The Department of Political Science
POLS 220 - Introduction to Public Policy - Fall 2008
DU 459- (Monday/Wednesday/Friday 9:00 - 9:50 am)
Instructor: James O. Bagaka Office Hours: Mon 10:00 - 11:30 a.m.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Wed 10:00 -11:30 am - By Appointment
Office: Zulauf 114
Introduction and Overview
This is an introductory course to
the public policy process in the
This course is divided into two parts. In part I, we will explore the theories of public policy, institutional structures that affect and implement public policy and the actors (official and nonofficial) that initiate and agitate for policy change. The goal of this first section is to give you the tools required to understand and analyze policy. Part II will entail a survey of current policy issues, more so, those that shape the debate in this year’s presidential election.
· Understand what is meant by “public policy”;
· Understand the dynamics of policy making and how it relates to politics;
· Equip you with the tools to intelligently analyze policies, be able to weave out weaknesses and strengths in partisan or news media depictions of policy issues;
· Be able to apply your knowledge of the policy process to any issue in your community.
This course is also designed to improve your academic skills and knowledge areas in the following ways:
Class discussions on the assigned readings in class and paper discussions.
Assigned papers and homework
Final Paper – A Policy Issue
Course Policies and Procedures
In recent semesters I have noticed a number of students failing to meet their academic obligations. Recurring problems include absconding classes (and then asking “did I miss anything”), talking on cell phones, text messaging friends, arriving late, leaving early among other misconducts. Apart from being irritating, such actions negatively affect the learning environment. Surprisingly, the same students who engage in these malpractices are the first one to complain about the grading scheme with the now familiar excuse, “I really need a B or A to get to nursing/law school”. Although only a few students meet this description, my recent experience shows that the number is on the rise. Thus, I generally expect your academic responsibility to be your highest priority. Kindly, desist from the above negative behaviors. The point I want you get is this: attend class regularly, do the readings and you will excel; fail to do your part and your grades will be poor.
Attend Class: Since this is a college level course, regular class attendance is assumed. Students who fail to attend the lectures and our Friday discussions will miss important information and will consequently receive lower grades. Attendance will be taken daily and will constitute 5% of your final grade. Those arriving late or leaving early (without my informed consent) will be counted as absent.
You are allowed three unexcused absences from lectures after which you will start losing your 5% of the attendance points. More than ten (10) total unexcused absences from lectures – the three you are allowed plus seven more – will result in a failing grade regardless of whether you have done all the assignments. If you miss class for a legitimate reason, you must provide documentation. If there is a snowstorm and the university remains open, then class will be held.
Discussion Section: I have created a discussion section on Blackboard to facilitate and extend our class discussions beyond the 50 minutes assigned for the class for the three days we meet. The goal of this section is to enable you to post news media articles of relevance to our class discussions. Articles that support, negate or even challenge our class discussions are highly encouraged. Your duty therefore is not to simply copy and paste articles on blackboard, but rather to introduce your article and state why you posted it – simply, why should we care about it? The goal here is to spur debate. Discussions on blackboard will constitute 10% of your final grade. For you to earn all the points in this section, you MUST post at least one article and two responses to a news article posted by any one of your classmates. I will keep track of those participating in these discussions and award points accordingly. Please DO NOT wait until the end of the semester to post your articles on blackboard or react to your colleagues’ posited articles.
Written Assignments: You will be required to write TWO papers in this course. The first paper is what I have called the “Presidential Issue Paper”. Given that this year we will be electing a new President to the White House, this paper will require you to listen to a debate between the two contenders (John McCain and Barrack Obama) and pick the one issue that you agree or disagree with either one of them. Your assignment will be to identify the issue that you agree/disagree with the candidate (2 points); state the candidate’s arguments about the issue (2 points); argue how the candidate’s political leanings shape/inform his arguments (2 points); make a counterargument (2 points) and your conclusion (2 points). Total points = 10.
Length – 2-3 pages. Due Date: To Be Announced Later‼
The second/final paper requires you to identify a policy issue of interest to you for analysis. Such issue should not be limited to the national level only but may include policy issues at the state or local levels. I strongly suggest you limit issue choice to the state and local policy arena. You MUST CONSULT WITH ME before choosing your policy issue.
Your Task: identify an issue and state why it is of interest to you (3 points); identify actors involved - official and unofficial (5 points); state their opposing arguments (5 points); identify the governmental structures that currently deal with the issue (3 points); make an argument about your likes and dislikes of the current policy: if you like the current policy, state why it should not be changed; if you do not like it, state why it should be changed (6 points); and conclusion (3points). Total points = 25. Length: 4 – 6 pages long. Due date: November 24th 2008, @ 9:00 am.
