ETHICS AND PUBLIC POLICY                                                                                        Fall 2015

Dr. Christine A. James

PHIL 4120 A Ethics and Public Policy TR 3:30pm-4:45pm WH 104 CRN 80906

This syllabus is available online, and may be updated, at

Office: 1203 Ashley Hall

Office Hours: MW 3:30pm-4:45pm, TR 2:00-3:15pm, and after classes and by appointment as needed or requested.

Telephone: 259-7609

Mailbox: Philosophy and Religious Studies Department Office, Ashley Hall North Side First Floor

Fax: 259-5011

E-mail address:


Course content: This course provides an introduction to public policy and its relationship to ethical theory. Public policy is a discipline that analyzes contemporary moral issues using case examples and the historical ethical frameworks used in philosophy, including social and political philosophy and ethics. Any given case in public policy and ethics requires analysis from multiple points of view, and consideration of many different interested parties. What we think of as specifically an environmental issue also affects human welfare, fiscal management, business and development in a given region. Similarly, what we may assume to be a financial decision has impact on the environment including human and non-human agents. Public policy does not occur in a vacuum, and every issue in the class has impact and meaning within the other segments of the course.

During a course on public policy and ethics, students will address questions like:

What is the relationship between ethics and public policy? How can environmental values be balanced against economic development values in the United States and in developing nations? Is the purpose of public education to teach values? What obligation do major food-producing nations have to starving people in less-developed nations? How should care and treatment of HIV-related diseases be funded? Should the United States require population control activities as a condition of giving foreign aid to developing African nations? What is good public policy regarding abortion? Should the world's lender nations cooperate to relieve debt in burdened developing nations? What is the relationship between law and morality? How can the problems of housing and homelessness be effectively addressed? Is capital punishment good public policy? Should national tax systems favor "family values"? How can "ethics consultants" and "policy analysts" balance the competing claims of the "expert" and "advocate" roles? Should the United States implement a national health insurance plan?

Specific learning objectives include the development of a basic understanding of the following concepts and the ability to use these concepts in the analysis of American public policy. The learning outcomes listed below include reference to the University System of Georgia and Valdosta State University Learning Outcomes.

LEARNING OUTCOMES: In accordance with the revised learning outcomes for the Core Curriculum of the Georgia State System, and the VSU Core Curriculum, our course follows the Area C Humanities Learning Outcome:

"Students will analyze, evaluate, and interpret diverse forms of human communication." 

The Learning Outcomes for our PHIL 4120 are:

1. To understand the distinctions among the various philosophical approaches to public policy, including the historical nature of public policy ethics as an academic field.

2. To recognize how philosophical inquiry applies to ‘real-world’ circumstances and to specific case studies in public policy literature, and to understand the ethics models and how to apply each to real world public policy issues.

3. To become conversant with understand the historical and structural context of public policy, as well as specific examples of the issues of race, class and gender as they influenced public policy’s development.

4. To recognize and define different world views, adopting a reasonably viable one and justifying it in a philosophically informed way that emphasizes critical reasoning and argument.

5. To demonstrate the ability to analyze, in both oral and written discourse, selected public policy issues within an appropriate ethical framework and offer alternative resolutions to the problem.

6. To arrive at defensible conclusions of whether decision makers are applying ethics in the design of public policies and programs.

7. To be familiar with what academic philosophy is, and to understand how it can be applied to daily life as well as specific careers.

Members of the faculty in Philosophy and Religious Studies have verified that these outcomes are in line with the outcomes of the course as it is taught at peer institutions in the State System of Georgia.

These course-specific learning outcomes contribute to the departmental learning outcomes of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Major:

1. Explain and analyze central issues, topics, and philosophers in the history of philosophy, from the ancient to the modern periods.

2. Write and speak critically and logically, applying various theories to specific cases and examples.

3. Explain their own value system, evaluating their values in the context of a diverse range of ideas that inform contemporary controversies and social conflict.

4. Create independent philosophical research, synthesizing a variety of sources, including traditional primary philosophical texts and secondary source commentaries.

