Developing Our Inner “Wonk”

By Taylor Larson

If I had a quarter for every time I heard the word “wonk” in the last two weeks, I could pay off my college loans. From the President to media panelists, moderators and professors used wonk to describe people who take particular interest and have significant knowledge in political policy.

Photo from Creative Commons

Photo from Creative Commons

Before this trip, I didn’t know the word wonk even existed. Now, I consider it a compliment.

But how do you become a wonk?

 The Wall Street Journal has a WonkblogRoll Call features Taegan Goddard’s Wonk Wire. These sections ooze with everything policy nerds dream of: the in’s and out’s of the Affordable Care Act, systematic breakdowns of different sectors in the economy, and a showcase of legislators’ votes on climate change.

I’m sure an entry-level wonk status could be achieved by subscribing to sources like these, right?

And I must admit, many long mornings at The Washington Center had me feeling like a wonk, too. My classmates will testify that policy topics within our seminar came with a lecture or panel or site visit from an expert who left our heads spinning. For example, after hefty discussions and seemingly endless pie charts from The Concord Coalition, our brains were exploding with economic policy.

There must be some sort of wonk-certificate for listening to a week’s worth of policy experts.

However, after concluding my trip today, I realized that there are still several doors we didn’t open, several issues we didn’t mention. While we crafted a bipartisan resolution to immigration reform and learned about legislation like the Farm Bill and issues like e-verify, we didn’t discuss marijuana legalization or creating a national language.

We expect our government leaders, however, to be versed in all facets of legislation and politics.

But in reality, does anyone have the time or resources to satisfy America’s need for a total wonk?

And how do they do it without blogs and seminars at The Washington Center?

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