Reminder: I do not and will not accept/grade late papers unless you have a verifiable reason. All written papers must be submitted in hard copies in class and in person. You must also post your final papers on blackboard on the discussion section so that your classmates can have access to it. No excuses will be entertained for not doing your work, including but not limited to job obligations, family problems, your workload in other courses, computer crashes, car problems, printer malfunctions, etc.
NOTE: Towards the end of the semester, we will spare our last three classes to review your final paper. Each student will be given a chance to present his/her policy paper. These presentations will be part of your participation and attendance grade. Everybody MUST participate in these presentations.
Friday’s Discussions: All Fridays will be used for class (group) discussions. Each Friday, the class will be divided into groups (about eight) and each will be given a task/issue to which they will make arguments either for or against or both. Before the end of the class each group will be required to report back their findings to the class. Be aware that in such discussions you will have to entertain opposing views from the ones you hold dear. Although you are entitled to your opinion (which I encourage), the challenge in these discussions is for you to learn to respect and listen other peoples’ opinions.
Students are required to adhere to NIU’s code of student conduct for academic integrity. Violations will result in a failed grade on the assignment and possibly the class. You are expected to ensure that all assignments submitted for a grade reflect substantially your own work, that work submitted under your name is substantially original, and that you have understood and learned the competencies in each assignment and not relied solely on the knowledge of others. Students whose work is substantially plagiarized from others will receive a ‘0’ on that assignment or exam. If you are unclear of what actions constitute plagiarism, please see me.
Having spelt out your expectations in this class, you are also entitled to know your expectations of me. In exchange of your attention and cooperation in class, you can expect me to
Create an open and stimulating environment for free exchange of ideas and for questioning the underlying assumptions. I also support and encourage students to challenge my arguments since I hold no monopoly to “truth”.
Support your right to appeal any grading decision or decision not to give a make-up exam. Your appeal must be made in writing or via e-mail no later than 24 hours after the test or written paper assignment is returned.
Be prompt, prepared and respectful of all view points. This is not to imply that you and I are to uncritically accept every argument. Our mutual goal is to critically examine issues based on available evidence on important issues. I concede that there exists a difference between analysis and personal or ideological attacks and I hope as the semester progresses this will be clear. Please do not allow my ideology or your classmates’ ideological leanings prevent you from speaking your mind.
Additional readings – make them available, accessible and on time.
STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: "Under
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making
reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those
students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework and
for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for
Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the
EXAMS & GRADING:
There will be one midterm exam but NO final exam. All students will, however, be required to attend the session scheduled for our final exam. We will use that session to finalize our class presentations. The midterm exam will consist of multiple-choice, true-false and short questions answered in writing. Make-up exams will only be given in extreme emergencies and only with prior notice to the instructor. An unexcused absence on the date of an exam will result in a score of zero for that test.
Presidential Debate Issue Paper 10%
Final Paper 25%
Discussion Section 10%
Class Participation & Attendance 5%
Extra Credit??? None. Sorry!
Books and Other
In addition to the assigned books, you will be required to do additional reading(s) of journal articles, other book chapters and news paper articles (from your classmates) posted on blackboard. All additional readings will be posted on blackboard under “Course Documents”.
Two books are required for this course and are available at the University Book Store. You are free to order these books online from amazon.com, Borders or Barnes and Nobles.
Congressional Quarterly Researcher (2008). Issues
For Debate In American Public Policy. 8th (eds).
James Gosling, (2004). Understanding,
Informing and Appraising Public Policy. Pearson/Longman,
Since I’ll be using current events to provide examples of real issues in public policy, you are expected to be familiar with major current issues. Your postings on blackboard will thus be drawn from major front page or front section stories in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times or the Washington Post. Our University library subscribes to the Chicago Tribune and is readily available online.
