Approved by Faculty Senate
University Studies Course Approval Submission
Political Science Course Proposal
1. Department or Program: Political Science
2. Course Number: 150
3. Semester Hours: 3
4. Frequency of Offering: Every semester, 1 section of 50 students
5. Course Title: Introduction to Political Theory
6. Catalog Description: This course is an introduction to the study, reading, and analysis of political texts, designed for students who do not have much familiarity with politics or theory, but are interested in investigating enduring questions of political thought, such as: What is freedom? What is the relationship between politics and conflict? What does it mean to be a member of a polity? What is justice?
7. This is an existing course previously approved by A2C2.
8. This is not a new course proposal.
9. University Studies Requirement this course would satisfy: Social Science
10. Department Contact Person: Yogesh Grover, 457-5414; firstname.lastname@example.org
11. Course Outcomes:
a. Understand humans as individuals and as parts of larger social systems: One of the major issues studied in an introduction to political theory course is the relationship between individuals and the political and social institutions they create. What role does human nature play in the shape that such organizations take? What are justifications for the limits that political and social institutions place on our individual freedom?
b. Understand the historical context of the social sciences: This course takes a historical approach to the study of political theory. Students are encouraged to understand political theory as it is influenced by the political pressures extant in different historical eras. Students see the importance of the past to understanding the present, both as affording us critical distance from which to analyze the present, and as influencing our contemporary ideas of important political concepts such as freedom and equality.
c. Identify problems and frame research questions relating to humans and their experience: Students become familiar with problems, concepts and questions important to humans and their experience, such as: What is freedom? What is the relationship between politics and conflict? What are the responsibilities of citizens? What is a human right, and what does it mean to be a bearer of such rights?
d. Become familiar with the process of theory-building and theoretical frameworks used by the social sciences: A theory course introduces students to the multiple frameworks used to understand politics. Students learn how to ask questions of concern in the field of political theory; they practice discussing issues central to the most important debates in the tradition.
e. Understand research methods used in the social sciences: Students are assigned a number of papers, in order to learn to write a critical analysis of a text. Students present discussion questions to the class, and analyze with others the materials read in the course, in order to learn to discuss intelligently the conceptual issues of importance to political life. Thus, students learn the basic skills ultimately necessary to research in the field: they learn to ask questions that could form the basis of future research projects; and they learn to write in a way that is accepted in this field as research.
f. Describe and detail discipline-specific knowledge and its applications: In the discussions, readings and assignments, students are introduced to the relationship between concepts, theories, and life-experience. Political theorists always must bear in mind the question of the relationship between theory and practice, and therefore students are introduced to the applications of the theories they study.
g. Understand differences among and commonalities across humans and their experience: A major question in the contemporary study of political theory is that of difference: How are humans different from one another? To what extent is politics based on plurality? How have people been excluded from politics, based on their differences? How can more people be included in politics, based on commonalities, while still recognizing the plurality so important to politics?
Sample syllabus attached
Introduction to Political Theory
Politics and Freedom
Political Science 150 Sample Syllabus
This course is an introduction to the study and analysis of political texts, designed for students who do not have much familiarity with politics or theory, but are interested in investigating enduring questions of political thought, such as: What is freedom? What is the relationship between politics and conflict? What does it mean to be a member of a polity? What is a right?
The objective of this course is to introduce students who may never have read theory to some of the major texts and issues in the field. The focus will be on various issues of interest to beginning students, as discussed by different theorists throughout history. This historical approach should help students to understand the continuing relevance of theoretical questions to us today.
In order to be introduced to the research methods used in the social sciences, in this course students will learn to write critical analyses and ask discussion questions. In the field of political theory, research requires the student to have the ability to compare and contrast arguments made by different theorists, to interpret difficult texts and materials, and to develop a coherent argument on a given topic.
University Studies: Social Science Course:
This course will satisfy three semester hours of the six-semester hour requirement for social science in the university studies program. As such, it provides students taking this course the opportunity to achieve the following outcomes:
a. understand humans as individuals and as parts of larger social systems;
b. understand the historical context of the social sciences;
c. identify problems and frame research questions relating to humans and their experience;
d. become familiar with the process of theory-building and theoretical frameworks used by the social sciences;
e. understand the research methods used in the social sciences;
f. describe and detail discipline-specific knowledge and its applications;
g. understand differences among and commonalities across humans and their experience.
