Pre-College Programs
Leadership Institute

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Creating Change: Public Policy in a Global Context

This course is no longer being offered.

Course Description

Public policy is the set of laws and rules enacted and enforced by government. These policies affect virtually every aspect of our daily lives. For example: can schools use standardized tests? What age can you get your drivers license? How much of your paycheck gets taken in taxes?

This course introduces students to how public policies are made and to the skills used to analyze and evaluate them. Students learn the actors, institutions, and interactions that generate public policies in multiple policy areas such as environmental, social, tax, health, and education policy. Who creates policy in these different arenas? Do policies reflect what voters want or do lobbyists, politicians, and agency employees really make the decisions? What motivates these different groups? Do these motivations vary in different parts of the world such as the United States, Western Europe, Japan, China and India?

To help students lead and create change in public policy arenas, they learn the key analytic skills in any policy maker’s toolkit: policy analysis and program evaluation. These skills help demonstrate the need for change and convince policy makers that particular solutions are viable. Policy analysis teaches students how to define public policy problems, identify solutions, and gather evidence about which solutions work. Program evaluation teaches students how test whether or not existing policies are actually working. Do banning plastic bags help the environment? Does offering healthier school lunches actually improve student health?

Students end the term by designing an Action Plan that either evaluates a program or analyzes a policy of their choice. The practical skills and substantive content taught in this course provide students a foundation for leadership and prepare them to be critical and informed citizens.