14 Nov Label each entry as you do them whether it’s the title or numbers. Take a look at the requirements and example below and what’s attached. ? What’s required? Three learning journal entries per
Label each entry as you do them whether it's the title or numbers. Take a look at the requirements and example below and what's attached.
Three learning journal entries per week (described below). At least one journal entry per week must address our semester reading, Our Own Worst Enemy, and other readings related to our special focus this semester: threats to US democracy and ways those threats can be mitigated.
Read the prompt details below and reach out if any questions. You aren't graded on your political views. You are graded on whether you support your views with credible sources and evidence. Credible sources do not include opinionated commentators like Tucker Carlson or Michael Moore. They can be fun to listen to but are not college assignment sources. So too social media memes and conspiracy theories. I'm not joking. People have cited them. Provide evidence and citations to back up your claims to help others fairly evaluate your arguments. Anyone should be able to go to the materials you relied on upon and see for themselves to confirm, disconfirm or challenge your reading of that material. Then, and only then, can a free and open, and INFORMED discussion take place. No one is limiting your right to free speech by asking you to back up your claims, for additional evidence, or questioning the credibility of your sources.
Avoid logical fallacies
You'll also find common logical fallacies (aka BS arguments) defined on the second part of this page. Once again, use it as a checklist and make sure you are making the best possible case for your point of view in your journals.
Questions to address for each idea in a learning journal
Once you have your three ideas (plus one optional extra credit idea) for the week answer the following four questions for each idea:
1) What was the one idea that struck you and why?
2) How does it connect to what you are learning about in class?
What does this mean? Step 1: As you read each section introduction and each page keep notes on the main idea- something that can be written in a sentence or a short phrase. Step 2: What is the main idea of both the module and the section on your topic page is located in? Step 3: What is the main idea you are writing or about or addressing in your journal entry? Step 4: Go back to your notes. What are the other main ideas from this section or module? Step 5: What main idea is your topic an example of? How does it compare to the other main idea(s)? How is it the same? How is it different? Your answer to Step 5 is your answer to question 2 on how your journal entry connects to what you learning in class.
3) How did it expand your understanding?
4) What would you like to learn more about?
Here are the journal entries
#1: Gerrymandering (Rigging) Elections
How politicians rig elections – YouTube
#2: Are We Stuck in Place? (see attachment below)
#3: What Is Environmental Justice?
#4: Reality TV, Fake News, and Politics (see attachment below)
Those 3 journal entries are a minimum of 250 words for each idea reflection per idea reflection. You can go longer on text or video if needed. If you are doing text it would run about 2000 words for the three weeks of reflections and about 2750 words in the final journal which will cover four weeks.
The format is your choice depending on your comfort level with technology and what you feel best fits your topic and creative inspiration. It could be a written Word doc. It could be a video. You could include your own creative work such as photographs, memes, graphics, artwork, poems, songs, graphs, diagrams, and tables. You can also use PowerPoint (link from Google Drive in your assignment post), Prezi, or an audio file. Include links to what is being discussed in your reflections when its from something other than our course. If you are using video and it is a file smaller than 500 mb you can upload it directly to Canvas.
This can be a painless and enjoyable learning process if you do it regularly. If an idea grabs you as you are reading the Canvas site or the Our Own Worst Enemy book, do a short write-up. If you wait until a day before it’s due, or worse, the day of, it will be unpleasant.
Credible sources are a must
As you analyze the different ideas, your evaluation of the pluses and minuses of each idea is up to you. You will not be graded or judged on your beliefs and values. This course is about reflecting on critical political questions and issues and learning how to think, not what to think. You are required to include citations and supporting evidence for all your views. See the next page for definitions of credible sources. Use it as a checklist. If it meets all the criteria use the source. If it doesn't meet all criteria don't use it. You are responsible for vetting your sources before using them in this course!
How to Get a Better Grade on an Assignment To improve your grade on assignments use the following list of things to do and things to avoid. Use it as a checklist as you edit your assignment. The more checks the better your grade will be.
Above all remember as you analyze different perspectives, your evaluation of the relative strengths and weaknesses of any political position is up to you. You will not be graded or judged on your beliefs and values. This course is about teaching you HOW to think, not WHAT to think. I do not care if you are Republican, Democrat, Right or Left or none of the above. What is important is to make the best possible argument you can for your position. The tips on this page will help you do just that. It begins with the six most common mistakes that I've seen in assignments.
A) The Big Six:
1: Thoroughly read through the assignment prompt and make sure you have done all required parts of the assignment. Don't throw away grade points unnecessarily. If you have any questions, or if something is unclear to you, reach out. I am here to help.