5. Demonstrate a working familiarity with current research methods, citation styles, and presentation techniques.

All learning outcomes will be evaluated via formative and summative assessments, including research papers, formal presentations in class including verbal expression and Powerpoint presentations, and written work in Blazeview including Discussion postings, Assignment attachments of Word .doc or .docx format, and Assessment quizzes.

Requirements: Class participation and attendance, two written examinations, a group presentation on the Hess book, two papers, various Blazeview quizzes, dropboxes, discussions. Pop Reading Quizzes may also be given during the semester.

Required Texts:


Public Policy in the United States by Mark E. Rushefsky

Publisher: ME Sharpe, Inc. 5th edition (2013)

ISBN 13: 9780765625298                $47.45 on Amazon


Morality and Public Policy by Steven M. Cahn, Tziporah Kasachkoff

Publisher: Prentice Hall (2002)

ISBN-10: 0130418412

ISBN-13: 9780130418418               $63.72 on Amazon


Cases in Public Policy Analysis by George M. Guess, Paul G. Farnham

Publisher: Georgetown University Press; Third Edition (2011)

ISBN-10: 158901734X

ISBN-13: 978-1589017344                $31.14 on Amazon


Selected readings and academic journal articles as noted in the syllabus, usually by Adobe .pdf inside Blazeview.


Be sure to do the reading before the class for which it is assigned. Please bring the relevant book(s) and/or article(s) with you to class, along with a designated notebook and some pens.


(In addition, Philosophy and Religious Studies faculty encourage you to use Andrea A. Lunsford, St. Martin’s Handbook, the VSU edition, which is required in ENGL 1101 and 1102 courses. These books are available for purchase at the VSU Bookstore. The St. Martin’s Handbook is shelved under ENGL 1101 and 1102.)


How grades will be calculated:

A          = 100 - 90%                            First Discussion, Dropbox, and Introduction Quiz for Practice = 5%

B          = 89 - 80%                               Class participation, attendance = 10%

C          = 79 - 70%                               First Exam = 10%

D          = 69 - 60%                               Group Presentation on the Hess Guess and Farnham book = 15%

F          = 59 - 0%                                  Final Exam = 20%

Two Writing Practicum Days in class at 5% each = 10%

2 Papers at 15% each = 30%

Total = 100% 


 Please note that I am not obligated to accept late work or to allow “make up” work after the date an assignment or exam or paper is completed by the other members of the class.

Try to email me to discuss late work ahead of time.

I also make no promises about extra credit items, although I will routinely announce events on campus that can result in some extra credit points for you.


Exams and Papers: The exams in our class will be “short answer” written exams. Usually I ask six questions and a complete answer should be no less than four complete sentences. These exams are “objective” in the sense that the answers can be directly related to class discussions and the textbook. Reading and participating in class are important for your exam grades. The papers involve more creative and independent thinking. The papers should be no less than eight pages long, double spaced, in a standard 12 point font like Times/ Times New Roman. Expect to use the text and cite it with a consistent citation scheme (refer to the St. Martin’s Handbook you use in your English classes). “Use direct quotes!” Don’t use plastic paper covers, just a staple is fine. The ability to write and edit well-constructed academic essays is an important skill that will come in handy throughout your college career and beyond. Again, these papers must be typed, double-spaced, in a standard 12-point font (e.g., Times) with one-inch margins at the top and bottom of each page and 1.25-inch margins on either side (the default settings in Microsoft Word). The topic, subject matter, case study, and examples used in your papers are entirely up to you, but you should research them thoroughly. Some paper tips: You should also use the links below to help you with materials for your papers:

In completing your research papers, you may find that the databases of peer-reviewed journal articles will be especially helpful.  The direct link for the database (Academic Search Complete) is Click on Academic Search Complete to open the first page with the search box. Note that if you are off campus, you will need to log in. If you are accessing the library website from an off-campus computer, please use the Anywhere Access to log in to our library’s resources:

Attendance Policy: I do care that you attend class regularly. VSU policy is that missing 20% of class meetings results in an automatic grade of “F”. Faculty can also institute added attendance policies in their syllabi. Our class will have a 10% rule for absences. You can miss up to 10% of the class meetings with no grade penalty. 10% of our 30 class meetings is 3. On absence number 4, your final grade for the course will be reduced by one whole letter grade; on absence number 5, your final grade for the course will be reduced by two whole letter grades; on absence number 6, you will automatically fail the course. Be considerate of your fellow students – don’t be late, and don’t leave your cell phones and pagers on. Note that if you are regularly late to class, or leave class early, I will begin to count each as an absence. Please note that this policy makes no distinction between excused and unexcused absences.

