.
Catherine F. Smith, Writing Public Policy, OUP, 5th edition 2019.
Additional readings will be posted on Blackboard.
Optional: You do not need to purchase this book; I will give you the necessary readings. Bardach and Patashnik, A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis: The Eightfold Path, 5th edition, Sage/CQ Press, 2016. The 4th edition is even cheaper. You do not need to buy this book.
You are expected to complement your study of public policy with an increased awareness of current events. At a minimum, you should be familiar each morning with the front page of the New York Times (nytimes.com) and the Washington Post (washingtonpost.com), spending significant time with at least one of them. You should also see the Wall Street Journal (wsj.com). We’ll talk about various other online sources as well. This is an excellent time to get out of your “info silo,” if you are in one. You should find a good non-U.S. media source as well – BBC News, the Economist, and the Guardian are good UK ones; if you read other languages, you can choose from excellent non-English sources as well.
In this course we will also pay particular attention to the Monkey Cage, the Washington Post’s column on political science research, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/. We will discuss a number of other academic, news, and punditry outlets as well.
Your responsibilities include class attendance, thorough reading of the assignments before class, and class participation. You are responsible for all the reading material regardless of whether we discuss it in class, and for all class discussions regardless of whether the material relates to an assigned reading. Attendance is not optional; you need to meet with me to discuss any absences, before class. Unexcused absences will count against your grade. Additionally, there may be required attendance for guest lecturers at times other than the normal class schedule.
Each class may begin with at least one student selected, without prior notice, to discuss and answer questions about the readings or current events. The pedagogy here is to prepare you for meetings when you are, unexpectedly, asked to give a presentation to a client, boss, etc., not just to ensure you do the readings. Notice: Pop quizzes may be assigned.
Additionally, I will post news items, internships, fellowships, on-campus events, etc. on the course’s facebook page. You are invited to do so as well, and to comment on mine or anyone else’s. You are not required to join our facebook group.
Maybe you are skimming all this because you think this is the most important part. Well, it’s absolutely not, but I know you want the info anyway, so here you go. We will have several short writing assignments – probably close to eight. At least two of these will be rewritten one or more times. These several assignments will vary in weight based on expected levels of effort and difficulty and will combine to be worth the bulk of your grade. The individual off‐campus event reflections will be worth 10%. Late assignments cost one full letter‐grade per day. You may earn up to ten discretionary points based upon consistent, high-quality class participation and contribution to the course (and possible surprise quizzes or other assignments) worth up to 10% of your grade. We will detail the assignments and grades info for you.
Our Best Selves
In the classroom, online, and elsewhere, we will approach each other and our material with respect, humility, generosity, and what we’ll call micro-benevolences. We will all assume best intentions among each other, and we’ll approach disagreements and misunderstandings with honesty, integrity, and the intention that we will grow together as a community in the classroom, on campus, and in Washington.