Academic journal article Pepperdine Policy Review

James Q. Wilson and Public Policy Education

Academic journal article Pepperdine Policy Review

James Q. Wilson and Public Policy Education

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Part of the Policy History, Theory, and Methods Commons, and the Public Policy Commons

James Q. Wilson was one of the foremost academics in the field of public policy of the twentieth century. Unlike many scholars, Wilson's intellectual pursuits have also had a tremendous impact on practical policy making. Wilson's work was also groundbreaking as he attempted to add morality to a field dominated by datasets. The Moral Sense was one of Wilson's final books. To pay homage to Wilson's career, Pepperdine University School of Public Policy hosted a conference titled "Character and the Moral Sense" on February 28 and 29th, 2014. The conference discussed Wilson as man and an academic, but the conference also raised questions about public policy education. Schools of public policy should forever pay tribute to Wilson by integrating the methodology he developed.

The conference's final panel, "Encountering the Moral Sense in the Public Affairs Classroom: A Response," responded to a December 3, 2013 article in the Washington Post titled "Want to Govern? Skip Policy School." The answers laid out current curricula and changes that can be made based on lessons from Wilson's career. The first respondent was Dean Henry Brady of the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. Brady divided the current public policy curriculum into three elements: 1.) market failure; 2.) methods, such as empiricism; and 3.) politics, or program implementation. Courses in these areas seldom mention families, groups, morals, or values; likewise, Brady argues that Wilson's emphasis on these topics made him revolutionary. Wilson had two key truths according to Brady. One was that people are social creatures with a moral sense, and the other is that people have original sin. Brady then provided several areas public policy schools need to further study: stratification theory, mass democracy and the power of people's movements, private property versus collectivism, markets versus central planning, marriage and kinship, democracy versus other forms of governments, and most importantly, the side effects of policies.

Following Brady, Dean Jack Knott of the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California provided the curriculum at his school: 1.) economics and markets; 2.) organizational theory and management; 3.) quantitative and qualitative research methods; 4.) policy substance; 5.) politics and the political process; and 6.) public finance. Knott stated students receive little training in morals as there are only a few ethics courses offered at his school. Knott suggested Wilson's work can be used to integrate more substantial ethical education into the public policy curriculum.

Angela Evans, Professor of Public Policy Practice at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, concluded the event. She asserted public policy is taught to offer students a path to action. Evans laid out several subjects public policy curricula should include such as deliberative reasoning, how to govern and tensions of governing, and communication skills. Evans argues that the major challenge is there is no formula for how to combine these disciplines, but public policy schools should be the heart of universities because public policy merges all disciplines.

To become the heart of universities, as was suggested as a possibility by several panelists during the conference, schools of public policy should follow Wilson's example and incorporate a multidisciplinary approach into their curriculum. The conference also had a panel titled, "Moral Sense: The Defining Encounter." This panel was composed of a diverse group: a philosopher, a psychiatrist, and a political scientist. The panel's purpose was to display how experts in various fields view the same question. Providing policy students with multiple methods to analyze problems gives students more options to discover a successful solution. …

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