Access Statement: Valdosta State University is committed to providing inclusive learning environments for all students. However, students with disabilities may not always experience equal access to all learning objectives or assessments.  If students anticipate or experience any learning barriers, they should notify the instructor as well as contact the Access Office to determine appropriate ways to eliminate barriers. The Access Office is located in Farber Hall and can be reached by calling 229-245-2498 (voice), 229-375-5871 (videophone), 229-219-1348 (tty) or 229-245-3788 (fax). You can also visit the website at or email at for more information. 

Participate! Once you arrive at class, make an effort to get involved in the conversation. Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you need clarification or would like more information: if you are confused, it is likely that others are too! The participation percentage you receive will depend on a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) the frequency and helpfulness of your contributions to class discussions and the care you take when peer editing.

Pop Reading Quizzes: If I notice that there are many students who are not keeping up with the reading, I may periodically administer reading quizzes in class. These will not be announced in advance. No “make-up” quizzes will be given, and a missed quiz will result in a grade of zero. These quizzes are a solid reward for attending class, participating, and keeping up with the readings.

Online Discussions: During certain weeks of the semester, you also will be expected to participate regularly in on-line discussions using Blazeview. Use this opportunity to comment on the week’s readings, ask questions, raise objections, and respond to what others have written or said in class.

To use Blazeview, you will need access to a computer with an internet connection. Your computer and its software will also need to meet certain technical specifications, like allowing pop-ups and updating Java. You are solely responsible for all technical matters. Although you do not need to be on campus in order to access Blazeview, it is worth remembering that computer labs are available at VSU. Sometimes if you have a lot of work to do, your wireless internet connection can be cut off if your computer or iPad goes into sleep mode – the library computers will have more reliable “wired” connection. When writing a long discussion post, feel free to type it as a Word doc and save it, then copy and paste it into the discussion. For technical help, please contact the VSU Help Desk (located in Odum Library, to the left of the Circulation Desk) at 229-245-4357 or by e-mail at

To log in to Blazeview and the course “shell,” go to the VSU homepage and click on My VSU. Your username and password are probably the same as for your e-mail account.

When posting in an online Discussion board, like those in the Discussion area of Blazeview, you must (1) post at least one original message of your own, (2) read all the messages posted by others, and (3) respond substantively to at least one message from another student. Your postings are due the same day as the readings are listed in the schedule below (i.e., no later than 11:59 p.m. on the relevant dates.) Normally, in Blazeview, you should respond to my topic first, and then come back and reply to at least two other students. Try not to simply repeat what others have said already, and remember that citing the text is important.

When you are ready to respond to someone else, do so by opening their message and hitting the “Reply” button. This will create a “thread” that others can add on to. Keep in mind that although it is fine to disagree with what someone else has said, it is important to do so in a way that is polite and constructive. If someone says something that makes you angry, pause and take a breath before firing off a reply! You can preview your message before you send it, but once you have hit “Post,” people will be seeing what you posted!

Blazeview allows me to keep track of how many messages you have read and posted, like a set of statistics on a scoreboard. I will monitor student activity and may from time to time add a message of my own.

Academic Honesty: Members of the Valdosta State University faculty value honesty and integrity extremely highly and do not tolerate cheating of any kind. Anyone caught cheating will automatically fail the course. Cheating includes – but is not limited to – plagiarism, giving or receiving assistance on a quiz, having someone else do work on your behalf, doing work on someone else’s behalf, and working with a partner or in a group on an individual assignment. By enrolling in this course, you are in effect promising to maintain the bond of trust on which the professor-student relationship is based. In addition, VSU has a new Academic Honesty Policy. Here is a link to the Academic Honesty Policies and Procedures:                                               

E-Mail: VSU policy mandates that all official communication by e-mail take place through VSU e-mail accounts or through the Blazeview Mail tool. Please check your VSU ( e-mail account regularly.

