College of Social Studies - Newsletter 2002
Table of Contents:
- A Reader's Guide
- Goings-on-in the College
- The Evolution of the Sophomore Colloquium on Social Theory
- One Tutors Path to the Junior Tutorial
- The Junior Economics Tutorial: The Real Exchange Rate
- Curriculum Review: The Student View
- Georgia Institute of Public Administration
- CSS Endowment Fund
- The Newsletter
This, the eight issue of our Newsletter, is devoted to an exploration of the College’s present-day curriculum. Previous issues dealing with the progress of our alumni/ae in various professions – Law (# 3), Commerce (# 4), the Professorate (# 6), Public Service (# 7) – have touched upon how the skills nurtured by the tutorial method may have contributed to their success. In our fifth issue we did treat this subject head-on, with a review of how the curriculum has evolved, followed by a sample tutorial essay by Dan Tobin and three other student pieces describing their classes. Here we take a somewhat different tack.
In talking about the intellectual structure of the CSS it is only natural that one tends to emphasize that which is most distinctive about the program. To wit, its pedagogy. And indeed the skills inculcated by the trivium of "grammar, logic and rhetoric" are of great importance for clear thinking and for advancing in life. Moreover, for a department that is operated solely with borrowed faculty in competition with other departments not so handicapped, it would be gross negligence not to emphasize this distinctive feature of the CSS education! Thus each year in our recruitment campaign to persuade, hopefully, 40 or 50 frosh to apply for admission, it is our pedagogy that receives pride of place. Yet the attainment of a measure of wisdom, the highest goal of a liberal arts education, owes more to the subject matter, the content of what we teach, rather than the method by which we teach it. It is from this angle that we delve into our curriculum in the pages that follow by means of a close examination of three CSS offerings.
The final article in this issue is related to the first three. It is penned by the Chair of the Student House Committee, reporting their lengthy and careful deliberations. Their topic was the student evaluation of the CSS syllabus, and suggested elements for its reform. This evaluation was invited in anticipation of the major "Self-Study" that the tutors are just now launching. The Editor would like to underline Ben Oppenheim’s invitation for our readers to join in. Alumni/ae observations and suggestions could be a major element in arriving at a superior outcome. Please send your comments care of Fran at "firstname.lastname@example.org".
It was another good year on the 4th floor. The Senior class, following the flood of departures at the end of Sophomore year noted in our newsletter of two years ago, had no further losses (this year’s seniors boast 29). Of those sixteen seniors, 10 wrote Honors theses; eight were successful, with two garnering High Honors. There were three Phi Beta Kappa and Benjamin Wyatt won the Baldwin Prize as a prospective lawyer devoted to public service. In the Junior class Michael Lewis was awarded the Wesleyan Memorial for the outstanding Junior for character and leadership. For the second year of a three year trial, Sophomores were treated to External Examiners. There were, in this very delicate process, some bumps this time! Is the CSS interdisciplinary or multi disciplinary? On the initiative of three Juniors (Aaron Gatti, Elizabeth Hoffecker, Justin Gundlach), a new Preceptor position was created– again on a trial basis-- with the unique duty of helping Sophomores build into their essays concrete interdisciplinary links to Social Theory and the other two tutorials. Regarding the incoming class, we had but 37 applications. Given the necessity of a five-person wait list to insure a full compliment of 30 five months later, this is a critical area where we need to do better in the future.
During the course of the year we were fortunate to have psychiatrist Dr Eric Greenleaf, CSS ‘62 and Professor William Howell CSS ‘93 speak at the Monday luncheon. And both of our two superb Banquet speakers were alumni this year - Paul Halliday '83, now a Professor of History at the University of Virginia, and Ambassador Robert Hunter ‘62 of the Rand Corporation.
For the first time we drew on alumni gifts. Since the Newsletter was launched some of our readers have earmarked a portion of their gifts to Wesleyan for the dedicated use of the CSS. Ranging from $10 to as high as $500, about $16,000 had accumulated. Spurred into action by North College's dipping into these monies to cover administrative costs pertaining to the History Department and CSS external examiners, we have begun extending modest research grants to selected thesis writers and core faculty. Until the "Fund for the CSS" is put in place, this small amenity uplifts our spirits. We are grateful to our alumni/ae.
