CORE 105
Complex Problems Seminar:
Future of Technology Policy

Spring 2020
Tuesdays and Fridays · 12:55-2:10pm

James M. Quirk, Ph.D. and
Keelin Ferris, Teaching Assistant
Draft, January 1, 2020

This is the main course page 

Lots of course info – on this page, below
Our Schedule of Assignments – here

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


Welcome to our Complex Problems seminar on the future of technology 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 – and by this, we largely mean you – will apply this approach to emerging and future policy questions about energy, biotech, and other topics.

What is Public Policy?  (What are we talking about?)

It’s important to remember 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 elements of foreign policy, comparative public policy (considering the approaches of other countries), and global public policy (multinational approaches to global concerns).  Our case studies will include autonomous vehicles, CRISPR-Cas9, cybersecurity, and more.

What’s on the rest of this web page?

Learning Outcomes: Some of the Pedagogy Stuff
Course Requirements, Part I:  What will students be doing?
Office hours :  What if I have a question, who can I ask?
Required texts: Do I need to buy any books?
Course requirements, Part II : What else do I need to do?
Your Deliverables  (Ok, what’s graded?)
Center for Diversity and Inclusion: Intergroup Dialogues
Our Best Selves
All the University Pablum (which you should read at least once)

Learning Outcomes: Some of the Pedagogy Stuff

Discussion about “learning goals,” “course goals,” “learning objectives,” and other terms can be confusing.  Roughly, goals are less easy to measure than outcomes: I want you to understand something is a good goal; your ability to analyze, identify, produce something is a learning outcome.  Typically, in a course required for a major, a course’s learning goals include an emphasis on certain content: you understand how to write a presidential address or you’ve learned about the Middle Ages. Learning outcomes might include demonstrating the skills to write a presidential address or to analyze the importance of Charlemagne on merchant trade between England and France.  As a Complex Problems course, though, our “learning outcomes” are less about the content and more about the approaches: maybe the content as the “vehicle” of the course, and the learning outcomes are the “destination.”

The following student learning outcomes are required for each section of Complex Problems  and must be included in each course as a way to ensure programmatic consistency:

Diverse Perspectives.  In our course, we will read and watch material from U.S. and international sources; scholarly and non-academic readings; fiction and non-fiction; from competing worldviews and backgrounds; and from different eras.

Communication.  We’ll complete a range of reading and writing assignments that will help strengthen their preparation for University-level work.  Students will also complete assignments that engage their campus and off-campus communities; that ask them to explore our issues through individual and cooperative work; and that give them significant practice in oral presentations.

Critical Reading.  We’ll work to improve our critical reading skills, both mechanically (taking notes) and intellectually (what is the author’s intent and strategy?). Students will also set their analyses of the texts against what they know and learn about the world around them (examining current events, current debates, etc.).

Incorporating Feedback.  Finally, you can expect to receive feedback from the instructor, the teaching assistant, and each other.  Aims will include approach and process, not merely subject mastery — you will be offering feedback not only receiving it.  Students will be guided on how to instruct each other.

We’ll talk more about all this in class.

Course Requirements, Part I:  What will students be doing?

Your full, active, attentive, inquisitive approach to this course should broaden and deepen your understanding of a wide range a public policy issues, while you strengthen your written and oral communication skills, your critical thinking skills, and your appreciation of ethics in policy debate.

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

· You will have particular responsibilities each week, especially when you are on a Tech-In team (more on which below)

· You will decide among your own list of possible 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 three 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 :  What if I have a question, who can I ask?

One trend to demystify this thing called “office hours” is to rebrand it as “student hours”.  I will hold regular office student hours; 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 by email at [see Bb > Information], which I will check each morning. You can reach me most of the time on our facebook group, or by fb msg.  The fb group 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.)

Additionally, our Teaching Assistant (TA) will hold regular office hours as well.  Keelin was a student in this class last year and will be a great resource for you.

Required texts: Do I need to buy any books?

As I shared in an email a few days ago, most of our readings and videos will be online.  You will need Ayn Rand, Anthem, any edition, asap.  It is a couple of dollars to purchase used or new online. You can find the entire text free online if you prefer (links are at Bb > Announcements).

There is no textbook to purchase. We will use the publisher’s web site for Kraft and Furlong, Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives, 5th edition, Sage/CQ Press, 2015 – .  It’s the book I use in my public policy course.  If you love what we’re doing or desperately need a textbook to snuggle, you can buy the 5th edition used online for $10-$20.  There’s a 6th or 7th edition for a lot of money that you do not need.

Additional readings will be posted here online and/or linked to on Blackboard.

Course requirements, Part II : What else do I need to do?

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.

You are expected to complement your study of public policy with an increased awareness of current events.  I know you already know all the new online-only sources – but it’s worth remembering some of their predecessors as well.  At a minimum, you should be familiar each morning with the front page of the New York Times and the Washington Post, spending significant time with at least one of them. You should also see the Wall Street Journal (  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.  AllSides tries to do this – identifying stories about the same topic from different sources that it judges to be the left, center, and right.

You should check in with Monkey Cage, the Washington Post’s column on political science research.  We will discuss a number of other academic, news, and punditry outlets as well.

You should familiarize yourself with and IEEE Spectrum as well as AAAS Science. You don’t have to understand the tech or science, but you do have to understand the questions they raise.


Additionally, I may post news items on the course’s facebook page. You are invited to do so as well, and to comment on mine or anyone else’s.

Your Deliverables  (Ok, what’s graded?)

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.

— You will a complete a series of eight short writing assignments on our readings, two Tech-In preparations and presentations (we will discuss this in class), off-campus event reflections, other short individual and group assignments.

— You’ll join off-campus events with our Teaching Assistant or make-up similar events if it’s impossible for you to join the class trip.

— You will write a short (2,000 words) but intensely analytical paper, and a final exam.  We will discuss the paper well in advance of its due date, and you will receive a complete set of written instructions.  We may have surprise quizzes. Late assignments cost one full letter‐grade per day.  You may earn up to ten discretionary points in the course based upon consistent, high-quality class participation and contribution to the course.

Center for Diversity and Inclusion: Intergroup Dialogues

You might be interested in these small-group, sustained conversations gathering people from multiple backgrounds and identities for for two-hours each week.  Learn more here

Our Best Selves

In the classroom, online, and elsewhere, we will approach each other and our material with 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 will honesty, integrity, and the intention that we will grow together as a community in the classroom, on campus, and in Washington.

University Resources

The University asks faculty to include a range of additional information with the syllabus:  academic and student support services and more