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Reacting to the Past: Extended Simulations and the Learning Experience in Political Science
Unformatted Document Text:  Extended Simulations and Their Uses The Course My course was somewhat different from the political science courses using simulations de- scribed previously. Since the course was one of the required multidisciplinary freshman seminars (the “Core Cornerstone”) taught at LaGrange College, I could not convert it into a straightfor- ward introduction to politics. Further, I doubted that a conventional introductory course would allow the best opportunity to use the students’s new interest in politics as a tool for increasing student engagement. I decided instead to focus the course on the problem of creating political order. Doing so had several immediate advantages. First, it would bring the war in Iraq and its consequences directly to the center of the course. The war is the defining issue in contemporary American politics and is one of the main reasons for the increased student interest already mentioned (Institute of Politics 2007). However, as Rankin (2005) has shown, most opinions college students here hold concerning Iraq are the product of emotional cues centered on patriotic attitudes rather than in depth knowledge of the actual situation. As a general rule, students can form some notion of how intense primordial cleavages and the displacement of national sovereignty can combine to create immense problems for recreating political order. However, in my experience, students see the insurrection and the difficulties of the new Iraqi government as caused by an irrational populace deformed by an in- comprehensible culture. What is missing from the equation is any understanding of why the an- tagonisms fueling the war have developed and how actors can come to rational decisions about their political interests that lead to dire collective consequences. I reasoned that putting the stu- dents through an experiential learning exercise where they faced simulations of dilemmas similar 2

Authors: Lightcap, Tracy.
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Extended Simulations and Their Uses
The Course
My course was somewhat different from the political science courses using simulations de-
scribed previously. Since the course was one of the required multidisciplinary freshman seminars
(the “Core Cornerstone”) taught at LaGrange College, I could not convert it into a straightfor-
ward introduction to politics. Further, I doubted that a conventional introductory course would
allow the best opportunity to use the students’s new interest in politics as a tool for increasing
student engagement. I decided instead to focus the course on the problem of creating political
order. Doing so had several immediate advantages.
First, it would bring the war in Iraq and its consequences directly to the center of the course.
The war is the defining issue in contemporary American politics and is one of the main reasons
for the increased student interest already mentioned (Institute of Politics 2007). However, as
Rankin (2005) has shown, most opinions college students here hold concerning Iraq are the
product of emotional cues centered on patriotic attitudes rather than in depth knowledge of the
actual situation. As a general rule, students can form some notion of how intense primordial
cleavages and the displacement of national sovereignty can combine to create immense problems
for recreating political order. However, in my experience, students see the insurrection and the
difficulties of the new Iraqi government as caused by an irrational populace deformed by an in-
comprehensible culture. What is missing from the equation is any understanding of why the an-
tagonisms fueling the war have developed and how actors can come to rational decisions about
their political interests that lead to dire collective consequences. I reasoned that putting the stu-
dents through an experiential learning exercise where they faced simulations of dilemmas similar
2


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