On the staffing front, Joyce Jacobsen of Economics and Erik Grimmer-Solem--a new arrival in the History Department--are teaming up with David Titus and Don Moon to teach the Sophomores for the next two years. Finally, at year's end Cecilia Miller and I headed off on sabbatical, relinquishing the reigns of power to Don Moon and Peter Rutland.
The most notable announcement, however, in regards to Faculty is a retirement in June 2003. After three-and-a-half decades as a core tutor--not to mention frequent Chair of CSS, Chair of the History Department, Director of the PAC and Dean of the Social Sciences--David Morgan has announced his intent to step down at the end of the current academic year. There will be a celebration of his contributions to Wesleyan and the CSS in early May. Former students desirous of a possible place at the banquet table should email Cecilia Miller [email@example.com] for details.
The Sophomore Colloquium has always played a crucial role in our program. For one thing, it is the first occasion when the sophomore class as a whole meets and works together, and so it is one of the main settings in which the dynamics of the class develop. In the early years of the College, the colloquia were offered on a trimester basis, and the first trimester sophomore colloquium was "Marx and Marxism," and it was team-taught by the three sophomore tutors. About one-half the course focused on the writings of Marx and Engels, with the rest of the term looking at later developments, including social democracy, Leninism, and Maoism. Unfortunately, there were a lot of drawbacks to that arrangement. The tutors were rarely specialists in the subject, and had to juggle it along with the demands of the tutorials they also were teaching, often for the first time. And the exclusive focus on Marxism meant that there was no space in the CSS program for other major social theorists. Although the name of our program was the "College of Social Studies," our students graduated at that time without being exposed to such major social thinkers as Max Weber or Emile Durkheim.
The present colloquium took shape in the late 70s when the sophomore year was restructured around the theme of European modernity and the emergence and functioning of industrial society. Each of the tutorials was designed to approach this theme from its own disciplinary perspectives. Thus, in History the focus was on Western Europe since the French Revolution, particularly the industrial revolution and the emergence of modern, democratic politics. The curriculum in Government compares liberal democracy, state socialist regimes, and fascist systems. Economics, a discipline that emerged only with industrial society, now concentrates on the history of economic thought.
The colloquium covers the major social and political theories that have been articulated in the West during the period when modernization and industrialization were underway. These processes involved enormous changes in every aspect of life. While in many ways liberating, and welcome to some social groups, these changes were deeply threatening to others, and disruptive to all. Most important, they resulted from the conscious and intentional actions of men and women, but the changes themselves were generally unplanned, often quite unexpected, and no one at the time had a clear understanding of the kind of society or way of life that was emerging.
One can view the theories we study in the Colloquium as attempts by philosophers and social thinkers to grasp the dramatic transformations that were occurring in their societies. By coming to understand their own societies better, they were able to analyze the different forms of society that were possible and to prescribe a particular form which, in light of their theories, could be seen to be superior to other attainable forms. These theories, then, were critical reflections on society, intended both to explain what was going on, and to criticize social reality, in part by articulating an ideal of social order and by specifying what must be done to achieve it.
Because of the critical dimension of these theories, they are important not only for what they teach us about how society works and the causes of modernization and industrialization, but also because they themselves become part of the very process of social change itself. For men and women take up these theories, or ideas inspired by them, draw up political programs, create institutions, and conduct their lives according to them. As these theories become part of society in this way, they often have consequences that are unintended by the theorists who drew them up. Thus, to look back on our history and to understand our own form of life requires that we understand the theories that have in part shaped it. As Keynes once wrote,
the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas. Not, indeed, immediately, but after a certain interval; for in the field of economic and political philosophy there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest. But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.1
Not only have the ideas studied in the Colloquium become integral to our world, they also continue to provide the key concepts employed by social science. Social theories ultimately rest upon certain very basic assumptions regarding human motivation, rationality, sociality and needs. In other words, they presuppose a conception of human nature and society, some image of what it is to be a person and the relationships of people to one another. The theories we study in the Colloquium put forward some conception of the person and society, and social scientists have continued to develop theories based on these conceptions even to this day.
Finally, these theories also provide the basic frameworks within which normative issues have been and continue to be posed. If we want to understand such concepts as liberty, equality, solidarity, democracy, the public interest, justice, or alienation, then the best place to begin is with the thinkers who first enunciated them, or who first thought about them in a systematic, rigorous, way.
