April 2012

Why Is It Wrong to Use the University for Political Purposes?
By David Kidd on April 01, 2012

If you like hearing people tell other people they aren't doing their job right, then you'll love "A Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California." The report, written by the California Association of Scholars (a division of the National Association of Scholars) is 81 pages of steely resolve and relentless truth-telling, and if it were roast beef, you wouldn't be able to cut it: it's that well done.

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Prairie Republic: The Political Culture of Dakota Territory, 1879-1889, by Jon Lauck (review by Joseph Stuart)
By Joseph Stuart on April 02, 2012

The four Northwestern "Omnibus States" admitted to the Union in 1889 were Washington, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. As a new university instructor soon moving from Michigan to North Dakota, I was delighted to read Jon Lauck's new book on Dakota Territory as an introduction to my new home. My own route of emigration parallels the great shift of half a million people from the Midwest to Dakota Territory during the 1880s that Jon Lauck describes so well in this fascinating book. His thesis is that the political culture of Dakota Territory was shaped primarily by republicanism and Christianity. He argues that these factors were more critical than class, race, gender, or environmental issues in buttressing the efforts of settlers to build a stable polity and seek the granting of statehood in 1889

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Week Thirteen: Arendt
By Lee Trepanier on April 05, 2012

This week we read excerpts of Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism. What surprises me is how little historical knowledge students possess, which makes it more difficult to discuss Arednt's work. Not all political philosophy texts require historical knowledge, but Origins of Totalitarianism certainly does. I usually solve this problem by giving a brief historical account of the events, but I am certainly open to suggestions to others if they have better ideas to address this problem.

 

Does a Liberal Education Still Have Value?
By David Kidd on April 09, 2012

John Von Heyking responds to complaints of Canadian employers that too many students are studying the liberal arts rather than vocational skills.

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Week Fourteen: Lenin
By Lee Trepanier on April 12, 2012

This week we looked at Lenin’s Imperialism as the Highest Stage of Capitalism. Students understood the argument and were able to connect it to our earlier readings of Marx and Smith, which was gratifying. Some of the students were sympathetic to Lenin’s diagnosis but were skeptical about his solutions, which is always refreshing. As we approach the end of the semester, my sense is that the students are finally able to make the connections from the earlier readings. This raises the question whether the semester system should be banished entirely and replaced with a nine-month term. This would enable students to understood the material in a more thorough and systematic fashion. I wonder what others think about this proposal.

 

Week Fifteen: Weber
By Lee Trepanier on April 18, 2012

The reading for this week is Weber, where we discuss the emergence of modern social science with its fact-value distinction. The students were able to grasp the main ideas, but they are ready to conclude the semester, as this is the last week of lecture. Overall, I am pleased with the progress of most of the students. Hopefully they will be able to retain some of the main political concepts and thinkers we discussed this past semester and use them to navigate the upcoming elections (if they pay attention to it at all).

Week Sixteen: Final Examinations
By Lee Trepanier on April 25, 2012

This week is final examinations and concludes the semester. Overall I was satisfied with the Introduction to Political Science course, although there are a couple of things I wish I had done differently. First, I should have included more discussion of current events. This would have brought the relevance of the subjects we were studying to the forefront. Second, I should have set aside some time in the syllabus for revision of essays. Students learned how to read and write, but once they turned their essays in, they forgot about them and never revisited them. Setting aside time for revisions would be helpful in teaching them this habit.

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