Joint Summer Syllabus: 307A, 112, and 212
Summer Online 2017 ∙ Asynchronous
James M. Quirk, Ph.D.
No one puts their children in a boat, unless the water is safer than the land.
– Warsan Shire, Somali-British poet (and inspriation for Beyonce’s Lemonade)
This syllabus includes some general information – for the specific assignments for each course, go to that course’s main page.
[There’s a lot of important info here – please read through it slowly, at least once. Thanks.]
You are about to engage in an ambitious introduction to our material in an online, asynchronous, and compressed semester. We will approach the course concepts with academic readings, analytical videos, first-person accounts, primary source documents, historical works, and current events.
Each course’s main page identifies the course outline and goals, our course expectations, and list of assignments.
Your full, active, attentive, inquisitive approach to this course should broaden and deepen your understanding of a wide range a political science topics and policy issues, while you strengthen your communication skills, your critical thinking skills, and your appreciation of ethics in policy discussions.
In a course of this type, difficult choices have to be made about areas covered. In any course like this, some topics are necessarily treated too briefly, or omitted entirely. We will address this in a number of ways. First, some topics or crises not directly treated in the readings we will cover in our on-going discussion of current events. Second, you will have your choice of issues to consider when formulating a question that will serve as your paper topic. (You and I will work together on framing your paper question, but the topic is yours.) A particular note on this course is that it does not require higher mathematics. I urge you, however, to take at least one statistics course during your college coursework.
I will check my email each morning. We can schedule a phone call, Skype, etc., by appointment. The fastest way to get in touch with my with a short question is by facebook message (details below).
You are expected to complement your study in this class with an increased awareness of current events. At a minimum, you should be familiar each morning with the front page of the New York Times (www.nytimes.com) and the Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com), spending significant time with at least one of them. There are, of course, many other good sources of news as well.
At least once per week you should also see news and opinion outlets like the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, france24.com, www.aljazeera.com, ForeignAffairs.com and ForeignPolicy.com. You can find newspapers from around the world at the Newseum website.
We do not physically meet at any particular time and place but only asynchronously online. We do, though, have a predictable and organized format. Instructions for each week will be on the course’s web site, govt396.com. These instructions will include a description of the subject and learning goals for the week, a list of the readings for the week, my guide to those readings (I might post an explanatory video or PowerPoint notes, etc.), discussion questions about the readings, and instructions (length, due dates) on the written assignment for the week. The written assignments will include shorter and longer posts (or replies to posts) on our govt396.com and facebook sites.
Notes about the Online of our Online Course
Much of our work will be done at govt396.com and on our course’s (“closed”) CUA facebook page. We will also have a Blackboard (Bb) page that will host some of our readings, but that is not where we will do most of our work – we will do it on govt396.com and our fb page. If you are not already a member of our closed fb group, please request to join from (link on Bb). The fb page will have former students/alumni as members; a few might check in with useful insights from time to time. If there is a legal or other urgent reason that prevents you from using facebook, you and I should talk about a possible workaround. In a couple of weeks, I will ask you about whether I need to switch to snapchat for the fall semester, or whether fb is still sufficient.
If this is the first summer online course you are taking, there are a couple of ideas worth considering. First, the course has two important adjustments, for the instructor and for the students: the course is online, and the course is compressed into just a few weeks. You should expect the same amount of work on your part in these few weeks as you would give to a full semester-length course.
Second, and related to that last idea, is the prioritization of your work. During the fall and spring, you have several competing courses, along with activities, work, internships, etc. During a summer online course, you need to think of your online course as your key responsibility. If you are also working or interning, you need to recognize that this course may be at least a demanding part-time job of up to 20 hours per week.
Most of this is not material or response that you can do a few minutes at a time waiting for the Metro or walking your dog. Those might be great times to check the news, or to see if there are responses to your latest fb post. But you also want to block out periods of time in which you will be undisturbed by work, personal, or other distractions.
Finally, combining the ideas above, no late work can be accepted in subsequent weeks. Week 2 work has to be submitted during Week 2, etc. A particular post might be minutes or hours late, with some adjustment to your grade, but may not leak into the following weeks.
Similarly, your course paper is due on the due date (307A: June 2311:59 PM EDT. 112 and 212: Aug 10, 11:59PM EDT). I will post details of the paper assignment on Bb, fb, and govt396.com, but in short: any topic you choose and I approve; approx 2000 words; due June 23 / Aug 10. You should expect that late papers will not be accepted at all.