The Colloquium, in summary, has a number of intellectual objectives. First, it provides a background for the work done in tutorials. Second, by studying these theories and analyzing their structures and basic assumptions, students should come to see some of the assumptions that underlie the theories modern social scientists use to explain society, enabling them to become more self-conscious about their assumptions about social life. Third, students should come to see, at least in an impressionistic way, the connection between thinking about society in a certain way and holding certain values or principles regarding how society ought to be organized. Finally, students should come to see that there are a number of fundamentally different and competing ways of thinking about modern society, and what some of these differences involve.
Although the general structure of the class has been constant for the past 15 or 20 years, it is continually revised as we add or drop particular thinkers, or shift the emphasis as the curriculum in the tutorials changes. The great frustration those of us who teach the course have faced, along with at least some of our students, is the impossibility of covering all of the theories we should cover, particularly 20th century social and political theories. Perhaps next year, as we re-examine the curriculum, we might attempt once again to address that problem.
1 J.M. Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, (New York: 1936.), pp. 383-4.
Many of those reading this Newsletter will remember CSS Junior Tutorials as a second year of regular tutorial work in the three core disciplines, which is what they were until around 1980. Many students from the '80s won't remember them at all. But Junior Tutorials reappeared in the '90s in condensed form, a set of seven-week spring courses of which a student is expected to complete two, one after the other. Tutors offer courses on special subjects that feature chronologically recent subject matter, or perhaps new perspectives on their disciplines.
For me, as a historian of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the expectation of recent subject matter was at first a barrier to offering a Junior Tutorial. But then I realized that 1989 had changed all that. Soon after the collapse of the Soviet Empire I revived an old interest in Eastern Europe from graduate-school days, an interest that had languished during the long, gray decades when Eastern Europe aroused little interest in students. There was no audience for courses on the subject, and I didn't keep up very well with developments. After 1989 there was plainly an audience: recent East European history took on an intelligible shape, and those countries' pasts had meaning for a future that we once again shared with them. I started teaching a course "Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century," and have gone on from there.
I don't do research in this subject area since I don't have the languages, apart from German and some Hungarian. However, for the past decade teaching modern Eastern Europe has been my special love. Early on I learned the materials that could bring this realm to life for myself and for a class: besides the work of historians (and there are some good ones), we deal with contemporary speeches and documents, memoirs, participant journalism, novels and stories and plays, photographic records, and films. I learned a great deal from having to teach students the political and cultural understanding that could be drawn from literary works, like those of Borowski, Kundera, Havel and others. I learned as much or more from studying and explicating films, like those of Wajda, Nĕmec, Kusturica and Jancsó. This was all new to me, though I have since extended the methods into some of my other courses. Less novel to me, but equally revealing and exciting, were memoirs and political tracts like those of Djilas, Miłosz and Havel. The study of recent decades certainly has its distinctive advantages, above all the great flow of documentation of so many different and vivid kinds.
In translating courses of this sort into the seven-week length and special format of a CSS Junior Tutorial, something is lost; but bringing them to CSS juniors has compensating advantages. What is lost starts with the films and the visual reality that they bring to our conception of that part of the world. Films could be shown alongside a tutorial as enrichment – perhaps I'll do this next time around – but because of the scheduling and purposes of the course, they can't be built into the intellectual enterprise as I do in History seminars. For related reasons, the literary representation of the age is absent from the tutorial readings: there's simply not enough in-class time to analyze imaginative literature properly alongside the social studies materials. As CSS alumni will recall, a deemphasis on classtime is part of the CSS design. That has its costs as well as its advantages.
And the gains? Since I'm dealing with CSS students known to have some sophistication in political theory and a basic understanding of economic systems, I can add readings that would be chancy with the students of a typically miscellaneous History class. CSS juniors can handle some fairly dense economic perspectives (from the Hungarian economic historian Berend) and they thrive on larger doses of the contemporary documents. They can put different kinds of materials together and find a shape in them. They can, and will, talk about what they find in the readings, and do it with a sense of balance and perspective. It's really fun – certainly for me, I hope for them.
