Duke course on gridlock

I love being a college professor, in part because of the opportunity to do new and interesting things with students. A year ago, David Schanzer and I asked our Dean for permission to develop a new course at Duke called “Gridlock: can our system address America’s big challenges?” He said yes, freeing us from other courses to develop this new one that begins today.

David is a former Senate staffer who specializes in counter-terrorism and foreign policy and I am a health policy meets the budget guy, and the class is an attempt to both pull back and look at systems and structures while also giving concrete domestic and foreign policy issue examples. We both worry a lot about Gridlock and understand it to be a profound problem, but we are going to try and look as dispassionately at the issues as possible, from all sides. To that end, we will read books such as In Praise of Deadlock: How Partisan Struggle Leads to Better Laws by W. Lee Rawls, former Chief of Staff for Senator Bill Frist and before that Pete Domenici. An assignment for today’s class was to watch Justice Scalia discuss the benefits of gridlock.

Often in policy classes, I tamp down solutions for students and tell them their ideas are interesting but seem impossible. My vow for this class is to do the opposite: to try and encourage the students to imagine what world and country they want to inherit and make, and to not be limited by what I understand to be the limits of what is possible.

David and I are making student blogging a key part of the class assignments. You can follow along at Duke’s Gridlock Blog if you are interested.


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