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Cases and Controversies: How Novitiates Are Trained to Be Masters of the Public Policy Universe


  • Carol Chetkovich

    (Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University)

  • David L. Kirp

    (Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley)


Public policy schools were established 30 years ago to provide analytic and management skills to aspiring policy professionals. A centerpiece of policy management training has been the action-centered teaching case, modeled after the cases long used in business schools. Though other aspects of public management teaching and research have been vigorously debated, little attention has been paid to the content of teaching cases.Taking these texts as a central element in policy student socialization, the authors ask what implicit lessons they convey. A close reading of 10 best-selling cases from the Kennedy School of Government finds the policy world to be the domain of high-level, lone protagonists beset by hostile political forces; collaborative problem-solving is rare, street-level actors insignificant, and historical, social, and institutional contexts of minimal importance. The article discusses the implications of this construction and raises questions about its appropriateness for the training of future public servants. © 2001 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Suggested Citation

  • Carol Chetkovich & David L. Kirp, 2001. "Cases and Controversies: How Novitiates Are Trained to Be Masters of the Public Policy Universe," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(2), pages 283-314.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:20:y:2001:i:2:p:283-314
    DOI: 10.1002/pam.2026

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Laurence E. Lynn, 1994. "Public management research: The triumph of art over science," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(2), pages 231-259.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kristan Cockerill & Lacy Daniel & Leonard Malczynski & Vincent Tidwell, 2009. "A fresh look at a policy sciences methodology: collaborative modeling for more effective policy," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 42(3), pages 211-225, August.
    2. repec:spr:manint:v:48:y:2008:i:5:d:10.1007_s11575-008-0037-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Sally J. Kenney, 2004. "Gender, the public policy enterprise, and case teaching," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(1), pages 159-178.

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