Students in the School of Public Policy (SPP) were featured in a special episode of the BBC World Service radio program “My Perfect Country.” The program examines successful public policies from around the globe, with the conceit of identifying the best policies to bring together to build a “perfect” nation.
“My Perfect Country” presenter Fi Glover and producer Anishka Sharma recently spent three days at SPP, interviewing students and sitting in on a course taught by SPP professor Betsy Schmidt called making a difference: policies and strategies for social change.
Schmidt uses the BBC program in her teaching as a way to introduce students to policies and policymakers in other cultures. Last year, she contacted the show’s producers to ask if they had any teaching materials connected to the program; in response, the “My Perfect Country” team, excited to learn that their work was being used in a classroom in the U.S., proposed coming to campus to record an entire program about Schmidt’s course.
During her visit, Glover interviewed the students about what drew them to study policy and how they envision using policy to affect positive change. The students, in turn, had the opportunity to interview, via Skype, policy experts featured on earlier episodes that the class had discussed.
They talked, for instance, to Jake Adelstein, a crime journalist based in Japan about that country’s stringent gun laws and its extremely low rates of gun violence, and about whether similar policies could work in the U.S. They also spoke to Gerald Abila, founder of Barefoot Law, a nonprofit that provides free legal aid to people in Uganda, and discussed Norway’s approach to prison rehabilitation, which differs sharply from that in the U.S.
Schmidt stumbled on “My Perfect Country” on the radio driving home one night and immediately recognized the value the program would bring to classroom discussions. Her students, she noted, are interested in a wide range of professions, from politics to public health, but all share a commitment to changing the world for the better. “Who knows what they’ll end up doing?” Schmidt said. “But I think they’ll keep those good values as they do it.”
Glover, the show’s host, spoke of the great challenges faced by today’s generation of students. “They’re going to have to try to solve the problems of climate change, global migration, the gap between rich and poor, and the insatiable demands of new technologies,” she said.
But it’s a relief, she added, to know that the future is in the hands of people like the SPP students she met—“bright, competent young people in the most powerful country on earth who want to make the whole world—not just America—a better place.”