Grades and Assignments
Your responsibilities include (1) a thorough reading of the assignments before class and completion of the online discussion assignments, (2) relevant current events discussion on fb, and (3) a final paper.
Each week I will post two or more prompts/questions from which you may choose to “discuss.” Each week you will be responsible for posting at least one 300- to 400-word answer of your own to one of the questions I pose, and each week you will be responsible for at least two 100-word replies to someone else’s posting (or someone else’s reply). These 300-400 word discussions should not merely be summaries of the readings, and nor should they be how you “feeeeel” about something (at least not exclusively). Your 100-word replies should advance the discussion, not merely re-iterate, approve, or reject your classmates’ ideas.
Good discussion format:
The Keynes and Hayek readings are typical in one sense: Keynes advocates a greater role for government intervention, and Hayek argues that government intervention always risks another step on the road toward serfdom. But a careful reading reveals that, despite their differing philosophies and backgrounds, Keynes and Hayek share not only certain perspectives and biases, but also certain goals….
Not good discussion format (maybe you can suggest several reasons why):
Hayek’s an idiot. He thinks this Bush recession is “creative destruction” which makes Romney richer and lets General Motors die and that’s good for America.
Good reply format:
“That’s interesting – I was more focused on X and missed the author’s point of Y that you raise. But perhaps then there is a contradiction between what Keynes advises to FDR and what he advocates at Bretton Woods. That is, Keynes….”
Not good: “No, that’s stupid.”
Also not sufficient (but at least nicer): “Nice point.”
Additionally, each week you will be responsible posting on facebook one link (to a news story, or government report, or scholarly analysis, or personal account, etc.), and briefly commenting on two links posted by me or by a classmate. Good sources can come from traditional or new media – it is the substance of the story and your comments that matter. Example:
Good news link: You write and post a link:
Dan Drezner (foreignpolicy.com)’s “inside baseball” account of the World Bank prez selection process. I especially like the note about U.S. presidential re-election politics – do voters in FL, OH and PA really care who the next WB prez is? http://bit.ly/IyhfMh
Not sufficient: http://video.foxnews.com/v/1565035213001/
It seems like it should go without saying, but just in case: this is academic work, not the place for screeds, ad hominem attacks, or other unpleasantness. That’s not really suitable for your personal twitter account either, but it is certainly not appropriate here. This is “classroom facebook”, not “locker-room facebook”. Open, sincere, fact-based, and analytical – and even partisan – but not mean or rude. Thanks.
Additionally: the Govt 396 fb group is “closed” – only members of the class will be able to see it, and only I can admit people to the group. But govt396.com is the “real Internet.” It won’t generate much traffic except from members of the class, and when the class is over, I will password protect it. (And I am working to get rid of the ads – I don’t get paid for them.) But during the class, it is available to anyone on the Web. This is a deliberate pedagogical choice. You are free to use your own name, or to use a pseudonym. You must, of course, let me know what your pseudonym is. Any G- or PG-rated pseudonym is ok. Additionally, when you post/reply, the site will ask for your email address. This email address will be visible to me, but not to anyone else. Please use your .edu email address. In the first week or two, posts will require my approval before they show up. After that, they will appear immediately. Treat this work as you would any in-class homework: smart, thoughtful, analytical, proofread – no first drafts.
To review: each week you are responsible for
– at least one 300-to-400-word posting of your own at govt396.com, in answer to one or more of the Essay Prompts that I will provide for you,
– two 100-word replies to classmate’s postings on govt396.com,
– posting (and commenting on, in 20-40 words) at least one news/story on our fb page, and – commenting on (in 20-40 words) at least two of your classmates’s fb posts.
For all of these, there will be specific due dates in each week’s outline of assignments. Links to the outline of assignments for each week will be posted to the course’s main page each week. Posts/comments may be as long as twice the recommended length, but should not be significantly shorter than the recommended lengths.
And finally, you will write a paper on the relevant topic of your choosing, approximately 2000-words. More information on this will be available on Bb.
Your essay posts and replies will account for 60% of your grade. Your final paper will account for 25%. Your fb engagement will count for 15%.
307A: Flight from Syria: Refugee Stories, by Hugh Eakin et al. It is available on iTunes or Kindle, for free.
112: Subscribe to Foreign Policy magazine – digital or digital+print for $4.99/month or less with your .edu email
212: Subscribe to Foreign Affairs magazine – at least the digital version ($20 for students – add the print edition (six issues) for only $5 more) with your .edu email
Additional readings will come from material you will be able to access for free from links I provide on this page, or the CUA library, or our course Blackboard page.