This course, which is one of three introductory level (100) courses offered in the Political Science Department at Ohio University, is intended to serve three curricular purposes.
First, it is designed to introduce you to the issues and debates surrounding a pair of contemporary political controversies. These issues have been chosen by your instructor because they are of crucial domestic and international importance, because they are exceptionally complex yet unfamiliar to most college students, and because they provide insights into a range of other related political controversies.
Second, it is intended to begin a conversation about how to sift and winnow the mass of political information we encounter during our daily lives. In particular, the goal is to help you use the political information you come into contact with to form judgments and opinions based on reasoned consideration and evidence. This is an admirable goal no matter what your personal political beliefs might be.
Third and finally, it is intended to provide you some insight into the strategies, approaches, and methods employed by social scientists (especially political scientists!) to study and evaluate politics. Hopefully, this knowledge will make you more effective sifters and winnowers.
You will be evaluated on your substantive knowledge of our two “current world problems.” More important will be your ability to synthesize many different sources of information, each with its own bias or point of view, in order to draw your own informed conclusions about how to solve political problems. You will also be expected to demonstrate an ability to evaluate the quality and reliability of information sources, and to debate the merits of the various theories and explanations we encounter in class. Finally, you will be evaluated on how clearly and persuasively you can communicate informed political opinion—in class discussion, in exam essays, and in a “policy memo.”
Because of this course’s large enrollment, our time together will often revolve around a combination of lecture, large group discussions, and small group or individual exercises designed both to explain the course material and to help you to engage with new ideas and information on a personal level. These components will be balanced in different proportions at different times, depending on their suitability with regards to particular material. There will also be a number of films or film excerpts shown in class. You will be accountable for recalling and understanding the ideas and arguments expressed in these films for examination purposes just as you are with material presented in lecture.