Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reflection: World Politics

I thoroughly enjoyed everything about the World Politics class, even the enormous amounts of reading, which were interesting and impressive enough to make up for the time consumed reading them. In my first semester out of high school, the discussion-based, largely independent format of the class was a big change, and everything I had always wished my classes were more like. The wide range of different views and theories taught in the class was nicely reflected by the variety of interests and political opinions held by the class members.

The class discussions were my favorite part of not just World Politics, but all my current classes at AU -- the setup was simple, but open to a huge range of ideas and directions to go in. Just a prompt and the beginning from the readings and Professor Jackson, and a few periodic nudges in some of the more interesting directions (because in this class there was no right or wrong direction to go in), and the students took care of their education on their own. It became so interesting to participate in the discussions that there were times that I could’ve let a class period last another hour, just so we could clean up loose ends of whatever fascinating idea we had stumbled upon. In fact, discussions were sometimes so fulfilling and interesting that I became suspicious about whether or not PTJ was subtly manipulating us into discussing a topic that he specifically thought would give us insight into World Politics, which totally destroyed my ability to trust that he had no hidden agenda whenever he brought up a subject. Sometimes the connections we made and the insights we gained seemed a little too perfect, which made me paranoid -- was international relations really so complex and intertwined a subject that mere freshman college students could have a semi-intelligent debate over it, or were we all just being fed information in a form slightly more subtle than a lecture? Either way, I learned (by doing, rather than just listening) a lot more about how international relations and global politics works than I would have in a differently-styled class.

World Politics is not just a class for those interested in IR, it helped me to understand my other classes better than I would have without it -- Comparative Politics, Law, Economics, even the essays I had to write for College Writing. If I get the chance to have another class like this one, I will most definitely take it. Anyway, this class was like a breath of fresh air, and if other college classes are similar to it, a brilliant introduction to my college experience. In high school, no matter how interesting the subject matter can be, the way the classes teach always restricts the enjoyment I could get out of the subject. World Politics made me more confident that I could in fact choose to learn and figure things out by myself and with peers, not just from experienced experts, although they do help me to remember what I’m talking about in the first place.

“When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.”

~ Paul Simon

Reflection: The End

Well, we've reached the end of our glorious mission together in World Politics.  Honestly, it's been an amazing ride, and I'd do it all over again.  With less articles though.  I was honestly amazed that I was exposed to so many different points of view in our class.  I can safely say that one of the reasons I decided to come to American was its predisposition to have liberal-leaning students.  Needless to say I was surprised when half of our class seems to lean more towards the right (you may blame that on political shifts in current affairs, but that's besides the point).  But really, would it have been better as an echo chamber?  Probably not.  I don't know how you did it, Professor Jackson, but bravo.

I was very interested in the strategic aspects of world politics, and how we can relate everything we see to life around us.  I mean, I can't even name all the times we would be arguing about something on the floor and something about realism/liberalism/constructivism would come up because it honestly did actually apply there in that situation.  The application of what we've learned is really evident in all we do, and it's important to remember that going forward.

But to be honest, this class helped affirm what I believe I want out of my college experience and what I will be doing going forward.  To be honest, I came to AU believing that SIS would be at least one of my majors here, econ being the other.  I now realize that International Relations really isn't for me.  My opinions could change later on, but I don't see SIS being in my future.  I think the times in class where we discussed economics and poverty seemed to be the most pertinent to me, and I feel that has given me reason to believe that I chose right in being an economics major.  World Politics was still an amazing class though, and everyone should experience it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Reflection: The Crazy World of World Politics

So the semester is coming to a close and in a month I will have a completely new lineup of classes to dive into. Yet World Politics will stay by my side in the form of a research project. I’m not going to lie and say I’m thrilled about all the research I will have to do, but it will be a good test of the material we learned in class. Speaking of tests, I never imagined a college class without any conventional exams. Having class based solely on discussion and a few essays and simulations was an interesting and unique experience. While I honestly disliked this unorthodox class structure, I’m sure I learned a lot more from this class rather than a one where a professor simply lectures about world politics.

I was surprised by the sheer variety of ideas the class exposed me to. Not only did I have to mind-numbingly read sophisticated books and articles, I had to understand where my classmates were coming from too. The class discussions intrigued me as to how well people can make a coherent argument backed up by evidence. I didn’t realize how different another person could interpret a text than the way I read it. What initially shocked me was how lively and interesting the discussions were. When researching for colleges, I heard that American is a very liberal school, yet I think both sides of the political spectrum were present during discussion. This class truly tested my critical thinking skills unlike any other class. If one class had to represent AU, this World Politics class would definitely take that spot.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sovereignty and Difference — Narrowing Down what Qualifies

Sovereignty can certainly be a tool to protect those who are “different”. While difference is not the only thing associated with sovereignty, sovereignty is essential to protect differences that are present in society, especially those of groups or cultures that are diametrically opposed to each other. However, historically, there have been several different factors that make this a viable option.