2: Define your terms. For example, writing "President Biden is making the US a socialist and maybe even a Communist country." (I heard this from a friend on Facebook so it is a real life example). Possible responses: How are defining you "socialism?" It's thrown around like a political football as a loaded word. But what defines it? What does it look like? How do you know when you see it? Thomas Dye, a conservative political scientist, defines socialism simply as central government control of the market. He goes on to say many of his fellow conservatives define any governmental economic regulation as socialism, but that is inaccurate as a capitalist system with some government regulation isn't socialism. Is a government run utility company or garbage service socialism? What is the difference between state central socialism, democratic socialism and social democracies? Know terms before throwing them around.
3: Examples help clarify meaning and definitions. Continuing our example above socialism above. For one example, Bernie Sanders
identifies as a socialist, but isn't a socialist. He is social democrat. Why? For example, he would leave free market capitalism in place, but have more social programs. Social welfare programs with a capitalist economy aren't socialism. Social assistance programs historically were created to counter the appeal of socialism to workers. We'll have more on this later in the course.
4: Avoid generalizations. To use a simple example: All dogs have curly hair. Generalizations are the easiest statements to disprove. Find one exception and poof, it melts. By the way, did you know all the superheroes in the Marvel cinematic universe are ethical and serve only to help people?
5: Cite evidence. We all have opinions. Its fine to swap opinions over a cup of coffee. A school assignment is different because it requires evidence. Evidence raises an opinion to the level of reasoned argument. In the socialism discussion above above I don't just assert Bernie Sanders isn't a socialist, and let it go as an obvious truth. I give reasons, examples and evidence. My sources are on the page linked. Which leads us to the next point.
6: Use credible sources. You are responsible for vetting your sources before turning in your assignment. My PSCI department colleague Sasha Breger Bush has excellent and concise advice on determining what a credible source is in her book Global Politics: A Toolkit for Learners (pp 80-81) co-written with Kay M. O'Dell. Hint, a Q-drop is unlikely to be credible. Her checklist is as follows:
-Identify the author. If author is not identifiable, do not use the source/information (author can be a credible organization, government, or other source, such as the WTO as an author);
-Identify the author’s credentials and ensure they are experts in the subject. Credentials need not be academic but could also include relevant life or work experience, or time spent researching the subject matter. Don’t use source/information without good reason to trust the author’s credentials;
-Identify source information. Does the author reveal where they get their information, such that their findings could be replicated? If not, don’t use the source or the information provided;
-Identify possible interests or affiliations. Is the source affiliated with a company, interest group, political party, or political persona? If so, factor
this into analysis of the author’s/publisher’s bias in conveying information in the text.
B) Other sure fire ways to weaken your arguments (i.e. more logical fallacies to avoid). This advice from the Perdue University writing lab is worth reviewing.
Fallacies are common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of your argument. Fallacies can be either illegitimate arguments or irrelevant points, and are often identified because they lack evidence that supports their claim. Avoid these common fallacies in your own arguments and watch for them in the arguments of others.
Slippery Slope: This is a conclusion based on the premise that if A happens, then eventually through a series of small steps, through B, C,…, X, Y, Z will happen, too, basically equating A and Z. So, if we don't want Z to occur, A must not be allowed to occur either. Example:
If we ban Hummers because they are bad for the environment eventually the government will ban all cars, so we should not ban Hummers.
In this example, the author is equating banning Hummers with banning all cars, which is not the same thing.
Hasty Generalization: This is a conclusion based on insufficient or biased evidence. In other words, you are rushing to a conclusion before you have all the relevant facts. Example:
Even though it's only the first day, I can tell this is going to be a boring course.
In this example, the author is basing his evaluation of the entire course on only the first day, which is notoriously boring and full of housekeeping tasks for most courses. To make a fair and reasonable evaluation the author must attend not one but several classes, and possibly even examine the textbook, talk to the professor, or talk to others who have previously finished the course in order to have sufficient evidence to base a conclusion on.
Post hoc ergo propter hoc: This is a conclusion that assumes that if 'A' occurred after 'B' then 'B' must have caused 'A.' Example:
I drank bottled water and now I am sick, so the water must have made me sick.
In this example, the author assumes that if one event chronologically follows another the first event must have caused the second. But the illness could have been caused by the burrito the night before, a flu bug that had been working on the body for days, or a chemical spill across campus. There is no reason, without more evidence, to assume the water caused the person to be sick.
Genetic Fallacy: This conclusion is based on an argument that the origins of a person, idea, institute, or theory determine its character, nature, or worth. Example:
The Volkswagen Beetle is an evil car because it was originally designed by Hitler's army.
In this example the author is equating the character of a car with the character of the people who built the car. However, the two are not inherently related.
Begging the Claim: The conclusion that the writer should prove is validated within the claim. Example:
Filthy and polluting coal should be banned.
Arguing that coal pollutes the earth and thus should be banned would be logical. But the very conclusion that should be proved, that coal causes enough pollution to warrant banning its use, is already assumed in the claim by referring to it as "filthy and polluting."
Circular Argument: This restates the argument rather than actually proving it. Example:
George Bush is a good communicator because he speaks effectively.
