By Alexi White, Opinions Editor, MPP ‘13
“It’s an industry, and it didn’t used to be. It’s huge and its complicated and its corporate.” With deliberate care and conviction in his voice, Jonathan Moore tells a story of HKS then and now. “My time at the IOP was a kick; it was a riot! And I was lucky to have found it coming from the policy world. But thank God I went back.”
With a resume that reads like an index of U.S. government, Ambassador Moore, MPA ’57, has been an educator and public servant for over fifty years. His career has taken him from high profile electoral campaigns to Associate Attorney General to U.S. Representative to the United Nations.
In the middle of it all Moore came back to his alma mater as director of the Institute of Policy from 1974 to 1986, making him the longest-serving director and the first to come from “the real world,” though at nearly 80 years old he still denies any knowledge of such a world. In 1992 he returned to HKS for a third time as an Associate at the Shorenstein Center, an entity he had helped to create years earlier.
“You can’t do politics without considering the media,” he said. “Every part of what has now become the Shorenstein Center was started at the IOP. The IOP—and this was quite controversial at the time—did not keep the media elements that it had created. We spun it off to be its own independent center in the school and that was exactly what it should have been doing.”
Moore remembers the stiff resistance to bringing in the school’s first practitioner faculty. They often had significant academic experience but weren’t considered “pure” to some. The balance between academic and practical education has improved substantially, but Moore sees this as an ongoing tension capable of either driving or stifling progress.
“That tension was there at the very beginning and it’s still there. I don’t’ know how to characterize the tension that exists today as creative or as offsetting, but there’s a huge amount of commitment on behalf of the faculty to doing it better. In a way we have not yet discovered how best to do our mission; we’re still trying to figure out how to do it well enough. That push and that tension are aspects of the school that make it better.”
A related tension also exists in the HKS curriculum. Concerned by the technocratic nature of policy studies today, Moore warns that answers cannot be given; they must be sought.
“There is an implication in the whole word and world of policy that it’s almost like a priesthood,” he said. “These problems are vast and fundamental and we’ve got to have a dimension that is more than just analytical. That means teaching people how to search, rather than what the answers are.”
Despite the administration’s efforts to promote excellence in teaching and learning, change comes slowly in the academy. With rare exception, prestige is won by publishing rather than teaching. Though he is the first to say he’s not as plugged in as he once was, Moore believes more needs to be done.
“We’re locked into the old paradigms,” he said. “I’ve seen some really creative teaching going on here. I’d like to think that we know we haven’t got it enough. The teaching and learning has got to be in both directions and I don’t know how well we’re doing that.”
But for Moore, an HKS education should be about more than knowledge and tools. Behind it all must be the struggle to separate right and wrong.
“I’m not talking about courses in ethics,” he said. “I think this stuff has to be injected into everything we teach. People say you can’t mix morality and pragmatism. That’s ridiculous! You have to mix it; one can’t work without the other. You don’t get graded on it; it’s present in the character of the faculty members. There’s something that they’re reaching for.”
Moore worries that these values are waning among decision-makers as the gap between rich and poor grows wider.
“The disparity gap—the abyss between the haves and the have-nots—affects every other problem we have. It is the best place where you can see where our moral commitment is needed. We would like to be an egalitarian society and we are pretending we are one because we don’t want to deal with the realization that we are not one.”
For today’s students, Moore has one piece of advice: be bold. Don’t settle for something that doesn’t make you happy.
“If you can’t find enjoyment in what you’re doing, you’ve had it,” he said. “Give me the gut level of what you want to do. Don’t give me I want to be the assistant to the undersecretary of energy. If you push far enough you’ll make the world a better place, and that’s the only thing that counts.”
Examples: Vietnam program at the Ash Center; You have to get out there – quote from the first article