There's another significant difference in the course's coverage. In the CSS, unlike in the History department, I teach Eastern Europe with Soviet Russia as an integral part of the story. This is partly because the Russian side of things connects with what CSS students learn in sophomore year – the Russian Revolution and the start of the Cold War. More importantly, it's because the tutorial's first students asked for Russia's inclusion when we planned the course together. This sort of collaborative planning doesn't – really can't – take place in History Department courses. Another student request was that the course should start with intensive coverage of World War II, even before the story of the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe really begins. I wouldn't necessarily have done this without prompting, but it works well.
And there are differences in the assignments. Members of the tutorial are asked to write a lot. Though the course lasts only half a semester, it carries a full credit – and besides, this is the CSS, right? Part of the design of Junior Tutorials is to start the transition from six-page papers to the really long writing projects of senior year. So members of my tutorial warm up with some eight- to ten-page papers, and end with a proper research paper of at least fifteen pages. Frankly, they do more than I would ask of a less well-trained group. And – to judge by my experience so far – they do it well, in a way that makes me (and I hope them!) feel good about what they achieved in the travails of sophomore year.*
*The syllabus for this Junior Tutorial in its spring 2000 version can be found on the web at
If you like, you can compare it with the related film- and literature-heavy course I teach outside the CSS, at
My very latest teaching enthusiasm, a course on the Balkans over the past two centuries, is at
These courses have enriched my life over the past decade, and I trust the lives of some students as well!
The Real Exchange Rate
by Peter Kilby
In this brief essay I would like to try something different. Rather than describe the broad tutorial outline, I shall attempt to provide the reader with a taste of the meat, a sampling of what is taught.
By way of preface, over the past thirty seven years I have often offered international economics within the CSS . Since the resurrection of the Junior tutorials in 1990, it is within the seven-week segment of that setting that my tutees have explored comparative advantage, the balance of payments, exchange rate determination and macroeconomic adjustment. Even allowing for certain foundations laid in the Sophomore tutorial (by Hume, Ricardo and Keynes) it is –as many of you will painfully recall-- an awful lot of fairly prolix material to cover in seven weeks!
Happily, old dogs can learn new tricks. In the past two years luck and deft student advice have resulted in a new format, and it has proved wondrously successful. More excitement among the students than my fine tutorials have ever before produced! The alterations that brought this about were four. First, simplification of the overarching theoretical model by limiting consideration to those countries whose exports and imports do not constitute a significant fraction of world production - about 95 percent of all cases. Second, the employment of a single, disarmingly simple concept, "the real exchange rate", as the analytic pivot for five of the seven weeks. Third, to insure that this concept is fully internalized right at the start, substitution of a major "problem set" for the normal essay in Week 3. (This most unCSS-like innovation was a student suggestion made during the initial year; these students also identified readings that could be excised without major damage.) The final feature of the new format was that of empirical testing -- to wit, to evaluate the theory against annual data for two countries over the past forty years. Constructing tables and graphs covering twenty-odd variables for the laggard Nigeria (Weeks 4 & 5) and the exemplary Taiwan (Weeks 6 & 7) was carried out on a communal basis. This massive empirical plunge allowed the students to do the testing and glimpse the complexities of the "real world". Cooperation in the wee hours of more than a few nights also generated a very high level of group esprit and the discovery that, yes, a CSSer could work with numbers, and draw powerful inferences therefrom.
With these ‘starters’ attended to, we proceed to the main course. What precisely is this magical "real exchange rate"? It is the ratio of two price aggregates - the average price of a nation’s "tradable goods" to that of its "nontradable goods". Tradable goods include all those items that are exported or imported or could potentially be exported or imported. Most agricultural and manufactured goods fall into this category. All other commodities, for which transport costs or institutional specificity render international exchange impossible, are nontradable -- construction, electricity, transport, the services of the military, educators, lawyers and so on. Very roughly, we may think of tradables as being ‘hard goods’, and nontradables as being ‘services.’1
The significance of this partition is, on the one hand, that price movements in the denominator and numerator are determined by very different forces. On the other hand, changes in the ratio strongly impact the structure of the economy and the international balance of payments.
Let’s look at the forces which operate on nontradables. The latter respond to changes in local conditions of supply and demand -- if the number of barbers shrinks, the price of haircuts will rise; if more lawyers hang out their shingle, the billing rate falls.2 The price of nontradables also responds to macroeconomic conditions. When the economy booms, and real disposable income rise, all demand curves shift out and, in the absence of significant unemployment of skilled workers, prices will tend to rise. They will also rise if there is monetary expansion. On the other hand, a contracting economy will produce the reverse, a tendency for nontradable price to fall. From this it follows that price movements for nontrables are determined in significant measure by monetary and fiscal policy.
