Thursday, March 21, 2013

TBA reading 3.28

For next week, post something short and write about it. The class is small enough that we should be able to get to each of the different topics.

In the meantime, here's something on paying college athletes, an issue we kind of danced around today.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Reminder on blog posts and TBA reading (still partially TBA).

Hi Folks,

For this week, let's get back on a tight schedule with our blog posts. If you would, post on your blogs by 2pm Wednesday, and then comment on two other blogs by Thursday's class (that way you will have read and thought about other people's ideas in time for our discussion).

We didn't get a chance to vote on an issue this week, so why don't we just do it this Tuesday? Think of some topics you might want to discuss. We'll keep the reading short so you'll have time to read and respond to it by Wednesday afternoon.

I'll update this post with whatever article we choose. In the mean time, also take a look at this article for next week. It is quite in the spirit of the course, in that it confuses some of the fundamental distinctions we use to think about politics.


Here's a bracketology article, and here is a quick history.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Essay 3

The goal of Essay #3 is to take us one step closer to producing our final term paper by going a little bit deeper into an issue of interest to you. In the last essay, we produced an informative argument that attempted to clarify misconceptions and highlight the most important aspects of an issue. Basically, you created a framework to help an intelligent layperson approach an issue in a general way. In this essay, we will focus less on explaining the broad outlines of a topic and instead provide an account of different positions on an issue and how those differences come about. In this assignment, you will provide a framework to help an intelligent layperson understand how different assumptions about what facts are most important, what values are most pressing, and what outcomes are most desirable lead to different proposals regarding one and the same issue. Your opening paragraph should clearly define the issue you are discussing and the various positions you will compare; your thesis should provide a precise account of how those positions differ and what accounts for those differences.

For example: if we were comparing/contrasting proposals to reform Social Security by instituting personal accounts, on the one hand, and by eliminating the payroll tax and replacing it with a more progressive tax, on the other, we might argue the following: "This dispute arises from a different understanding of what Social Security is and should be: whereas proponents of private accounts see Social Security as akin to an investment in a private retirement account, and thus have no problem with the system leading to radically different payouts to beneficiaries depending on the performance of those accounts, proponents of changing merely the financing of Social Security see the program as part of the safety net designed to provide a minimum standard of retirement income regardless of how much an individual may have paid into the system before retirement." As you can see, once again it is best to focus on 2-3 proposals that are as specific as possible, which will make it easier to clearly define the reasons for those differences. The proposals need not be from radically different ideological camps as in the above example; instead, it would be perfectly acceptable to demonstrate how the same ideology can also lead to different policy prescriptions as a result of subtler differences.

Bring a rough draft of the paper to class on Thursday, March 21st. The final paper will be due Wednesday, March 27 by 12pm. The final draft should be 4-6 pages in 12 point Times New Roman Font with 1 inch margins. Use MLA to cite your sources (you'll need at least 3-5 sources to have an adequate understanding of your topic). Make sure that you use parenthetical citation to indicate whenever you are using information from one of your sources, and do not cite a source in the works cited unless you refer to it in the body of the essay. 

One final note: if you want to have the opportunity to revise your final essay--which will basically be a 7-10 page, 7-10 source essay on a topic of your choice--please turn in a draft by Wednesday, April 17th at 12pm. Start planning accordingly if this is of interest to you. If you would prefer, I could instead meet with you about a draft in person and/or suggest roughly the grade the type of work you are doing would merit. 

TBA reading for 3.14

Here's a selection of various perspectives on the gun control issue:

For a thoughtful libertarian take, see here.

For a British perspective on American gun culture, see here.

This article summarizes the basic findings of a report released by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Check out their website here. Pay particular attention to the 10 laws they recommend passing and the states that currently have adopted those laws. The information was surprising to me.