March 2012

Essay Assignments
By Lee Trepanier on March 05, 2012

This is the week before our spring break where I meet with students to go over their second essay assignment. What I thought I would talk about was how I design my essay assignments. The actual question I assign to students is pretty vague, but in the classroom I spell out specifically what I am looking for in their essays. Essentially what I want to see is whether students have understood the material (summarize the readings with proper citations) and can analyze it with respect to the argument itself and its application to a contemporary political issue. Obviously the second part of the essay depends on the first part. What I find fascinating is how many students have misunderstood the material or missed major points in some thinker’s argument. It may be partially due to my lectures, but I also suspect that students are not used to reading difficult texts; or, if they have to, they are used to teachers telling them what the text means rather than finding out for themselves.

Week Nine: Spring Break
By Lee Trepanier on March 07, 2012

This week is spring break – a tradition in the American university system that I don’t understand. It interrupts the semester for a week to give students an excuse either to work, volunteer, or engage in decadent behavior. Personally I would rather have the semester finish a week earlier than take a break mid-semester, which interrupts the flow of the course. For myself, I use the time to grade paper and get caught up on publication projects that need immediate attention.  I am curious what other people think of spring break. Any thoughts?

Week Ten: Locke
By Lee Trepanier on March 14, 2012

This week we went over Locke’s social contract theory. I always have found students instinctively agree with Locke’s ideas and arguments, which comes to no surprise given his influence on the American character. The challenge I find in teaching Locke to American students is to make them understand how new his ideas were during his times. Students take them for granted – it was always like this and always will be – an attitude that they shouldn’t assume given the difficulty of sustaining self-governance.

Week Eleven: Rousseau
By Lee Trepanier on March 21, 2012

This week we looked at Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality and Social Contract. I present Rousseau as an advocate of the liberal tradition but also a critic of it. What I find most interesting is how students respond to Rousseau’s critique of liberalism more so than Marx’s. I am not sure what accounts for this, but I’m always surprised by it.

The Four Last Things and Political Philosophy
By Anonymous on March 26, 2012

We all die. The great question is what happens to us when we die. If we reflect on our mortality, we are more apt to ask that ultimate question with some urgency. Fr. Schall points out, quoting Epicurus, that the earthly city we inhabit is unfortified against death. We can find protection against it only in the City of God. How then are we to prepare for the moment when we are thrust out of the gate of life? We can prepare our souls by meditating on the four last things: death, judgment, heaven, and hell.


The existence/content distinction within Natural Law and the UN
By Peter J. Colosi on March 28, 2012

Joe Fornieri and I presented papers in October 2010 at a Natural Law Symposium at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. Another presenter, who was a conservative, suggested that it is better not to argue for positive laws on a natural law basis. He said that this is dangerous because it puts too much power into the hands of liberals. His point, which I disagree with on principle, confirmed something I had been thinking as I prepared my lecture for that day.


Week Twelve: Reflections on Students
By Lee Trepanier on March 29, 2012

I thought this week that I would pause for a moment and reflect upon the set of students that are enrolled in my Introduction to Political Science course. The students have reached a point in the semester where they are comfortable enough with each other to speak their own minds in the classroom and pretty much know each other’s political inclinations. The weakest students already have dropped out of the course or have given up and no longer show up in class, so I have a pretty good set of students from the B- to A+ range. I had hoped to establish a sense of community in the classroom, and I think I have succeeded in this task. In this sense, it makes the task of teaching and learning more enjoyable (or bearable to the students) because they know they are not alone.

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