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The Teaching of Public Policy

Teaching my discipline, i.e., Public Policy (in my case, with an emphasis on Technology), has a long theoretical legacy. However, the need to impart practical knowledge through teaching my discipline is widely acknowledged. Writing or influencing policy requires comprehending the complex intersection of politics, bureaucracy, industry and civil society; producers and consumers; labour and capital. Further, the less intuitive, more ceremonial aspects of policy analysis and documentation within the Government may appear to be entirely foreign to the student.

I found the article ‘Twilight of the Lecture’ by Craig Lambert very inspiring. While I was already so inclined, I am now even more convinced I should engage students at the outset. I should begin by asking them what they think are the significant policy issues today, what they are curious about, what they believe is a problem and what, in their view, are the solutions. I may work backwards from there to basic concepts and then forward again to case studies, followed by more interactive learning.

I loved the idea of the statecraft of teaching policy being that of ‘squaring the circle’ when I read an article titled’ Teaching Public Policy: Linking Policy and Politics’ by Lawrence Mead. He says this requires ‘transcending’ the gaps between what politicians want, what is ‘desirable on merit,’ and ‘what the administrative system will allow.’ I agree with the author that a kind of golden mean was also what  Aristotle  meant when he spoke about the objective of the ‘science of politics’ being ‘the good life.’

Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega’s blog, which emphasizes employable skills for students, is also illuminating. I think deeply about why my students are attending a technology policy class and about the fact that technology issues will increasingly pervade public policy. My teaching style continuously adapts to ensure that students gain sound knowledge and can apply it in their careers.