We must continue to try to understand the policy process…

…we must continue to try to understand the policy process – however irrational or uncontrollable it may seem to be – as a crucial first step towards trying to secure effective policy making.

The imperative for constructive engagement put succinctly by Michael Hill in The Public Policy Process, 5th Ed (2009).  It’s much easier to say what you’re against than to try to be part of the process – with all the risks that entails.


What would you teach if you could teach anything?

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe, who teaches history and American studies at Northwestern University, posed this question today.  Here is an extract from her answer:

I want students to step into the past with me and embrace its unexpected lessons. I don’t care who begat whom among the high or low born. I like to pass among the ghosts and see the world through their eyes to the extent I can. When that happens as I read a poignant diary entry or detailed newspaper description, the veil of eternity lifts. I want to share that…

So many men, women, and children flit though my mental landscape from Portland to Pune all while I realise that I’ve missed millions more who could shed light on the delights and dilemmas of the human condition. If I could do anything and teach anything, I would visit them all with students in tow. I just need that machine….

I’d be interested to know what others think.  For me, it’d be about making students feel full of sheer intellectual power of history: the potential of their historians’ minds to take statements and positions apart; inspect the evidence; analyse the claims and the associations made; stretch their thinking diachronically and synchronically; expose, challenge and reframe.  And then to consider how that power could be put to use not just in the service of historical knowledge and understanding, but in many other contexts.

Tackling belief is the key to overcoming climate change scepticism

Adam Corner’s great piece today on Guardian.co.uk (via @alicebell) highlights the importance of belief in determining people’s position on climate change.  For me, this opens up debate on a vital role for the humanities:

…we should not be looking to science to provide us with the answer to a problem that is social in nature. The challenge is to find a way of explaining why climate change matters using language and ideas that don’t alienate people. Simply repeating the scientific case for climate change is – unfortunately – not going to cut it.

In fact, the more we know, the less it seems that climate change scepticism has to do with climate science at all. Climate change provokes such visceral arguments because it allows ancient battles – about personal responsibility, state intervention, the regulation of industry, the distribution of resources and wealth, or the role of technologies in society – to be fought all over again.

The last sentence is particularly resonant :

It follows that the answer to overcoming climate change scepticism is to stop reiterating the science, and start engaging with what climate change scepticism is really about – competing visions of how people see the world, and what they want the future to be like.