Kennedy School Expands Compulsory Race and Public Policy Courses to Full Semester | New
Freshmen starting the Masters of Public Policy program at Harvard Kennedy School this month became the first class to participate in two half-semester courses on race and racism, after the school decided to extend the compulsory courses from two weeks to a full semester.
The work-study courses – “Race and Racism in the Making of the United States as a Global Power” and “Race and Racism in Public Policies, Practices, and Perspectives” – were first introduced as a requirement last fall , but were covered virtually in an intensive two-week format after freshman orientation in 2020. HKS made the class compulsory amidst the national racial calculation last summer, after years of calls from student activists for more instruction on race and colonialism at the Kennedy School.
These courses are currently only offered to first-year MPP students, as the Kennedy School has not imposed similar course requirements for students in other programs.
Camille N. Choe, a current student in the class, said she appreciated the perspective from which the material has been processed so far and stressed the need for students to engage with its content.
“Professor readings [Khalil] Muhammad made us do this is a great way to think about race and racism in a more structural way, as opposed to seeing it as individual interactions, ”Choe said.
“I think this is one of those courses that really has a very deep impact,” she added. “Race and racism is such a fundamental issue that I really believe everyone should have a space to study and sort of discuss these kinds of issues.”
Deepanshu Aggarwal, an international student from India, said the course gave him a new perspective on the issue of racism in the United States, a topic he said he was not familiar with before.
“What I have learned about racism here is more than superficial. Previously, I had understood, ‘Okay, this is just something going on right now. It started with the slave trade, ”Aggarwal said.
“The kind of readings we are taught in the program – it took me reading these readings to realize that the debate also extends to the fact that not everyone thinks about the founding day of the ‘America the same way,’ he added.
In addition to having more time to process the material, current freshmen have another advantage over students who took the course last year: in-person discussion.
Ezinwanne O. “Adaeze” Okoli, who attended the course last fall, said delivery of course material was diminished by the online format and the tight deadline, especially during virtual small group discussions.
“It wasn’t enough time to build that confidence and that rapport to really get the depth,” Okoli said. “The level of conversation you need to have around these things requires a level of confidence and a level or ability that is very difficult to cultivate on Zoom and very difficult to cultivate on day one.”
Grace Y. Park said the in-person format of the course allowed for more meaningful discussions with peers.
“A friend of mine close to the class was trying to make a comment, but he was having a bit of a hard time phrasing it, so we went out together and then we ended up talking for an hour and a half about what he had to do.” hard to express, ”Park said. “I think it wouldn’t have been possible if we just walked out of our Zoom rooms.”
Although she said she enjoyed the class, Park also explained that the “varying levels of experience” with the material among her classmates can sometimes lead to “patchy” conversations.
“I wonder if there is a model where people who feel a little more up-to-date or have a fundamental understanding of racism around the world and in the United States could dive into deeper conversations sooner. and more substantial, ”Park said.
Despite the extension of the course from two weeks to one semester, Didier P. Dumerjean stated that he believed that the duration of the course still did not allow for a thorough understanding of the course material.
“I think a semester, to be quite frank, is not enough,” said Dumerjean. “For people who haven’t been part of these conversations, who don’t understand how power is distributed across the world and how these social hierarchies persist and are pervasive, it’s especially important that you start engaging with these. [topics] now, given the positions of authority in which we will be.
Sara Asad ’17, a student in the Master in Business Administration / Master in Public Administration-International Development program, said student demand for race and racism courses exceeds current supply.
“Students want to be able to learn more about issues of fairness not only of race and equity in the United States, but also on a more international level, thinking about colonialism and some of the impacts and repercussions it has. had on our company, ”Assad said.
Professor Khalil G. Muhammad, who teaches the first module, said there is “an opportunity for growth” in horse racing at HKS, but pointed to the school’s recent expansion in this area as a positive sign. .
“Over the past three or four years, the number of course offerings has certainly increased with an increase in the number of teachers who can work in this field as the school focuses more on different cohorts,” Muhammad said. .
—Editor-in-Chief Joshua S. Cai can be contacted at [email protected]
– Editor-in-Chief Eric Yan can be contacted at [email protected]