History and Public Policy

Professor: Selvin
Units: 1.0
Elective Course
Concentration: Policy Analysis

In both the public and private sectors, problem solving often involves historical reasoning. Issues are defined as being "like" earlier issues. Alternatives are gauged on assumptions about past trends and about factors that have previously influenced such trends. Whenever analysts or decision makers reason from analogies, project trend lines, or use time-series data they act as historians. Yet explicit training in historical analysis or methods has not been a traditional part of policy analytic training. This course is designed to present history as it is encountered in a policy research or policy-making setting. Students learn basic historical research methods, become sensitive to the broad range of historical sources and learn to evaluate how historical data and analytical techniques have been "used" and "misused" in the policy arena. We can accomplish these methodological goals by exploring the history behind a set of contemporary policy issues. For example, past courses have focused on energy policy, welfare reform, criminal justice, transportation planning, and marriage and family law, among other issues.