WK Day Date Lecture
1 Mon 25-Aug Class Introductions
& Course Policies
Wed 27-Aug Defining & Classifying Public Policy Cochran et al, Ch. 1 pp. 1-6
Fri 29-Aug Group Discussion Stone, Intro, pp. 3-6
2 Mon 01-Sep No Classes
Wed 03-Sep Models of Policy Making
and Value Judgments Gupta, Ch.1 pp. 1-5 & pp. 11-16
Fri 05-Sep Context & Instruments of Public Policy Cochran et al., Ch.1 pp. 11-20
Peters, Intro, pp. 6-14
3 Mon 08-Sep Fragmented Gov’t & Policy Making Gosling, pp. 23-36; & pp. 108-116
Cochran et al., Ch.2 pp.25-40
Wed 10-Sep States & Policy Process Gosling, Ch.4 pp.54-71
Fri 12-Sep Group Discussion (Gupta, pp.15) NY Times, September 15, 2000
4 Mon 15-Sep Conceptual Frameworks of Gosling, Ch.6 pp.93-97
Studying Public Policy Birkland, Ch.1 pp.6-8;
In Shafritz, et al., (Kingdon), pp.148-159
Wed 17-Sep Policy Process & Agenda Setting Gosling, Ch.3, pp.39-44
Birkland, Ch.1 pp.1-5
Fri 19-Sep Group Discussion Issue: MN I-35 Bridge Collapse‼
5 Mon 22-Sep Problem Definition Gosling, Ch.5, pp. 75-76
Stone, Ch.8 pp. 137 -145 & 188-197
Kingdon, pp. 108-119
Wed 24-Sep Agenda Types &Policy Models Gupta, Ch.3, pp. 49- 53
Shafritz, (Cobb & Elder) pp. 128-136
Fri 26-Sep Group Discussion Gupta, pp. 54. “School Safety Case”.
6 Mon 29-Sep Policy Actors (Official) Kingdon, Ch.2, pp. 23- 47
Wed 01-Oct Outside (unofficial) Actors Kingdon, Ch. 3, pp 48-74
Fri 03-Oct Group Discussion - Issue: “Snail Darter” In Gupta, pp. 89.
7 Mon 06-Oct Windows of Opportunity, National Gosling, Ch.3, pp.46-50
Mood & Policy Entrepreneurs
Wed 08-Oct Midterm Review
Fri 10-Oct MIDTERM EXAM
PART II – SURVEYING POLICY DEBATES
8 Mon 13-Oct EDUCATION – No Child Left Behind CQ., pp. 1-20
Wed 15-Oct Fixing Urban Schools CQ., pp.25-44
Fri 17-Oct Group Discussion - Issue “Are Schools’ Graduation Rates Accurate” CQ., pp.11
“An ‘A’ For Everybody” – Chicago Tribune
9 Mon 20-Oct HEALTH: Universal Coverage CQ., pp. 49-68
Wed 22-Oct Rising Health Costs CQ., pp. 73-91
Fri 24-Oct Group Discussion - Issue: “Should the Rich Pay More for Health Care?” CQ., pp. 84
10 Mon 27-Oct ECONOMY: Consumer Debt CQ., pp. 267-286
Wed 29-Oct Controlling the Internet CQ., pp. 291- 310
Fri 31-Oct Group Discussion – Issue: “Who Should Control the Internet – Gov’t or
Telephone and Cable Companies” CQ., pp.297-298
11 Mon 03-Nov SOCIAL: Gun Violence CQ., pp. 122-140
Wed 05-Nov Stem Cell Research CQ., pp. 97-116.
Fri 07-Nov Group Discussion - Issue: “Is Conducting Medical Research on Unused Embryos
From Fertility Clinics Immoral?” CQ., pp. 100-101.
12 Mon 10-Nov HOMELAND & FOREIGN POLICY: Illegal Immigration CQ., pp. 339-361
Wed 12-Nov Treatment of Detainees CQ., pp. 367-384
Fri 14-Nov Group Discussion - Issue: “Should the Gov’t Outlaw “Extraordinary
Rendition?” CQ., pp. 373-374
13 Mon 17-Nov ENVIRONMENT: Energy Efficiency CQ., pp. 169-187
Wed 19-Nov National Parks CQ., pp. 193-209
Fri 21-Nov Group Discussion - Issue “Can States Do More To Encourage Energy
Efficiency?” CQ., pp. 177-178
14 Mon 24-Nov JUSTICE: Death Penalty (FINAL PAPER DUE) CQ., pp. 243-262
Wed 26-Nov Thanksgiving Break
Fri 28-Nov Thanksgiving Break
15 Mon 01-Dec Final Paper Presentations
Wed 03-Dec Final Paper Presentations
Fri 05-Dec Final Paper Presentations
16 Mon 08-Dec FINALS
Summary & Conclusions
Where Do We Go From Here – The “Tank-man” Film. – Possible Extra Credit‼‼