In Confessions of an Accidental Scholar, author Tom Corbett completes an intellectual journey that reflects on his four-plus decades as a social policy guru and sometimes scholar. That journey starts with Confessions of a Clueless Rebel, in which he recounts his early days growing up in closed, working class, ethnic community and the several transformative experiences that expanded his ambitions and broadened his world view. In Confessions of a Wayward Academic,the author shares his struggles while confronting the most vexing policy battles of the last half century, an era when the country endured a social policy revolution. This final volume of the series, Confessions of an Accidental Scholar,completes the trilogy. This work takes the reader on a quite 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 numerous intriguing, even compelling points. Becoming a successful policy wonk is more than conquering the technical skills of doing quantitative analysis or dissecting issues with analytical acumen. It often demands creativity, imagination, breadth of interests, a nimble and acquisitive mind, historical depth, and just a little rebellious risk-taking. Follow the author as he shares his struggles to make sense of the more daunting social challenges of the late 20th century, his insights on doing policy work well, and his thoughts on how you might contribute to the public good. Above all, enjoy his insightful intellectual wanderings as he touches upon mind-numbing conundrums with originality and wit. It is a great journey to be enjoyed both by students of policy and all those concerned with our public welfare.
In his fictional works, the author blends drama, humor, the complexity of human relationships, and substantive political content in compelling narratives that readers quickly embrace. His first fictional work, Casual Choices, takes us deep into the scars left by a war that tore the country apart in the 1960s and which left an indelible mark on many who lived through that turbulent time. This novel touches upon the real emotions and struggles that many young people endured during this conflicted period. It explores the inner turmoil with which they contended as they fought to make sense out of competing claims upon their loyalty. This was a time of no easy answers. Each young man and woman had to figure out the contours of their personal character and for what principles they would stand. Palpable Passions and Ordinary Obsessions tells the stories of two families, one born to privilege in America and the other struggling under the oppressive Taliban regime in Kabul. Each confronts the demons and challenges of their separate cultures and worlds. Circumstances and serendipity bring the two together in the Panjshir Valley of northern Afghanistan just as Osama bin Laden strikes New York and Washington. Their unexpected connection offers each an opportunity to discover renewed hope. Their stories sweep up through the 2016 election. From black despair, and against a backdrop of continuing conflict in the Mideast and a political insurgency in America, each struggles toward achieving personal passions they can literally feel, obsessions that they once thought beyond their grasp. The third volume of this trilogy, Felicitous Fates, will be available in late 2019.
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 consulted with government at the local, state, and national levels including a stint in Washington D.C. 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. His earlier works not included below are Policy Into Action (2003, with Mary Clare Lennon), Evidence-Based Policymaking (2010, with Karen Bogenshneider), The Other Side of the World (2011, with Mary Jo Clark, Michael Simonds, and Heywood Turrentiine), and Return to the Other Side of the World (2013, with Mary Jo Clark, Michael Simonds, Kathy Sohn, and Heywood Turrentine). The author lives in Madison Wisconsin.
IN THE PRESS
Dennis Dresang Ph.D.,
Professor of Public Policy, U. of Wisconsin
“Tom Corbett exposes the reader to the raw reality of confronting our most difficult social issues in this engaging, compelling, yet witty book. He brings the doing of policy alive, going beyond the dry numbers to reveal the human side of the equation.”
Robert Moffitt Ph.D.,
Professor of Economics, Johns Hopkins University
“A wonderful first-person account at the ground level of welfare reform in recent times. It was a momentous time for the reform of the nation’s welfare system and Corbett was in the thick of it. He relates what happened with a wry, self-deprecating sense of humor, but there are serious lessons to be learned…”
Pacific Review of Books
“…a fascinating and worthwhile read. Tenuous Tendrils by Tom Corbett is a captivating read with engaging vignettes which paint a picture of a retired professor, his life, and the connections which bind everything together.”
Karen Bogenschneider, Professor of
Human Ecology U. of Wisconsin
“Corbett’s reflections, woven together with great insight and humor, transform public policy from a class that is boring and mundane to a career that can be engaging and germane. These stories from the political front lines can inspire even the most reluctant students to make policy a cause of their own.”
Matt Stagner, Ph.D. MPR Research
Inc., and Univ. of Chicago
"Corbett’s stories from the front lines of policy making, like All Quiet on the Western Front or The Things They Carried, provide great insight into the way the world works, not what the generals or policy planners think is happening.”
Pacific Review of Books
"…I found “Ouch, Now I Remember) to be a witty yet edifying read, riddled with some funny moments and insights…with many of them making me laugh out loud. I enjoy his writing style; it was comforting yet candid, like listening to a respected relative recount their own life with unabashed honesty.”