A note from Jeremy:
I've included the assignment sheet that I distributed in class this semester. Students get creative and have fun with the assignment--but still demonstrate that they understand the materials leading up to the assignment.
To give a little background: we spend a week (two class periods) talking about political ideologies and their role in a society. One class is spent discussing classical liberalism, classical conservatism, and socialism (the "big three" historical ideologies), and how those ideologies responded to and reflected various issues in society at a given time. At the end of that class, I have the class divide into 6 groups. Each group is then assigned a particular website that deals with political ideologies in the modern context. For example, students looked at websites for greens, libertarians, democratic socialists, the "radical middle," American liberals, and American conservatives. At our next meeting, each group makes a presentation to the class about the ideology presented, how it's similar to/different from some of the classical ideologies, and if/how it resonates in American society. Students also have the opportunity to ask each other questions about the various websites.
The writing assignment asks students to take what they have learned about these various ideologies, and try to apply them to a modern situation--the newly-independent state of Grinnell. They need to craft an ideology that will respond to Grinnell's needs as well as reflect Grinnell's cultural background.
This is the second time I've used this assignment, and it's worked well both times. It provides a different venue for students to show their mastery of the material, and it gets them writing early in the semester.
People's Republic of Grinnell
Please write a 4-5 page paper on the following topic. You may use your notes, any of the readings we have done this semester, or any outside sources. Be sure to cite any written works. If you have any questions, please let me know as soon as possible either by email or in my office. The assignment is due at the beginning of class on February 22nd. I will not accept papers via email. Late papers will be docked 5 percent each day. Please use standard margins and fonts, and be sure to double-space.
After a vicious civil war in the middle of Central Campus, Grinnell has declared itself an independent and sovereign state. Due to my leadership skills (evidenced by my work with all those disabled Socialists), I have been selected as the temporary leader of the new country. Now the hard part begins-establishing a government and determining its obligations to the citizens of Grinnell. This new government will not only have to look out for the interests of all Grinnellians, but it also has to balance the demands of different groups (like professors v. students v. staff; North Campus v. South Campus v. East Campus; first-year students v. seniors; etc.). In short, we need to figure out what our society's highest goals should be and how we should go about achieving those.
I have appointed you my official ideology advisor, and asked you to find an ideology that will work for our state. Drawing on your knowledge of classical liberalism, classical conservatism, and socialism (in addition to the more contemporary manifestations of ideology found on the websites), suggest an ideology for the state of Grinnell (you can use aspects of different ideologies if you wish). What should be the central aim of the society and the state? Who should lead Grinnell? How would your ideology respond to Grinnell's needs? Why is the ideology you suggest appropriate for Grinnell? How would you respond to critics? How would you get the citizens of Grinnell to support this ideology? Does modern Grinnell society have needs that these classical ideologies cannot address? If so, what are they, and how should Grinnell meet these needs?