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"Policy Matters" examines the ways in which we address the major social issues and challenges that we face in the nation, in the state, and in our communities. We begin with the fundamental and elemental questions: What it is the role of government in a democratic society? How do we decide when, where, and how government acts—in ways that are consistent with our social goals and values? Policy Matters will focus on a selection of our most pressing social issues such as education, inequality, labor standards, and health care. On each of these topics, we will devote attention to the historical development of the problem or policy in question (both to provide background, and to help students imagine historical alternatives). We will trace the ways in which we address these social issues and engage students in critically analysis (through evaluation and comparison) of both the effectiveness of current policies and the universe of policy alternatives. And we will examine the ways in which social science contributes to both policy design and policy assessment (How do we know what works?). 


This course is designed for First and Second Year students of all majors who are hoping to fulfill their GE Social Sciences requirement. A Courses-in-Common Honors Rhetoric course was developed in tandem with this course.  This course meets one of the sociology foundation requirements for the Ethics and Public Policy major. HIST:1119/SOC:1119

Faculty Co-Instructors

  • Sarah Bruch (Sociology)
  • Colin Gordon (History)

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Big Ideas Courses
Big Ideas (BI) Courses are general education courses centered on themes rather than individual disciplines. These courses are team-taught across an array of disciplines, departments, and even colleges.