The Boat Captain's Conundrum: A Whimsical Tour Through a Policy Wonk's Mind

Tom Corbett Phd (Author)


In The Boat Captain's Conundrum, author Tom Corbett completes an intellectual journey that reflects on his four-plus decades as a scholar and doer of social policy. That journey starts with Ouch, Now I Remember, in which he recounts his early days growing up in a closed, working class, ethnic community from which he underwent several transformative experiences that broadened his worldview. In Browsing through My Candy Store, the author shared his struggles while confronting many of the most vexing poverty and welfare battles of the last half century. This final volume, the Boat Captain's Conundrum, completes the trilogy.

This work takes the reader on quite a different journey, a path that goes deeper into how to think about the big policy issues and social challenges of our times. In the end, Corbett makes a number of compelling points. Becoming a successful policy wonk is more than conquering the technical skills of doing quantitative analysis. It demands that we do more than merely dissect issues with analytical acumen. Rather, doing good policy work requires creativity, imagination, breadth of interests, a nimble and acquisitive mind, historical depth, and just a little rebellious risk-taking. But if you can conjure up such traits, there is no better way to spend your professional life.

Follow the author as he shares his take on how to do policy work well and even make a contribution to the public good. Get inside his head as he struggled to make sense out of the more daunting social challenges of the late twentieth century. Above all, enjoy his wistful and sometimes witty wanderings as seen through a policy wonk's eye where he touches upon mind-numbing conundrums with deft insight. It is a great journey to be enjoyed both by students of policy and all those concerned with public life.

Product Details

Publish Date
October 14, 2016
6.0 X 1.02 X 9.0 inches | 1.46 pounds
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About the Author

Tom Corbett is emeritus senior scientist and an affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he served as associate and acting director for a decade before his retirement. He received a doctorate in social welfare from the University of Wisconsin and taught various social policy and program evaluation courses there for many years. During his long academic and policy career, he worked with governments at all levels including a stint in Washington, DC, where he helped develop President Clinton's welfare reform legislation. He has written dozens of articles and reports on poverty, social policy, and human-services issues and given hundreds of talks across the nation on these topics. In addition, Dr. Corbett has consulted with numerous local, state, and federal officials on various poverty, welfare, and human-services issues both in the United States and Canada. Among many other things, he has testified before Congress, worked with the Wisconsin Legislature on important legislation, and served on an expert panel for the National Academy of Sciences. Now retired, the author lives with his wife of forty-four years, Mary Rider, and their lovable shih tzu dog, Rascal, in Madison, Wisconsin.