Price movements for tradable goods are influenced by a very different set of forces. Whether exported or in potential competition with imports, tradable goods will be valued at the dollar-equivalent price ruling in the world market. If the world price of a hundred-weight bag of flour is $40, and the naira exchanges for two dollars, the Nigerian price of flour is 20 naira. If the supply of locally produced flour contracts sharply, the price of flour remains 20 naira. If local demand booms and production is unchanged, the price of flour is still 20 naira. (In both cases imports expand.) The story is the same for Nigeria’s oil exports: whether they surge or shrivel, the naira price of a barrel of oil remains unchanged.. In short, the price of tradable goods is unaffected by local conditions of supply and demand or by what goes on in the national economy. What does determine the price of tradables are world prices, the level of protective tariffs/quotas, and –above all– the exchange rate. Thus when the value of the naira went from $1.30 in 1985 to twelve cents in 1990, this devaluation resulted in a shattering 400% rise in consumer prices of virtually all basic food stuffs and manufactured goods in Nigeria.3
Now let us see how this single measure of the real exchange rate (RER) organizes a wide variety of complex economic phenomena into easily comprehended patterns. When the RER rises -- the price of tradables in the numerator goes up relative to the denominator– consumers are deterred and producers are encouraged by the now-wider profit margin for these hard commodities. So imports fall, exports increase and the structure of the economy is altered as resources are attracted from the service sector to agriculture and manufacturing. The reverse transpires when the local currency appreciates – causing the relative prices of tradables to fall. Imports and import-substitutes become cheaper , consumption expands and productive resources flee toward the more favorable profit margins in the nontradable sector where prices have not fallen. As to the balance of payments, a consumption-driven trade deficit results; in the first case, a trade surplus.
The pattern of the second case just described applies to Nigeria in the 1970s and early 1980s. The seven-fold increase in the world oil price in 1973 triggered an avalanche of foreign exchange, appreciating the naira, and thereby lowering the price of imports and all other tradable goods. National income rose, but, as predicted, non-oil exports plummeted and the sectoral shares of farming and manufacturing shrank as commerce, construction and government services expanded. Unlike Kuwait, the UAE and Indonesia who dampened the effect of the oil windfall by diverting much of it into the acquisition of foreign financial assets, Nigeria took no action to slow down the rapid fall in the RER Indeed, Nigeria magnified her error, not only spending the entire windfall but accepting the offer of loans from eager American bankers. Public spending, bloated far beyond the economy’s absorptive capacity, fed nontradable price inflation, further lowering the RER.
Our price ratio provides an equally powerful lens to illuminate what happened during the down side of the cycle. Falling oil prices and export volumes in 1982 caused the supply of foreign exchange to shift inwards. Absent government intervention, the price of foreign exchange would have risen, lifting the price of food and manufacturers. This rise in the RER would have stimulated exports and curtailed imports, thus curing the balance-of- payments deficit caused by the fall-off in oil revenue. However the government, unwilling to accept reduced consumption, continued to spend and thwarted the corrective devaluation by introducing a licensing regime that continued to peg the naira at $1.30. With continued inflation, nontradable prices rose 18 percent in 1983 and 38 percent in 1984 (a rising denominator). Non-oil exports fell to less than 1 percent of GDP and GDP growth went deeply negative. In 1985 the government reversed course with a vengeance, racking up annual devaluations of 50-to-100 percent until 1992. The RER rose sharply from 92 to 381, returning to the ratio that prevailed in 1975. In 1993 another reversal, the peg is returned and the RER begins falling once again. GDP growth slips back to zero.
