Public Policy Track Courses

The examples below are illustrative: a range of other courses and tracks of study have been pursued by students, and will be considered for potentially fulfilling the Minor's requirements.

PBPL 20/EDUC 20 Educational Issues Contemporary Society

This course gives students a critical introduction to the public institution they know best – the American school. You have already spent at least twelve years "studying" schools from the inside, though you have probably only considered a small piece of the broader education system. Public schools are one of the most important public policy levers for shaping society. We will examine the history and structure of public education in America. We will also study myriad topics related to creating "better schools": recruiting and training teachers; charter schools and related institutional innovations; testing and accountability; school funding; racial and economic segregation. Overall, the course will explore how public education can contribute to a more informed, prosperous, and fair society.

PBPL 22 / ECON 16: Regulation

This course examines the history, politics and economics of market regulation in the United States. Class discussions will focus on the arguments for and against state intervention in the market. We will also explore the meaning of "market failure" and "government failure" in the context of financial markets, transportation, the environment, health care, and public utilities. Special emphasis will be placed on how regulation affects prices and why regulated firms may demand regulation. Students will be graded on class participation as well as original research. Dist: SOC

PBPL23/ GOVT 30.04: Political Misinformation and Conspiracy Theories

Why do people hold false or unsupported beliefs about politics and why are so those beliefs so hard to change? This course will explore the psychological factors that make people vulnerable to political misinformation and conspiracy theories and the reasons that corrections so often fail to change their minds. We will also analyze how those tendencies are exploited by political elites and consider possible approaches that journalists and civic reformers could employ to combat misperceptions. Dist: SOC

PBPL 24 / GOVT 30.17: The 2024 Election

This course uses the 2024 election – in which many Dartmouth students will vote for the first time – to explore fundamental questions about U.S. and global governance.  Many experts contend that this election – whoever wins – may reshape America's democracy and its global role.  Are these fears warranted by compelling arguments and evidence?  What are the stakes for conservatism, liberalism, and the basic institutions and norms of U.S. democracy?  What does the election portend for the role of the Supreme Court, political participation, dialogue and free speech, and critical policy issues like abortion and climate change?  And in what ways does the U.S. role in the world truly hinge on this election, and with what consequences?  Each week features analyses by leading scholars and public intellectuals, and class visits from distinguished academics, policy practitioners, and public advocates to discuss and debate these issues.

PBPL 26/GOVT 30.14: Health Politics and Policy

Health care in the United States costs more than in other countries, but is it better? Answering this question requires understanding a wide range of subjects, including the pathophysiology of disease, clinical decision making, epidemiology, and public policy. This course provides an introduction to these tools. We will also consider additional questions: Is more screening and early diagnosis the best way to stay healthy? Does more treatment always help people feel better? And how has the "Dartmouth School" of health policy contributed to the debate? Dist: SOC; WCult: W.


PBPL 27/GOVT 30.12/EDUC 35: Affirmative Action in Higher Education

Is it still necessary to "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are "treated…without regard to their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin," or has affirmative action outlived its original purpose? How has college access changed since affirmative action policies were originally conceived? How well do students' experiences on campus live reflect the goals of equal opportunity? To prepare for the US Supreme Court decision expected in June 2023, this course looks at both the intent and the implementation of the policy throughout its history of legislation, executive policies, and legal action. Students will consider how institutions of higher education encouraged minority and low-income students to matriculate, why they have experienced lawsuits against the policy, and how things may change after the SCOTUS decision. Teaching methods include some traditional classroom techniques (text analysis, writing, discussion) as well as experiential education techniques (such as creating a public policy portfolio project, conversing with professionals who administer admissions programs at colleges and universities, and pitching proposals to a panel of policy experts).

The central work of the course involves creating a portfolio of venues to explore, design, publicize, and promote a comprehensive admissions policy that meets the goals of a school. 

Completing the course readings and participating in discussions will develop some of the background and skills necessary to complete the portfolio. Students will work in small groups to develop a policy campaign using techniques from writing to video to speeches. This course design attempts to raise students' awareness of the multiple communication modes for making a compelling and persuasive policy proposal. To create their portfolios, students must select a policy issue related to affirmative action, demonstrate the techniques they have used to study and develop it, and effectively persuade their audience of the policy/program's value. Student groups will meet with the professor biweekly or more frequently (as needed) to stay on track and to get help with process and resources. 

PBPL 28/GOVT 30.09: Law, Courts, and Judges

This course explores fundamental questions about American law, courts, and judges. Do courts administer "Equal Justice Under Law," as the Supreme Court's facade promises, or are cases determined by "what the judge ate for breakfast," as Judge Jerome Frank famously claimed? Are judges political? Can courts produce social change, or is law a conservative force? What incentives shape the legal profession? We address issues ranging from the Supreme Court and civil rights to small claims courts and street harassment. Distr: SOC. WCult: W.

PBPL 51: Leadership in Civil Society

You've seen it in your communities: the organizers and volunteers, the committee and board members, the friends who start the meal train when someone is sick. We spend a lot of time talking about leadership in business and government, but some of the most powerful examples of civic leadership lie within our own local communities. So, what is it that creates a sense of connection with community? What compels people to step up, engage, and take responsibility for it? Are there factors that cause us to turn inward, towards individualism vs. outward, towards others? Our question has immediacy, as we will be working on a Social Impact Practicum with the Vermont Dept. of Health and Aging in Hartland, a 501(c)(3). They want to ensure that Hartland, VT is made up of strong, connected communities capable of protecting and providing for the needs of its seniors and to explore the viability of a "Neighborhood Captain" program once developed as an attempt to achieve those goals. We will be trying to help. Dist: SOC; WCult: W.

PBPL 52/GOVT 30.02: Leadership and Political Institutions

This course explores how political leaders in the U.S. reconcile the constraints of public office with the opportunities to make major changes in society. Drawing from diverse materials on the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, the course explores the following questions: How does leadership differ in the public and private spheres? What personal skills and attributes affect the success or failure of leaders of political institutions? What criteria do/should citizens apply to public leaders? How do political context and historical contingency shape institutional leadership? Dist: SOC; WCult: W.


PBPL 53/ GOVT 20.11 Entrepreneurship & Public Policy

The course will study entrepreneurship as both a strategic logic and a social fact. Students will simulate the business planning process in teams; and, as a class, they will consider public policy from the perspective of entrepreneurs—that is, consider why officials must understand the strategic questions aspiring entrepreneurs ask if government is to propose investment, standards, and regulations that encourage business development. Students will also benefit from a weekly lecture by a guest speaker.