Course description and goals

This course is designed to introduce students to some of the fundamental questions and issues of politics. We will begin by asking what questions should be considered “political,” and why they should be thought of as political questions.

We will not, however, spend the entire semester in theorizing. Politics is a practical science, and we will consider the real-world implications of some of our provisional answers to fundamental political questions, focusing on current political issues. Though some of the topics we’ll cover are already set, the issues we discuss during the latter part of the semester will be determined by student interest.

By the end of the semester, students will have:

  • explored some important political issues,
  • developed an understanding of those issues,
  • begun to develop positions on those issues, and be able to defend those positions,
  • developed their analytical and writing skills, and
  • learned some computing, research, and information management skills that will benefit them in their future studies and careers.

In the course of our exploration of the issues chosen for this semester, students will also learn how to ask appropriate questions, such as:

  • What is the issue at hand?
  • How should we understand or frame the issue?
  • What theories underlie competing approaches to the issue?
  • What are the central questions involved?
  • What kind(s) of evidence would help us begin to answer our questions?
  • Where might we look for such evidence?

As students work to accomplish these objectives through their participation in class and their completion of assignments, they will also meet some of the broader goals of the Sophia Program in Liberal Learning. We will focus particularly on:

Social Science I LO1 outcomes:

  • A Saint Mary’s student identifies and explains social science concepts and theories about human behavior, systems, and cultures.
  • A Saint Mary’s student applies social science concepts and theories in her analysis of human behavior, systems, and cultures.
  • A Saint Mary’s student recognizes and explains effects of diversity and equity in specific areas such as class, race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and/or privilege.

LO2 outcomes in writing:

  • LO2: Writing Program Outcomes (suboutcomes for LO2)
  • A Saint Mary’s student employs conventions of academic writing…: All goals (please see below) express these conventions. Mechanics* focuses on technical details such as citation form. This is also addressed by the Revision outcome: “A Saint Mary’s student reevaluates and revises her work in response to feedback.”
  • …to formulate meaningful claims,: A Saint Mary’s student expresses the central idea of her essay in a focused thesis (Thesis).
  • construct effective arguments,: A Saint Mary’s student organizes her material in a logical sequence of well-structured paragraphs (Organization).
  • and employ evidence appropriately.: A Saint Mary’s student supports her ideas with sufficient persuasive evidence (Support).
  • She communicates her ideas in writing with precision and style.: A Saint Mary’s student expresses her ideas clearly and appropriately for the intended audience (Style), and
  • she follows conventions of grammar, punctuation, syntax, and citation in the discipline in which she is writing (Mechanics).