Just what we need: More public policy schools

Writing for the Washington Post, James Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley explore the growth in the number and scope of college-level schools of public policy.

This fall, Georgetown University announced the creation of a new school of public policy , thanks to a gift of $100 million from an alumnus. And in October, the University of New Hampshire announced that it would use a $20 million gift to launch a public policy school of its own.

It is easy to understand the impulse behind such actions. “It’s an awfully frustrating time in the world,” David Ellwood, dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, told us. “There are large and challenging problems, including climate change, demography, budget problems, terrorism, extremism and partisanship.” At public policy schools, he explains, “we think it’s our job to fix these things.” The faculty and students, Ellwood says, “are united by the principle of making the world a better place.”

But are policy schools making a dent in Ellwood’s long and varied list of problems? The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration already lists some 285 such institutions in the United States, and new ones are opening up — but the field as a whole seems to be having an identity crisis. The schools’ curricula and missions have become at once too broad and too academic, too focused on national and global issues at the expense of local and state-level ones. It’s not clear that the schools are preparing their graduates to fix all that needs fixing.

Follow the link above to read Piereson and Riley address several concerns about the direction public policy instruction has taken among America’s colleges and universities in recent decades. This reader was disappointed that Piereson and Riley neglected to mention one problem that dwarfs all others: the fatal conceit that government experts can do a better job than millions of normal people making free decisions — with their own interests in mind —  to address most problems.

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