Democracy (Still) Matters

With classes starting next Wednesday, I’m moving towards ironing out the details of my classes. And, once again, I’ve decided to focus my freshman composition classes around the 2008 presidential elections. That approach worked very well when I used it in fall 2004, and with the Democratic and Republican primaries providing so much to analyze, I think the course should be fairly rewarding.

I’m still working out some of the details, but one of the issues I’d like to address would be the ways in which online video has changed election rhetoric, and as of right now, I’m tentatively planning for my students’ first major assignment to be a rhetorical analysis of an online video (official or unofficial). I’m still sorting through other paper ideas. Because this is the “research” course, I’m considering a research project that requires students to research a candidate’s position on a specific issue (the war in Iraq, stem cell research, immigration reform) and then to argue for or against that position (or, possibly, to compare and contrast two candidates’ positions), but that assignment doesn’t quite fit some of the arguments I want to make.

Once again, I’d like my students to think about the election process, the ways in which candidates are chosen and whether or not that process is truly democratic. And I’d also like them to think about the “meta” issues, the ways in which different candidates argue. With that in mind, here are a few essays I’m considering:

Some of these essays feel a little dated, so I’m certainly open for suggestions. And, of course, much of the material for the course will grow out of class discussion itself and the election process as it unfolds over the next three months. More than anything, though, I’m very much looking forward to teaching this course theme again. I think it’ll be fun for me and I’m hoping that my students will find it relevant as well.

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