210 schedule



Govt 210 – Public Policy
Fall 2019
An AU Core Curriculum W2 Course

Go back to the course home page

atauSchedule of Readings and Discussions  

Personally I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.
‐ Winston Churchill

We will discuss the written assignments and the paper well in advance. Readings are to be completed before the class meetings.  Additional required readings or videos may be added to this syllabus. This is a tentative schedule, subject to revision at any time. The reading schedule below is suggestive; you will be given updates as appropriate.

*** Due to the nature of their work, the dates of any site visit(s) and guest expert(s) are tentative.  As soon as they are confirmed I will let you know.  And thanks in advance for recognizing that we’ll need to keep the syllabus flexible for this reason.

(Bb) means on Blackboard

We divide our semester into two parts – an intro to the mechanics of public policy and public policy theory, and exploring public policy problems by examining different kinds of public policy writing.  


Kraft  = Kraft and Furlong, Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives
Kraft Online = Student Resources at http://edge.sagepub.com/kraft5e
Bardach = Bardach and Patashnik, A Practical Guide for Political Policy Analysis
Week 1 – Aug 28 Welcome: What are we doing here?
Should you be allowed to feed the homeless?



Bardach – Appendix B – Things Governments Do
What is Political Power and American Public Policy?
Week 2 – Sept 4 Kraft – selections from chapters 1 and 2, available on Bb
     ch 1 – Public Policy and Politics
     ch 2 – Government Institutions and Policy Actors
Don’t have the book yet? See Kraft Online – see ch 1 and ch 2


Possible Unannounced Quiz #1?
Week 3 – Sept 11 Kraft – selections from chapters 3 and 4
     ch 3 – Understanding Public Policy Making
     ch 4 – Policy Analysis: An Introduction
Kraft Online – also see ch 3 and ch 4  https://edge.sagepub.com/kraft5e
Policy Writing: The Literature Review

We start our policy writing segments by introducing a key piece of academic writing – the literature review.  Please see the folder on Bb.

Week 4 – Sept 18 Kraft – selections from chapters 5 and 6
     ch 5 – Public Problems and Policy Alternatives
     ch 6 – Assessing Policy Alternatives
Kraft Online – also see ch 5 and 6 https://edge.sagepub.com/kraft5e
Exam 1 due

At this point we switch mostly to our Catherine Smith Writing Public Policy book, with supplemental readings of various writing types.

Schedule here is estimated; we’ll confirm dates and assignments well in advance.

Week 3:  Academic Writing

Issues: Globalization and State/Local Government

Here we’ll focus on one part of Academic Writing, called the Literature Review

Catherine Smith, Writing Public Policy: Chapter 3:  Describe the Problem

Catherine Smith, Writing Public Policy: Chapter 4: Analyze and Advise

Readings from APSR, Managing Globalization, and Contemporary Security Policy

Additional selected readings from Lisa Baglione, Writing a Research Paper in Political Science and from Malici and Smith, Political Science Research in Practice

You can expect to re-write this assignment at least a couple of times

Week 5:  Legislative History: Know the Record

Issues: Immigration and Iran

Read Smith, Writing Public Policy, Chapter 5

We also look at two sources of legislative history:  CRS on immigration and CFR on Iran.  There are no written assignments to go with these legislative histories.


The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has produced dozens of Reports in recent years that focus on or are related to immigration issues.  We’ll look at three here.  You should skim/read each for (1) a general sense of what each Report is trying to do, and (2) an introduction to some of the key issues in the immigration debate.

A Primer on U.S. Immigration Policy (2018)

Hurricane Katrina-Related Immigration Issues and Legislation (2005)

Brief History of Comprehensive Immigration Reform Efforts in the 109th and 110th
Congresses to Inform Policy Discussions in the 113th Congress (2013)


The United States and Iran have a long and curious history.  Overmatched by Britain and Russia, the U.S. played an ultimately unfruitful effort in Persia’s early-20th century (c.1909) efforts at democratization.  In 1953 the U.S. helped the U.K. overthrow the elected government of Iran, establishing a regime later overthrown by the 1979 revolution.  The JCPOA was a multilateral 2015 agreement intended to address Iran’s nuclear weapons program.  It was one of Candidate Trump’s early targets and as president he withdrew the U.S. from it.

The Council on Foreign Relations is a premier academic and policy think tank based in New York and Washington.  Two of its most popular productions are the bimonthly (6x/yr) Foreign Affairs magazine and its Backgrounders.  These latter offer detailed introductions to a current policy issue.  We have here the CFR Backgrounder on the JCPOA. It’s useful to note the date on these (in this case, July 31, 2019) because subsequent events (like attacking Saudi oil facilities) can change perspectives.

CFR Backgrounder, “What is the Status of the Iran Nuclear Agreement?” (2019)

Week 6:  Position Papers:  Know the Arguments

Issues: STEM education and Fracking

Catherine Smith, Writing Public Policy, Chapter 6 – Position Paper: Know the Arguments

What this chapter really means is know your argument. Pages 107-118 are particularly useful.  Notice the difference between the explicit and implicit arguments.

