Monthly Archives: February 2014

A novel teaching idea — WWI in real time (a hundred years later)

I’m teaching a course for the CIEE study abroad program on Jordanian politics, and I was talking with a couple of colleagues about how nice it is to be back “in the classroom” and working with intelligent students. I’ve always been inclined to incorporate games or simulations or other ways of making course material and concepts “stick.” So a colleague and I were talking about running a simulation on a contemporary issue relevant to Jordan — perhaps a parliamentary debate over the “mubadara” initiative (since that’s gone so well in the real Jordanian Lower House), or of a crisis simulation dealing with spillover from the war in Syria, or perhaps a set of Palestinian/Israeli/Jordanian/US negotiations to construct our own ‘Kerry Plan’.

I’ve done quite a bit of this sort of thing previously, teaching Model United Nations, creating a simulation of the Iraq parliament, and doing a month-long simulation of government-opposition interaction in a fictional country called Authoritania¬†in my class on authoritarianism.

Then I came across this excellent idea —¬†teaching WWI in real time (a hundred years later). Very cool. Very inventive. There are so many possibilities from this one novel idea of making the past the present in the same chronological increments. I’m interested to see how Scott Wolford, the prof teaching the course, designs it. I assume it will be heavy on primary source materials. He’ll be blogging the process, so more inspiration to come, I’m sure.

Democracy Man | Foreign Affairs

There’s a nice and concise tribute to Robert Dahl in Foreign Affairs (Democracy Man). Particularly in light of Nick Kristof’s piece about the relevance of academics, this brief look back at Dahl’s life and accomplishments shows the importance of such figures (and much lesser-accomplished ones) for shaping our understanding of politics. From the article:

Dahl is often considered the founder of the behavioral school of political science. That is because he emphasized observable conduct in his early theoretical work on power and the behavior of urban elites in Who Governs, his study of decision-making in New Haven. But it misconstrues Dahl to identify him with that or any methodological school.  Some of his work was conceptual, aimed at understanding such things as the nature of power and democracy. Some of it was institutional; he studied the feasibility and effectiveness of the separation of powers, whether democracy could survive without a market economy, and whether democratic firms could be efficient. Still other questions were normative, geared to determining which system of political representation is best, whether delegating political power to experts is a good idea, and how much inequality is desirable. He was a problem-driven scholar who addressed the major questions of his time and selected the methods appropriate to the task.