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Week Twelve: Reflections on Students
By Lee Trepanier

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.

The existence/content distinction within Natural Law and the UN
By Peter J. Colosi

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.

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The Four Last Things and Political Philosophy
By Anonymous

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.

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Week Eleven: Rousseau
By Lee Trepanier

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.

Week Ten: Locke
By Lee Trepanier

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 Nine: Spring Break
By Lee Trepanier

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?

Essay Assignments
By Lee Trepanier

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 Seven: Rawls
By Lee Trepanier

 This week we went over Rawls, which the students found difficult to understand but ultimately agreed with his argument probably because the end result is so familiar to them. The students have reached a point in the semester where they are familiar with each other and their political perspectives, so there is a nice exchange of ideas transpiring in the classroom. Interestingly, I find most of the students to be libertarian in their politics, although they may not know it themselves. I have noticed this trend recently, and I haven’t been able to figure out why this has been the case.

Kirk and Bradford Resource Lists
By Jeffrey Dennis Pearce

For those interested, I have created two links resource pages:

http://ghostly-kirk.weebly.com/, a page dedicated to the ghostly fiction of Russell Kirk, and

http://mel-bradford.weebly.com/, a page dedicated to the life and work of Mel Bradford.

Neither page is meant to be exhaustive, but they are meant to assist interested searchers by gathering many scattered links into two convenient locations. Though the pages presently have a lot of links on them, they are always works in progress, and will continue to grow in length.

Thank you,
Jeffrey Dennis Pearce

Week Six: Aristotle
By Lee Trepanier

This week we went over selected excerpts of Aristotle’s Politics and Ethics. I was surprised how well the students took to Aristotle’s idea, especially the central role that virtue plays in his ethical and political thought. Although they complained that Aristotle doesn’t “get to the point” in his writings, they were receptive to his ideas of human nature and politics. In this sense, students seem to have an instinctive reflex for traditional morality in spite of the popular culture. I found it both refreshing and reassuring.

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