As outside examples, we’ll look at advocacy for global STEM education for girls (CFR, 2019), and some competing video “position papers” on fracking – from advocacy groups and from politicians. You can get some fracking background here in Forbes (as advocacy – look at it’s structure) (Forbes, 2012) and more judicious reports from IEEE here (2011) and here (2015) and more broadly a US Dept of Energy Report here (2017, p 8-9 and 20-24)

We’ll also watch competing videos from the Sierra Club and Marathon Oil, and three different approaches from Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Barack Obama. Note how these video “position papers” do or don’t fulfill the requirements Smith lays out

Week 7:   Request Action:  Petition, Proposal, Letter

Issues: Drones Policy

Smith, Writing Public Policy, Chapter 7

You’ll go home, in a way:  you’ll explore a local news outlet, and write a short letter to the editor on any question related to drones.  Several videos and readings are available on Bb.

Week 8: Writing as a Team, Writing in Emergencies

Special Guest October 15 – Olivia Ivey – AU Library – The Value of Information

Oct 18 – 48-Hours Crisis Response Team Projects

In this week we combine policy proposal and analysis with written and oral recommendations as part of a team and under a time limit.  Details on monitoring the emerging crises Oct. 15-16 and your team’s deliverables on Oct. 18 are posted on Bb > Written Assignments. We’ll also discuss in class.

Tips on Group Writing – from the Univ of North Carolina and from the Meijer Center

Week 9:  Testimony:  Witness in a Public Hearing

Issues:  CRISPR-Cas9

Smith, Writing Public Policy, Chapter 9

Congressional testimony and related resources:

You can copy and paste from Wikipedia into Google Docs, right?  What if gene-editing were that easy? What are the right questions to debate? Who gets to decide?

We start by learning what CRISPR-Cas9 is, at least a little (you don’t actually know what happens inside a computer when you cut and paste, do you?).  What is gene editing? Are there applications of gene editing that might make humanity (or individuals) better off?  Are there applications that maybe should be avoided, or prohibited, or federally funded?

Start with a video of Jennifer Doudna, a creator of CRISPR-Cas9 – either the BBC interview or her TEDtalk.  What questions does she raise that policy makers might need to think about?

BBC Hardtalk (24 min) –

or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuqX3Jb7rRA (2018) or audio;

or watch her TEDtalk and matching article  (2015, 15 min)

This might be a great time to review our policy-evaluation criteria from Kraft & Furlong:

Policy questions are related to ethical questions. Science writer Heidi Ledford, raises some of these concerns in a recent issue of the highly-reputable Nature, , “CRISPR the Disruptor,” nature.com (June 2015)

Most Americans probably don’t understand the basics of gene-editing, but they seem to have a sense of possible implications. A poll on the uses of gene-editing:  “Poll: Edit baby genes for health, not smarts,” Associated Press, Dec 29, 2018

And this is all moving very fast.  After human experiments and births in late 2018 in China, U.S. efforts are continuing – although not yet to birth: “New U.S. Experiments Aim to Create Gene-Edited Human Embryos,” Feb 1, 2019, NPR

“CRISPR might have made China’s “designer babies” smarter – Interesting Engineering, Feb 22, 2019

Finally, maybe we are thinking of this as the “future of technology policy” but really it’s the “right-now of technology policy” – we know that policy always lags behind technology.  This guy is already selling gene-editing starter kits. “East Bay Biochemist Sells ‘Gene-Editing Kit’ for the Masses,” CBS San Francisco, Jan 29, 2019

A call for international governance of heritable CRISPR, 3/17/2019 – https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00726-5

All the above serves as background for the public hearing testimony we look at this week.

U.S. Senate Cmte on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions:
Gene Editing Technology: Innovation and Impact (2017)

Matthew Porteus, Stanford Univ
Katrine Bosley, Editas Medicine
Jeffrey Kah, Johns Hopkins Univ

You should read the executive summary (page 1) of Porteus, the introduction (page 1-3) of Bosley, and all of Kahn (p. 1-5) – and you should read at least skim the rest of Porteus and Bosley.  And/or you can watch the entire hearing (1h37m) – you are not required to watch the whole thing but you should at least watch one of the panelists and a few minutes of the questions part.

Week _:  Inform Policy Makers – Brief, Opinion, Resolution

Chapter 8

We’ll look at how policy makers learn about things like drones and autonomous vehicles, the Arctic, and the Internet of Things (IoT)

Week _:  Intelligence Writing – Guest Expert

A senior IC analyst will brief us on a special kind of “inform policy makers” writing – intel analysis of different kinds, including the PDB – time/date to be determined

Week _:  How to Write a Public Comment:  Influence Administration

Chapter 10

In some sense, all of the above is “how to write a public comment,” but we’ll go back to the beginning to look at how different NGOs write about immigration