"Writing to Learn" Essays
In the interest of helping you to connect our class material with the real world and offering you an opportunity to begin preparing systematically and in advance for our exams, you'll also be preparing a series of short essays over the course of the semester. These essays--there'll be two per unit--will respond to specific prompts I've provided, and will be turned in (via Blackboard, by 11:59 PM) on the following days...
- Prompt 1 - Monday, September 21
- Prompt 2 - Wednesday, September 30
- Prompt 3 - Monday, October 19
- Prompt 4 - Monday, October 26
- Prompt 5 - Monday, November 9
- Prompt 6 - Friday, December 4
What will these assignments look like, and how will they be graded? First off, the essays will be graded on a simple "full credit/revise/fail" scale. Essays that have responded completely and intelligently to the prompt, have tracked down all the necessary outside information (and cited it properly!), and which adhere to normal conventions of grammar, punctuation, and usage will receive full credit (25 points each). Those which are inadequate in one or more of these respects will receive partial (10 points) credit. If they're never submitted at all, they will receive no credit.
The exercises themselves will should be roughly 500 words, and are designed to get you to think about the relationship between the materials we're discussing in class and some important "real world" issue. In the first unit, one prompt will ask you to consider the arguments raised by Elizabeth Warren, Gary Becker, and Richard Posner with respect to an issue near and dear to many of your hearts (student loans), while the second asks you to choose one important actor within the Greek Euro crisis and identify both their public negotiating positions and their key political interests. In later units, we'll ask you to pick a civil war that's taken place within the past 50 years and analyze it's causes and career based on the ideas of Paul Collier, or to imagine the biggest potential risks and opportunities posed by climate change for the community you call home. In each case, you'll be required to do a bit of outside research on websites, newspapers and magazines, or in the library, and also to refer directly back to the course readings and lectures.
"Writing to Learn" essays must be submitted on-time, and late submissions will not be accepted (except in extreme conditions, described elsewhere in this syllabus, and entirely at my discretion). That said, I'm aware that life sometimes gets in the way, and that some weeks are harder than others. As a result, I'll automatically drop your two lowest-scoring essays in calculating your final grade. For those of you playing along at home, this means that if you successfully earn full credit on the first four essays, it won't be necessary to submit the final two.