Note: This syllabus is not a legal contract; the content of this course is subject to revision by the professor.



8/18 T

Introduction to the class.


(Each date in the class after this one assumes that you will have read that day’s assigned discussion reading before class. The first week has linked readings to help you if you are waiting for your financial aid check to buy the books, but please do buy them as soon as possible. Thank you.)


What is Philosophy? Do Philosophy majors get jobs related to that major? Here are two pages to answer that:

8/20 R

Read the article

What is Ethics? by Manuel Velasquez, Claire Andre, Thomas Shanks, S.J., and Michael J. Meyer


Watch the Ted Talk by

Jonathan Haidt: The moral roots of liberals and conservatives

Please note that by Saturday 8/22 you should have completed all of the first items in Blazeview: the first Discussion, the first Dropbox, and the introductory Quiz

8/25  T

Read Public Policy in the United States by Mark E. Rushefsky

Publisher: ME Sharpe, Inc. 5th edition (2013)

ISBN 13: 9780765625298

Preface and Part 1: Process, Structure, and Ideologies, pages 3-41

8/27 R

Read Public Policy in the United States by Mark E. Rushefsky

Part 2: Economic Policy: To Promote the General Welfare, pages 47-95

Dr. James will be completing proof rolls by 8/27, these are the formal way you prove that you are attending class, and generates your financial aid overage payment.

9/1 T

Read Public Policy in the United States by Mark E. Rushefsky

Part 3: Foreign Policy: To Provide for the Common Defense, page 102-137

9/3 R

Read Morality and Public Policy by Steven M. Cahn, Tziporah Kasachkoff

Publisher: Prentice Hall (2002) ISBN-10: 0130418412 ISBN-13: 9780130418418

The section on Immigration, Part VIII, pages 233-281

9/8 T

First Exam in the Blazeview Quizzes area

Read Public Policy in the United States by Mark E. Rushefsky

Section 4: Poverty and Welfare: The Poor Ye Always Have with You? Pages 143-172

9/10 R

Read Public Policy in the United States by Mark E. Rushefsky

Section 5: Health Policy: The Problems of Cost and Access, pages 178-210

9/15 T

Researching and Planning Your First Paper will be discussed in detail during this class. Guest Speaker from Odum Library, Reference Librarian Michael Holt

9/17 R

Class will not meet on this date, Dr James will be guest lecturing in a Chemistry class on this date.

Read Cases and Articles on Public Health, and post in Blazeview in Discussions:

9/22 T

Read Morality and Public Policy by Steven M. Cahn, Tziporah Kasachkoff

Section on Drug Legalization, Part V, pages 131-160

9/24 R

Read  Morality and Public Policy by Steven M. Cahn, Tziporah Kasachkoff

Section on Gun Control, Part VI, pages 161-204


This evening is the AAUW Political Forum, a great extra credit opportunity if you volunteer to help out at the event! Email Dr. James with your phone number to be a volunteer.

9/29 T

Read Public Policy in the United States by Mark E. Rushefsky

Part 6: Environmental Policy: Challenges and Opportunities, 215-253


This is the Writing Practicum Day for the first Paper; bring in copies of your rough draft of your paper to receive comments, edits, and critique from your fellow students.


                                                                                                In Progress Grades will be entered by this date.


10/1 R

Read Public Policy in the United States by Mark E. Rushefsky

Part 7: Criminal Justice: To Ensure Domestic Tranquility, 262-302


First Paper Due in the Blazeview Dropbox by 11:59pm


10/6 T

Read Morality and Public Policy by Steven M. Cahn, Tziporah Kasachkoff

Section on Capital Punishment/the Death Penalty, Part VII, 205-232

Are you anticipating having a job interview? Here’s a document that might help!

10/8 R

Read Morality and Public Policy by Steven M. Cahn, Tziporah Kasachkoff

Section on Government Support for the Arts, Part II, 31-64

October 8 is the Fall semester Midterm Date. Please note that only some classes actually have an exam called a midterm. In classes like ours, the various unit materials and activities add up to an In Progress grade instead.

