Should higher ed do more to influence policy?
- Justin Talbot-Zorn and Sridhar Kota write for WIRED about the nation's growing culture of lawmakers developing and passing legislation with educational impact, without the proper insight or information on its effects. Citing dramatic cuts to scientific and technological research hubs serving Congress, lawmakers are receiving advice from research staff which has shrunk by more than 20% since 1979.
- They write that the nation's colleges and universities can replace this drain on fact-checking and innovation, and faculty can provide valuable policy insight through webinars, policy analysis and mini courses offered on Capitol Hill.
- They estimate that fewer than 4% of elected officials have educational or professional backgrounds in technical or scientific fields.
There is no guarantee that even the best presentations on industrial or academic innovation would draw an audience with federal lawmakers just for the sake of information being offered, but most advocates agree that the most effective time to reach legislators is during their time in the districts. Colleges must do a more effective job of lobbying lawmakers before they reach Washington, using resources which can shape elections (legally) and studying pet initiatives which would have an easier time of drawing the attention of staffers and key fundraisers backing candidates.
Yes, schools could be more effective in teaching officials how to best make policy, but the real education is in learning what lawmakers themselves are passionate about and using those passions to leverage specific elements of growth for the university enterprise.