POL 242 COMPARATIVE PUBLIC HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY
Edward Lorenz SPRING TERM 2006
This course will begin with a comparative review of Mexico and United States history, geography, and government in the context of globalization. Following study of selected health, environmental, and labor issues along the border of the United States and Mexico, we will study the public policies designed to address those problems. After seven days of intensive classroom study, we will travel to the border to observe conditions and to study and work on environmental health and migrant-employment issues. Throughout the term, but especially when visiting the border region and beyond, we want to think of the impact of what we see and learn on our sense of vocation. We want to think of the relationship of the skills we are learning at Alma and that we hope to learn after leaving Alma and the callings we want to pursue. We want to reflect as well on the role of ‘the accident of our birth place,’ especially the institutional and legal structures into which we were born, as shaping our opportunity and responsibility. We also will learn of the comparative role of institutions, especially public ones (that is government), but also private non-profit ones, such as churches, community organizations, educational institutions, and labor unions in meeting human needs. Simultaneously, we will gain an appreciation of comparative differences in public policies and the policy process. Students will conclude the course by preparing a written research report designed to help communities in which we have worked clarify their needs and the means to meet those needs.
This course will utilize the unique opportunity provided by Alma's Spring Term to expose students to the great need for environmental, health, and other professionals to serve low income populations in both the developed and developing world. It will do this by exposing students to differences in one of those rare places where the United States meets the developing world, along the Texas border with Mexico. It will compare health and environmental needs and policies and the management of policies in northern Mexican border communities with those on the U.S. side of the border. We will especially try to learn how global economic forces create special pressures on rural communities to send people to the cities of the world and across national borders in pursuit of opportunity.
Work on border environmental, health, and labor needs will have multiple benefits for students. First, students will have unforgettable exposure to the complexity of data collection, empirical research, technical planning, and causal analysis in public policy. We will observe the very real differences between health and environmental needs and policies that correspond to differences in living standards. In terms often used in the study of public policy, we will see that 'policy choices and resources available to support policy matter.' We also can witness the importance for independent public policy research and advocacy of non profit organizations, especially those linked to universities, churches, human rights organizations, and labor rights institutions. Such institutions, along with government, sponsor much data collection, analysis, and policy advocacy work along the border that benefits the less articulate poor and our common environment.
ASSESSMENT OF ACHIEVEMENT:
Progress through this course will be assessed in three stages. The philosophy behind the course is called mastery learning. That is, every student should master all material in each stage before moving to the next and should master all course objectives before completing the course. During the first stage, there will be assessments, which will be like standard tests. Students will take these tests as often as necessary until all work is known. The second stage of the course, will be the one on the border, during which time, students will assemble a journal, including a daily written reflection on experiences and handouts and other documents collected during that day's work. The last stage of the course, during and after the fourth week, will be a research report on one border public policy topic or related issue that arises from our travel.
Details of assessment methods for the later two stages of the course will be given before we embark on each stage. Below are listed the general subjects which we must master during the seven on-campus classes.
GEOGRAPHY Understand the basic geography of Mexico & the southwest U.S.
-Review the major regions, cities, etc. of Chihuahua, New Mexico, and TexasKnow the Rio Grande (Bravo) Valley Know the counties, cities, colonias of the Juarez El Paso region
HISTORY Major events, personalities, and consequences of the conquest.
-The major events, personalities, and consequences of the war for independence, the early republican era, the Mexican American War and the French invasion.
-The Diaz era and the Revolution
-Mexico since the Revolution
-Globalization’s impact on the border
- POLITICS Comparative Mexican and U.S. government & names of key
-Political parties in MexicoEconomic integration and rivalry; border policies and tensions
-Government in Texas, New Mexico, and Chihuahua
-The policy process and law
& ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
- Understand basic public health concerns
- Issues of environmental sustainability of the region
- Land-use concerns or lack thereof
- Environmental impacts on health
AND AGRICULTURE – Understand pressures on rural Mexico and the
- The concept of labor standards and the basic standards of the world
- The reasons for and structure of organized labor
- Changes in land tenure and labor law in the last decade in Mexico