10/13 T

No Class, Fall Break Days (Monday October 12 and Tuesday October 13)

10/15 R

Read Morality and Public Policy by Steven M. Cahn, Tziporah Kasachkoff

Section on Pornography and the Law, Part III, 65-94

Be sure to prepare for the group presentations; collect each other's contact information.

October 15 is the last day to withdraw form a VSU class with a grade of W instead of WF. Keep in mind that all VSU students are limited to only 5 W grades in their Bachelor’s Degree.

10/20 T

Read Public Policy in the United States by Mark E. Rushefsky

Part 8 on Education: The Promise of America, 310-356

10/22 R

Read Morality and Public Policy by Steven M. Cahn, Tziporah Kasachkoff

Section on School Vouchers, Part I, 1-30

10/27 T

Read Public Policy in the United States by Mark E. Rushefsky

Part 9, Equality: The Second American Revolution, 364-395

10/29 R

Read Morality and Public Policy by Steven M. Cahn, Tziporah Kasachkoff

Section on Affirmative Action, Part IX, pages 281-325


Registration for Spring begins Monday 11/2.

11/3 T


Cases in Public Policy Analysis by George M. Guess, Paul G. Farnham

First Group Presents on Chapter 1, The Policymaking Process, pages 1-22

First Group members: Joshua Haley, David Yancey, Maddie Graham

11/5 R

Second Group Presents on Chapter 2, Problem Identification and Structuring, with a Case Study on Fighting Crime and Emptier Prisons, pages 23-74

Second Group Members: Peter Akiti, Marshall, Morton Wood

11/10 T

Third Group Presents on Chapter 3, Forecasting Institutional Impacts on Public Policy Performance, with a Case Study on Washington DC School Reform, pages 75-152

Third Group Members: Jesse Jaime, Khalid Murtaza, Tyler Peacock

11/12 R

Fourth Group Presents on Chapter 4, Forecasting Policy Options, with a Case Study on Public Transit Options, pages 153-238

Fourth Group Members: Caleb, Denzel, Tomare

11/17 T

Fifth Group Presents on Chapter 5, Pricing and Public Policy, with a Case Study on Cigarette Taxes, pages 239-274

Fifth Group Members: Taylor Ward, Desiray Ward, +1

11/19 R

Sixth Group Presents on Chapter 6, Cost-Effectiveness Analysis and HIV Prevention Programs, pages 275-314

Sixth Group Members: Harry Campbell, Brianna Davis, Quiera Walker

11/24 T

Seventh Group Members Presents on Chapter 7, Cost-Benefit Analysis and Air Quality Standards, pages 315-354

Seventh Group Members: Briggs, Mark, Connor

11/25 W – 11/27F

No Class Meetings, Thanksgiving Break

12/1 T

Writing Practicum Day for the Second Paper: Bring in copies of your rough draft for other students to check and edit.

12/3 R

Second Paper due today Review Day for Final Exam


The last official class meeting day for all Fall Semester classes is Monday 12/8.


The official exam time that was assigned to courses that normally meet Tuesday-Thursday at 3:30pm is Friday, December 11 at 2:45pm.  The final exam will be open in the Blazeview Assessments>Quizzes area on December 3, 2015.  Be sure to complete it by the starting final exam time, Friday December 11 at 2:45pm. 

If you are not sure about how the final exam times are assigned for your other courses, use this link, and check the Final Exam Schedule document:


Ethics and Public Policy    Short Summary of Graded Items


Grade Item

Percentage of Final Grade

In Class or Online

If Online, Location in Blazeview

By Saturday 8/22/2014 at 11:59pm

First Introduction Discussion, Dropbox and Practice Quiz in Blazeview











Discussions on various readings:

Online readings and Ted Talks

Rushefsky book first day

Cahn and Kasachkoff first day

Guess and Farnham first day


Online and in Class


By Tuesday 9/8 by 11:59pm

First Exam on opening readings




Various Dates beginning 11/3

Group Presentations on the Guess and Farnham book


In Class


By Thursday 10/1 at 11:59pm

First Paper

Turn in Paper Online, but you are expected to discuss what you are writing about on a particular date in class


Online and in class


Tuesday 9/29 and Tuesday 12/1

Writing Practicum Dates for each paper


In Class


By Thursday 12/3 at 11:59pm

Second Paper

Turn in Paper Online, but you are expected to discuss what you are writing about on a particular date in class


