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Curriculum and Case Notes / 163 MAKING PUBLIC POLICY PROGRAMS EFFECTIVE AND RELEVANT: THE ROLE OF THE POLICY SCIENCES Peter deLeon and Toddi A. Steelman INTRODUCTION As we leave the 20th century, it seems appropriate to reflect on the discipline and pedagogy of public affairs. 1 This essay addresses the question: Is public policy education effective and relevant for the challenges of the 21st century? To answer this question, we also need to ask two additional questions: Is it necessary to change? And, if so, how might such change occur? There are no “objective” indicators (e.g., wars or depressions) that portend crisis in the American polity and its attendant public policies. Moreover, the state of public policy programs in the United States seems quite robust. Graduates from public policy programs are finding employment in the hearty economic boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and public policy programs have grown markedly in the 50 years since Harold D. Lasswell (1949, 1951) forecast them, and since the first public policy programs were established in the 1970s (see deLeon, 1988). However, growth in academic public policy programs and ready employment are not complete measures of success or salience. While the discipline has experienced many undeniable triumphs in terms of prominence, it has been less successful in providing effective long-term solutions to some policy problems, such as poverty alleviation, homelessness, sustainable development (i.e., balancing environmental and developmental concerns), health care, education, and campaign finance, to name a few. Derek Bok (1997) has offered a series of calibrations by which government and their policies might be measured, in which the United States clearly has a mixed reading. In addition to lack of effectiveness in some areas of public policy, the United States and the world community in the 21st century will be a far different place than it was in the 1950s or the 1970s, as Lasswell himself surely knew (see Lasswell, 1956). To wit: the American public trusted federal and usually state governments; devolution was not the phrase de jour; democracy and market-based economics were not a global consensus, either as a development medium or even an agreed- upon goal; technology was not as dominant nor as questioned; public, private, nonprofit, and citizen sectors were more sharply defined and distinct in their mission and goals. As these few examples indicate, changing contexts and new trends provide adequate justification for appraising the status of public policy curricula and anticipating its relevance for the future. 1 We are hardly alone in this endeavor. Ronald Brunner’s (1991) reflections on the status of the discipline point to the policy movement as part of the problem. Michael Reisman (1987) provides an insightful analysis of a meta-curricular theory for continuously making legal education more effective and relevant; also see Brunner (1997a, 1997b).
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164 / Curriculum and Case Notes This article addresses the current challenges facing public policy as a discipline and proposes suggestions to speak to some of these challenges. In our opinion, two dominant
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