Public Policy Track Courses

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 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 26 Syllabus

PBPL 27/GOVT 30.12: Affirmative Action in Higher Education

Since John F. Kennedy's 1961 executive order to implement affirmative action policies, institutions of higher education have looked for ways to encourage minority and low income students to matriculate. Some institutions, such as such as Harvard, UC Berkeley, UT Austin, and U Michigan, have experienced lawsuits against the policy's implementation. As universities stress their desire for diverse, well rounded, high achieving classes and continue to implement methods to attract highly qualified students, there is disagreement about which methods are both effective and fair. How can educational administrators, parents and community members work together to improve college access and increase equality? Do we still need 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? Has the college access gap widened or shrunk? Are students' experiences on campus living up to the goal of equal opportunity? This course will explore the topic of affirmative action through some traditional classroom techniques (reading/ writing/ discussion) as well as experiential education techniques (such as creating a public policy portfolio project, having conversations with professionals who administer affirmative action 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 an affirmative action or anti-discrimination policy/program. Completing the course readings and discussions will develop the skills necessary to complete the portfolio. Throughout the course, 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 advance an issue, 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 professors biweekly or more frequently (as needed) to stay on track and to get help with process and resources. DIST: SOC

Required Texts

  • Richard Sander & Stuart Taylor Jr., 2012, Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It's Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won't Admit It ISBN: 0465029969
  • Randall Kennedy, 2013, For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law, ISBN: 0307949363
  • Frances Contreras, (2013) Achieving equity for Latino students: Expanding the pathway to higher education through public policy, NY: Teacher's College Press. ISBN: 080775210X
  • Heather MacDonald, (2018) The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture, St. Martin's Press, ISBN: 1250200911

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

This course examines the relationship between leadership and civil society. Known commonly as the "nonprofit" sector, civil society mediates the space between citizens and the state, and is often how citizens engage in public problem solving, have a direct impact on policy, and participate in civic life. This course focuses on aspects of leadership directly applicable to organizational manifestations of civil society: nongovernmental and social movement organizations, philanthropy, religious institutions, media, and public interest groups. Students will explore nonprofit and public leadership as it relates to these organizations, and critically analyze concepts of social capital, grassroots mobilization, interest group influence, organizational maintenance, political representation, and civic action. The course also looks at political parties and coalitions as aggregators of societal interests and as intermediaries between citizens and the state. 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 52 Syllabus

PBPL 53/ GOVT 20.11 Entrepreneurship & Public Policy Professor

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.