Fall 2016 Teacher-Advisor Program (TAP) Seminars

Fine Arts
Social Sciences
Natural Sciences & Mathematics

Political Science

POLS 021 A - American Political System

Instructor: Alec Ewald

Americans today demonstrate an extraordinary level of discontent (in some quarters, outright fury) at our government and public life. Some of these concerns relate to the economy, others to foreign policy, and others to the performance of specific institutions. Many critiques press the fundamental question of whether the American political system has actually failed. All this calls to mind that famous old mixed blessing – “May you live in interesting times” – and brings energy, even urgency, to the study of American politics. This course surveys ideas, institutions, and behavior in American politics, with a focus on four main thematic questions. First, what are the different forms and types of power that structure American politics and government? Second, to what degree do American political ideals and realities align or fail to align? Third, what are the key paradoxes in American politics, and are such paradoxes strengths or weaknesses of our political life? Fourth, what have been the essential changes in American government – and is our political history essentially a story of change, or resistance to change? In addition to a conventional textbook, we’ll use an instructor-designed course-pack composed of readings drawn from history, law, and current affairs as well as the discipline of political science.

Requirements Satisfied: Social Sciences and Writing and Information Literacy

POLS 041 A - Intro to Political Theory

Instructor: Patrick Neal

Can the state enforce morality? If not, why not? If so, how is that morality to be determined? What are the limits of individual liberty? What duties do we owe to the political community? Is it ever legitimate to disobey the law? When? What are the appropriate principles for justly distributing goods in a political community? Do these principles allow, or perhaps even require, taking from some and giving to others? What does the demand for cultural recognition mean in contemporary society? Should liberal-democratic states act to protect, or perhaps even to promote, the flourishing of cultural groups? These are the sorts of questions that political theorists explore – moral questions about the nature of political things.  The course presupposes no prior knowledge of political theory. The only "prerequisites" are an interest in the philosophical questions that lie at the heart of political life, and a willingness to read and think seriously about them. Representative authors considered include Plato, John Stuart Mill, Hobbes, Rousseau and a number of contemporary writers.

Requirements Satisfied: Humanities and Writing and Information Literacy

POLS 041 B - Intro to Political Theory

Instructor: Robert Taylor

This course is designed to introduce students to a number of major issues and themes in political theory, such as the problems of political morality, justice, obligation, freedom, and revolution. We will examine the way a number of different political theorists and thinkers have dealt with these problems, the philosophical elements from which they have constructed their theories and arguments, and the ways in which their ideas may or may not be useful in helping us to think about our political order and political problems.

Requirements Satisfied: Humanities and Writing and Information Literacy

POLS 095 A & B (section B cross-listed with GRS 095 C) - Introduction to Mexico

Instructor: Caroline Beer

The USA and Mexico are facing a critical juncture.  A leading candidate for the presidency of the USA is advancing his political career (and winning votes) by issuing racist rants against people from Mexico and promoting a foreign policy that relies on building walls rather than using diplomacy to solve mutual problems.  At the root of this problem is the fact that most people in the USA know almost nothing about Mexico.  Mexico is a vibrant democracy and a close ally of the USA.  We share a 2000 mile border, and Mexico is our second biggest trading partner.  A substantial portion of our citizens has roots in Mexico.  This course will provide students with an interdisciplinary introduction to Mexico by examining Mexico’s history, politics, economics, music, literature, and film.

Requirements Satisfied: Social Sciences, Writing and Information Literacy, and (D2) Non-European Cultures

POLS 095 D - Politics of Environmentalism

Instructor: Robert Bartlett

Environmentalism is a social movement that coalesced in the 1960s and has been politically significant ever since. In this course we will examine the continuing impact of environmentalism on modern politics. We will analyze the changing nature and trajectory of environmentalism, its internal contradictions and coherence, its critics, its support in the larger society, its connections to other social movements, and its impact on policy and governance. We will explore why some scholars argue that “Only politics can save the environment.” Readings will include The Politics of the Earth, The Sixth Extinction, Globalization and the Environment, and This Book is Not Required, and Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking. Students will need to read the New York Times at least three days each week. Grades will be based on attendance and participation, three short essays, and contributions to a readings journal, a current events journal, and online discussion board. There will be no formal quizzes or tests.

Requirements Satisfied: Social Sciences and Writing and Information Literacy