In this example, the conclusion that Bush is a "good communicator" and the evidence used to prove it "he speaks effectively" are basically the same idea. Specific evidence such as using everyday language, breaking down complex problems, or illustrating his points with humorous stories would be needed to prove either half of the sentence.
Either/or: This is a conclusion that oversimplifies the argument by reducing it to only two sides or choices. Example:
We can either stop using cars or destroy the earth.
In this example, the two choices are presented as the only options, yet the author ignores a range of choices in between such as developing cleaner technology, car-sharing systems for necessities and emergencies, or better community planning to discourage daily driving.
Ad hominem: This is an attack on the character of a person rather than his or her opinions or arguments. Example:
Green Peace's strategies aren't effective because they are all dirty, lazy hippies.
In this example, the author doesn't even name particular strategies Green Peace has suggested, much less evaluate those strategies on their merits. Instead, the author attacks the characters of the individuals in the group.
Ad populum/Bandwagon Appeal: This is an appeal that presents what most people, or a group of people think, in order to persuade one to think the same way. Getting on the bandwagon is one such instance of an ad populum appeal.
If you were a true American you would support the rights of people to choose whatever vehicle they want.
In this example, the author equates being a "true American," a concept that people want to be associated with, particularly in a time of war, with allowing people to buy any vehicle they want even though there is no inherent connection between the two.
Red Herring: This is a diversionary tactic that avoids the key issues, often by avoiding opposing arguments rather than addressing them. Example:
The level of mercury in seafood may be unsafe, but what will fishers do to support their families?
In this example, the author switches the discussion away from the safety of the food and talks instead about an economic issue, the livelihood of those catching fish. While one issue may affect the other it does not mean we should ignore possible safety issues because of possible economic consequences to a few individuals.
Straw Man: This move oversimplifies an opponent's viewpoint and then attacks that hollow argument.
People who don't support the proposed state minimum wage increase hate the poor.
In this example, the author attributes the worst possible motive to an opponent's position. In reality, however, the opposition probably has more complex and sympathetic arguments to support their point. By not addressing those arguments, the author is not treating the opposition with respect or refuting their position.
Moral Equivalence: This fallacy compares minor misdeeds with major atrocities, suggesting that both are equally immoral.
That parking attendant who gave me a ticket is as bad as Hitler.
In this example, the author is comparing the relatively harmless actions of a person doing their job with the horrific actions of Hitler. This comparison is unfair and inaccurate.
Are We Stuck in Place? At this point you would be justified in saying, "You're depressing me."
Nonetheless, there is good news in Historical Institutional Theory akin to the Buddha's key insight that life is always changing so you can never cling to anything in your life whether the experience is happy or sad. On the one hand it sucks, on the other hand when things are bad you can also count on circumstances to change so you aren't always stuck in bad times.
What overcomes path dependency?
Losers. They actually (sort of) rule. On this point Historical Institutional Theory says organizations rely on rules and always make decisions. Decisions always create winners and losers. So far, this isn't rocket science.
Decisions always provoke the unhappy campers and they hold the key. Because losers aren’t happy, they push for changing the rules. Since there are always rules and decisions, and thus losers, policy is never set in stone, but in state of permanent flux.
Take a moment to give some thought to the current political climate. What points of conflict do we have now? Where are folks pushing for change?
Reality TV, Fake News, and Politics This interview from Vox is a worthwhile exploration of fake news Links to an external site.from its birth in Putin's Russia in the 1990s and 2000s to its use in the US and Europe. It's one possible answer to the question, "Why all the obvious lies?" The interview is with a Russian-born former reality TV show producer, Peter Pomerantsev.
Here are some key quotes from the interview:
"So propagandists are negotiating a new terrain where big ideas don’t matter anymore. Old social identities have collapsed, all the old professions and social roles that were in the Soviet Union have collapsed. There’s no idea of the future anymore. Instead of trying to argue in a rational way, politicians become these great performance artists, trying to be outrageous, reveling in the fact that they don’t care about the facts. And this is all very new…
"It’s not about proving something, it’s about casting doubt. This has always been a function of propaganda, like the tobacco companies trying to make people doubt whether their product causes cancer. But overall most political ideologies have not been about casting doubt — they’ve claimed to be telling the truth about the way the world is or should be.
"But this new propaganda is different. Putin isn’t selling a wonderful communist future. He’s saying we live in a dark world, the truth is unknowable, the truth is always subjective, you never know what it is, and you, the little guy, will never be able to make sense of it all — so you need to follow a strong leader.
"This is the way it works now, only it’s spread from Russia across the world…
"Content is not where the battle is anymore. It’s about manipulated campaigns and the lack of transparency of the internet. I think we live in a new form of censorship where we don’t understand how the information environment around us is shaped. We don’t know why an algorithm shows us one piece of content and not another. We don’t know which bits of our data are used to target us and why. We don’t know if what we’re seeing is organic or part of a coordinated campaign. All of this is in the dark…"
Trump, Russia, and fake news: How bullshit conquered the world – Vox
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