Reviews of Political Science 001 - Political Theory

Ken Sharpe

Name: Tom Kawczynski Year: 2003 Major: History/Political Science Professor: Ken Sharpe Taken Fall 1999 Recommends? yes

This course ranked among my favorites that I have taken at Swarthmore. The class was largely discussion based and operated on a simple format. Every day, we would discuss the readings as a group, approximately one-third of the class was required to participate in oral discussion in a given class. After they made their opening statements, the class would discuss whatever issues may have arose as a group where participation was optional. Professor Sharpe did not speak often, letting the conversation go where it would, but he offered instightful comments to help the discussion.

In the class, the reading load was medium for a POLS course (which would probably be heavy for other majors) but enjoyable. On average, we would read about 150 pages a week. The course was clearly divided into two portions. In the first half of the semester, we read mostly theoretical works by authors such as Plato, Hobbes, and Mill. In the second half of the course, we read books that applied these theories to modern day society. Both were interesting and provided for stimulating discussion. My only complaint is that there was a large number of reserve readings that I found inconvenient and sometimes difficult to access.

We had to write three papers during the course of the class of four to five pages in length. A WA was assigned for each paper so multiple drafts were turned in. The papers were also peer edited by a member of the class in a unique twist. I found that the topics were relatively straightforward.

The most challenging part of the course was the final paper. We did not have an exam, but we had to write a comprehensive paper on the course. In groups of five to six people, we grinded out fifteen to twenty page papers. My only advice to anyone who takes this course is to choose who you group with wisely. As I am not personally fond of group work, I found this final frustrating, but it certainly was a memorable experience.

I would recommend this class because Professor Sharpe (he'll have you call him Ken) really selects interesting readings and the discussions are fascinating. No opinions are imposed upon you but you will have to defend what you believe. I think this is one of the most valuable classes I have taken here because it bridges reality to the sometimes obscure realm of theory. Unless you have a serious aversion to talking, I think you would enjoy this course.

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