Online and in class


By Thursday 12/11 at 2:45pm

Final Exam






Online Course Evaluations

Student evaluations are extremely important in helping faculty members plan and revise their courses.  Rather than completing these evaluations during class time, students will need to access evaluation forms via BANNER and complete them in a period during the last few weeks of class.  Please take the time to complete this important evaluation (or opt out of providing an evaluation) during the designated period.  If you do not do so, you will not be able to access the grade for this class, scheduled to be posted on the Monday after the final examination days. They will be in Banner under Answer a Survey. Students will receive an email notification through their VSU ( email address when the SOI is available (generally at least one week before the end of term.) SOI responses are anonymous to instructors/administrators. Instructors will be able to view only a summary of all responses two weeks after they have submitted final grades. While instructors will not be able to view individual responses or access any of the responses until after final grade submission, they will be able to see which students have or have not completed their SOIs, and student compliance may be considered in the determination of the final course grade. Some professors give extra credit for completing the SOI, and some do not, please do not pressure any faculty member about giving extra credit - it's an individual instructor choice. These compliance and non-compliance reports will not be available once instructors are able to access the survey.


Tips for doing well in Philosophy classes, adapted from a handout by Robert Scott

1. Read text with a pencil, underline the important ideas and key concepts. Write down technical ideas, key terms, key distinctions between two terms, definitions, diagrams, etc. to help you remember them.


2. Write questions or reactions you have to the text in the margin of the book. Ask about these questions in class, and keep them in mind, since they may provide good points to make about that author in papers you will write for class.


3. Read ahead to see the ultimate objectives of the chapter and of the individual readings. Keep in mind the overall picture of the chapters given in the introductory sections to each chapter in the book.


4. Work with the new terminology frequently, and try to apply it to situations outside of class. I would recommend flash cards to help you memorize the meanings of new terms quickly.


5. For longer readings, be sure to review the reading as a whole after you have read it section-by-section. What was the main question the author wanted to address? What were the answers? What concepts were used to make the points?


6. When confronted with a difficult reading or question, break it down into parts, and into individual ideas. This will at least help to clarify the question, even if it might not give the answer. And for philosophy, clarifying the question is really half the battle!


7. Ponder an unsolved problem and return to it every so often to see if it will give. Inspiration may happen at an unexpected time, and the subconscious mind does work on problems even when we aren't consciously aware of it.


8. Begin work on all the class tasks early, and spread out your work over time so as to maximize your chances for comprehending the readings accurately, memorizing the information, and grappling with the questions for papers.


9. If you do need to meet with an instructor outside of class, be sure to have your questions for the instructor planned out ahead of time, to make the meeting as productive as possible.


10. Always think about the philosophical issues for yourself, rather than waiting to be told what to think or believe.


11. Study for all exams on a daily basis, for at least a week before the exam date. You will need to know who said what, from memory.


12. Try to anticipate the questions that will be asked on an examination beforehand. Questions may come from the readings or from lectures and class discussions, but in either case, certain terms and concepts will be emphasized more than others.


13. Listen carefully to different points of view, and actively respond (when you read, when you are in class, and when you write your philosophy papers)!


14. Philosophy involves skills, like learning to appreciate a good debate, learning to imagine the world differently than we assume it to be, and appreciating the world with a sense of wonder.


Tips about writing in Philosophy and Religious Studies courses:


1. A really great website for students about how to write academic papers is maintained by the Dartmouth Writing Program:

In addition to lots of helpful general information, it has special pages on "Writing the Religion Paper" and "Writing the Philosophy Paper."


2. A great website that explains the importance of critically evaluating web resources -- always a problem area for students – is maintained by Robert Harris:


3. I strongly encourage everyone in our class buy a copy of the St. Martin's Handbook, VSU Edition. This is the writing manual used in ENGL 1101 and 1102, which all VSU students are required to take. In other words, you should all already own a copy. It explains all the basics -- e.g., how to cite sources, etc. By recommending students own a copy, I'm hoping to emphasize the continuity between your writing courses and the rest of your education, in the hope that you don't just sell the book back and forget the basics.