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.