It’s difficult times, perhaps especially for those of us teaching politics. Colleagues are debating how to approach situations like Charlottesville in their classrooms. Perhaps a trick I learned in my previous life as a facilitator could help (it’s worked for me in the classroom at least). It acknowledges how students feel, while keeping the focus on the facts, and honing critical thinking abilities.
This summer, I’m teaching my own course – Global Environmental Politics. It is a third-year course crunched into 6 weeks, 6 hours per week. In theory, this should roughly equal the time spent in a course over a regular term. In practice, I can cover about 2/3 the material I ordinarily would, requiring hard choices.
Teaching is political. Rather than a kitchen-sink approach to the field. I decided to focus on what broader goals I want the course to contribute to. Content serves the larger lessons I would like to impart. Students rarely leave classes with an appreciation for a concept; they remember how an idea, concept, or lesson resonated with their lives. As the instructor, I have the ability, dare I say power, to direct the course in a given direction, exposing students to ideas about how to proceed along a more environmentally-conscious life.
The class serves, in its small way, two goals: that the students become conscious consumers and critical thinkers. Both these skills not only help realize a future generation more capable of protecting the environment, but also more able and empathetic global citizens.
Other than these, it is important to me to not focus exclusively on climate change. Yes, climate change is crisis. Yet, overlooking the health, environmental, and social ramifications of hazardous chemicals and wastes, overfishing, land degradation, and biodiversity loss is, to me, irresponsible. Not all environmental issues are climate-related, and can stand on their own in terms of normative, empirical, and theoretical importance.
So, here is my syllabus (Syllabus_POLI 375_Final). It is gender equal (which is not that difficult, thanks to http://womenalsoknowstuff.com/), in an attempt to buck the trend that women are underrepresented on IR course syllabi.
The syllabus under represents the material covered in the class, since I won’t lecture strictly on the material. This is my way to provide balance – if a reading, video or podcast take a pro-market or critical perspective, the lecture can propose another view.
The next trick is to somehow pull off this magic trick in front of 65 students.