One obvious way sovereignty protects difference is the protection of minority groups from persecution. There are two ways for a minority group to protect itself -- one, change society around it to accept them, or two, form their own safe haven with rules that applied to them and borders that defined the extent of the rules. This second approach worked much better a long time ago, when minority groups usually all lived in the same geographical area and their oppression originated from an external force, but there are also variations to it, most obviously, in the definition of what constitutes a difference. One example is America, which broke off from England to become an independent sovereign state. America became sovereign because of difference, even though they weren’t a different cultural or ethnic group in the traditional sense. Even though at the time of the American revolution, Americans identified themselves as English, the colonists’ differences from other Englishmen is what caused their separation. While they didn’t have a radical cultural difference from the rest of Britain, they were treated by the British government differently than other british people, in a negative way, especially with regard to economics. Eventually, the American colonists’ differences with the British government became so great that it trumped the colonists loyalty to Britain and self-identification as British, and caused them to gain independence, and sovereignty to retain their independence from interference by the British.

An interesting parallel between Rosenblum’s book and the revolution is that in both instances, the group seeking independence was geographically grouped together and isolated from the motherland -- Earth and Britain respectively. In these situations, it’s not a lucky chance that both groups happened to be isolated and could therefore easily form a sovereign state, but they wouldn’t have developed the differences that would cause them to feel the need to form a sovereign state, had they not been separated. (While the first colonists were persecuted minorities fleeing England, this same movement of immigrants was not the one that would later push for American independence.) It was their geographical difference, in conjunction with their differences in values, that made sovereignty a plausible way of protecting differences. This ties in with the still-valid notion that a nation-state, fixed and geographical in definition, is the only truly accepted sovereign entity. Therefore, while sovereignty does indeed protect difference, it only protects a specific kind of difference, one that is partially based on geography, and cannot be a solution to the protection of all forms of difference.

Reflection on World Politics

This semester World Politics class has been a great look in to the world of International Relations. Before taking this class, I did not know much about the art of international relations and how so many things, such as identities and perspectives, affect the way countries interact with another.

It was also interesting to look at the different ways scholars look at countries' behaviors and classify these behaviors into theories, mainly realism, liberalism, constructivism and other versions of the three. Struggles for power, social and national identities, and international cooperation all can affect the way countries interact with one another, depending on which theory you look at.

Also, examining international issues and realizing that there are so many ways to look at them and interpret them depending on which IR theory you employ showed me that International Relations isn't an exact science, it's not black and white. It's an art, a game of chess, trying to predict the opponent's next move and strategizing to benefit yourself and (maybe) your allies.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sovereignty Protecting Difference

I agree that sovereignty can be a tool in protecting those who are labeled "different." In Horizons, the space-residing humans are under attack by the regular humans because of the space-residing humans' different appearance. Establishing "a nation with the power to protect its own" can better protect and cater to the needs of the particular group, in this case the space-residing humans. With having their own sovereignty, these humans can more easily protect their needs and security. If things don't mesh (the interests of different groups) it is easier to just keep them separate.

Also, with their own sovereignty, groups can more easily target what their needs are and either implement effective policy or communicate them to other groups.

Overall, sovereignty is beneficial to groups that are "different" because it allows them to focus on their needs and protection from infringement and attack from other groups.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Reflection on North Korea

North Korea fired artillery at South Korea and claimed it was a "response" to South Korea's naval drills. Heightened tensions have frightened people into thinking that this could be the beginning of war.

I don't think this is war, but I think it is a way for North Korea to display its power and capabilities after being pushed to the back burner by sanctions. North Korea might have felt the need to assert its still existing power in the global sphere.

Also, traveling home for Thanksgiving made me think of the TSA and their new security measures. When I arrived home, my family asked me if I was "felt up" by the TSA. I told them that security wasn't any different from what I have experienced before, but I did hear about the pat downs and body scanners that the TSA was now using and people's protests about the new security measures. It is interesting to see how people support increased security to keep them safe from attacks, but once this security creeps up on their civil liberties it is no longer appealing. It creates a double standard. People want to be protected, but don't like certain protection measures implemented.