Readings: The texts for this course are:
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Princeton Readings in Political Thought edited by Mitchell Cohen and Nicole Fermon
In addition, there are a number of supplementary readings. These readings are required as well -- students are responsible for these readings -- and they are marked in the schedule with an asterisk.
Assignments: There will be three papers assigned for this course. In addition, each student will be responsible for presenting discussion questions and participating in class discussion.
Papers: Each paper will be an analysis written in response to a question submitted by the instructor. The papers will be critical analyses -- in other words, papers will demonstrate that the student has read and thought about the texts; they will show some independent thought by the student, as each student attempts to wrestle with the difficult questions and problems that arise in the readings.
Discussion Questions: Periodically, students will write discussion questions which will address puzzling problems or issues which arise in the readings. These questions will be presented to the rest of the class to discuss and consider.
Attendance and Participation: Students are expected to attend class and to participate in class discussion. The purpose of a theory course is to teach students not only to write and think critically, but also to discuss their ideas intelligently. Students must demonstrate this in their in-class performance. Therefore, students will be allowed three absences; absences above this will be reflected in the student's grade.
Papers: 30% each, 90% total
Schedule of Classes:
Politics and Anarchy: In this section, students are introduced to the question: What is politics? Politics is necessary if people are to avoid anarchy, but conflict is also an important feature of politics. How do we balance between anarchy and tyranny? How do we preserve conflict in politics, without introducing anarchy? Students will explore these issues by analyzing the problems a fledgling democracy faces in Golding's portrayal of the state of nature; and by comparing and contrasting problems raised in Golding to those raised in Nietzsche's criticism of the limits that all political and social institutions place on individual freedom.
Week 1-2 Golding, Lord of the Flies
Week 3 Nietzsche, "Geneology of Morals," in Fermon/Cohen
Social Science Learning Outcomes: a, b, c, d, f
Security: It is often argued that individuals join together in political communities in order to provide for their security. How important is security to politics? What does it take to maintain security? If a political leader can provide security, does this qualify him/her to lead? What other requirements of politics might be threatened by such a leader, or such an emphasis? Students will explore these issues by considering Machiavelli's discussion of the role of the prince in providing leadership to a state torn by conflict; and then by considering ways that Machiavelli's argument in his Discourses offers an alternative republican approach.
Week 4-5 Machiavelli, "The Prince"
"The Discourses," in Fermon/Cohen
Social Science Learning Outcomes: a, c, d, e, f
Freedom and Equality: Freedom and equality are often embraced as though related umproblematically. This section of the course introduces students to potential contradictions between these concepts. Students look at discussions of the state of nature in order to understand the relationship between human nature and political institutions which reflect and yet limit that nature. What limits on freedom are necessary? Is equality possible and desirable? How have the liberal theories which influenced the founders of the American Republic affected our contemporary ideas on these issues?
Week 6-7 Rousseau, "Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality," in Fermon/Cohen
Week 8-9 Tocqueville, "Democracy in America," in Fermon/Cohen
Social Science Learning Outcomes: a, b, c, d, e, f, g
Oppression/Repression: In this section, students read Orwell and Arendt in order to become familiarized with what Arendt calls the newest form of politics, i.e., totalitarianism. Students are introduced to the ways that contemporary political theorists have tried to respond to the threat of totalitarian government and totalitarian thought. Students examine the importance of language, of different voices, and of plurality to maintaining an open and inclusive polity.
Week 10-11 Orwell, Animal Farm
Week 12-13 Arendt, "The Origins of Totalitarianism," in Fermon/Cohen
Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," in Fermon/Cohen
Social Science Learning Outcomes: a, b, c, d, e, g
State Power: The Death Penalty: In this section, students analyze one issue of controversy in contemporary society. This analysis requires the comparison of different and contrasting positions; the application of theories studied throughout the semester to this particular issue; the formulation of a position supported by theory; and the oral debate of this position against the arguments of fellow students.
Week 14-15 Plato, "The Apology," in Fermon/Cohen
"The Crito," handout
Camus, "Reflections on the Guillotine," handout
Berms, "On Capital Punishment," handout
Social Science Learning Outcomes: a, b, c, d, e, f, g