This fall, PACE-C 250 — Leadership and Public Policy looks at how public policy applies theory to practice. Open to all undergraduate students, the class imparts an understanding of the rival philosophies that shape American political life and a strong grasp of the leadership skills, social movements, and institutional mechanisms at work in the world of public policy. Dr. Carl Weinberg, who teaches one of the sections, talks about the course in the interview below.
Why is it important for students to take this course? What knowledge or skills do you hope they gain?
Weinberg: Any student who cares about what is going on the world and wants to make an impact should take this course. Students will gain leadership skills and knowledge of how to participate effectively in the world of politics and public policy. The course starts with a brief historical tour of the founding of the American republic, with all of its tensions and contradictions. We make a brief stop at political theory and then move onto a study of leadership. Next comes a three-part examination of current issues in public policy—on the local, state, and national levels. The course ends with a student-centered Town Hall exercise on a topic of students’ choosing.
What type of students would you encourage to take this course? Do students have to be in PACE?
Weinberg: Students who take the course come from a wide range of majors, but Political Science, History, and programs in O’Neill/SPEA are probably the most common. You don’t have to be in the PACE program, but the course always persuades some students to pursue the PACE certificate or the Leaders and Leadership minor.
Are there any assignments that you are particularly excited about?
Weinberg: The end-of-semester Town Hall exercise is usually the highlight of the course. Students pick their own common topic, research and write position papers, and take part in a two–class democratic deliberation, which is somewhere between informal dialogue and debate. Topics students have chosen in recent years include the minimum wage, IU’s sexual misconduct policy, free college for all, and paying NCAA student-athletes. For many students, it’s their first experience exchanging conflicting views in an informed and civil manner that does not degenerate into name-calling.
Another assignment that students enjoy and learn from is the Leadership Quiz assignment. We break down effective leadership into actions students can practice. They report back on what they did in a series of written quizzes that are always eye-opening.
To what extent will students engage in discussions of current events?
Weinberg: The class is chock full of discussion of current events. The confluence of the upcoming 2020 presidential election, the ongoing social mass movement against police brutality, and the many leadership issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic will make this an especially fascinating time to take this class.
What, to you, is the most interesting aspect of this course? What, if anything, do you learn from teaching it?
Weinberg: I always learn from the class because I’m constantly changing the policymaking case studies we cover to address current events. That’s also true of the Town Hall topic, which changes every time I teach the class. I enjoy learning alongside the students.