To move from Nigeria to Taiwan is to go from the basement to the penthouse, from a 40-year annual per capita income growth of under half a percent to one exceeding eight percent! Here again the RER throws a bright light on what happened. In contrast to Nigeria’s wide swings in exchange rate and budgetary policy and an underlying bias toward a falling RER, Taiwan has held to a disciplined course. It’s RER never deviated more than ten percent in either direction, with a slight bias toward a higher rather than a lower ratio. Thus Taiwan’s tradable goods share in national output fell far less -–from 45 percent to 40 percent-- than is common as countries climb up the ladder of development. Nigeria, which experienced no development, saw its tradable sector shrink from 75 to 50 percent owing to its low RER. The large tradable sector drove the gross value of Taiwan’s non-mineral exports as high as 45 percent of GDP, which contrasts with Nigeria’s descent from 16 percent of GDP in the 1960s to 2-to-3 percent today. High levels of consumption were frequently associated with current account deficits in Nigeria. Higher levels of savings were associated with large and uninterrupted current account surpluses in Taiwan.
Our tour of this magical price ratio--how it is constructed and its explanatory power--is now complete. We have tasted some of the meat of the tutorial. Perhaps a bit tough in the chewing, yet one hopes it was worth the exertion.
1 The relative size of the two categories is subject to counteracting forces. On the one hand, technology and growing international standardization means that there is a continuous migration of individual commodities from the nontradable to the tradable category. On the other hand, demand patterns linked to rising per capita income favors the expansion of nontradables. And it is this second force that prevails as the economy progresses from agricultural to industrial to post-industrial.
2 Since most of our readers are lawyers, we might allow as how the nominal billing rate does not fall, but rather that the fraction of hours-worked that is billed does fall. And so the price of legal services is lowered.
3The absence of strict proportionality between the exchange rate movement and retail tradable prices is attributable to the presence of nontradable elements (transport, storage, distribution) in the final consumer price and a black market for a portion of the foreign exchange transactions reflecting a lesser degree of appreciation in 1985.
Curricular Reform: The Student
by Ben Oppenheim
Chair, CSS House
One of the most difficult problems faced by academic institutions is the necessity of evolving with student interests and the tides of scholarly inquiry while maintaining a coherent intellectual focus. Shifting currents in research and discourse, inevitable professorial turnover, and the oft-mutable demands of students all highlight the tensions between preservation and adaptation.
Despite its vexing staffing problems, the CSS has preserved its core attributes with notable success. The sophomore campaign continues to equip each new cohort of students with powerful analytical capacities and a holistic understanding of the rise of modern Europe, while the ceaseless production of un-graded papers, capped by comprehensive exams, preserves the institution’s rigor and spirit of free academic inquiry. The junior and senior years, though greatly reduced from their initial scale by the attritive force of University-wide budgetary shortfalls, still serve to extend upon the sophomore curriculum and to expose CSS’ers to more contemporary and often more esoteric issues. Yet much room for improvement in the last two years--in terms of subject matter, coherence and linkage to the Sophomore curriculum--remains.
Faced with these issues, and with the impending retirement of several elder statesmen, some measure of curricular reform appears to be very much in order. Hence, in response to an invitation in September 2000 from CoChairs Kilby and Miller, the House Committee organized a systematic survey of student opinion which encompassed survey questionnaires, focus groups and all-college body meetings. We herein report the results of that endeavor and invite alumni commentary, so that the Tutors may benefit from the suggestions of current and former CSSers as they begin their formal deliberations.
The general thrust of our proposals is to create a more integrated three-year curriculum, one that insures the continuation of the College's core academic mission, but also provides an infusion of extra-European issues as well as a more expansive and revealing academic context. Beyond enhanced coherence, it provides a clear temporal and thematic progression and augments the pre-thesis research component in the major.
II. The Sophomore Tutorials
We recommend but two changes in the Sophomore tutorial curriculum. Namely the introduction of a co-ordinated week covering imperialism and the colonial race, and the dispersed supplementation of readings and study questions addressing gender, minority and global perspectives.
Built from the template of the sophomore class-wide "Marx week" an Imperialism week would study the economic and political factors that gave rise to the colonial race, as well as the historical impacts of colonial expansion on both mother and subject countries. It would additionally provide a critical foundation for the later study of the relationships between the developed and developing world. The presence of a degree of choice of question in the essay assignment which generally allows CSS’ers to concentrate their efforts in accordance with their interests, offers another inroad. The addition of one or two readings or essay questions per week concerning minority, gender, or non-western issues (for example, a text considering the role of female household labor in the industrial revolution, or an essay prompt exploring the reaction of colonies to the outbreak of World War One) would allow students to pursue topics beyond the ‘standard canon’ while maintaining a firm focus on the core issues of European development.
III. The Junior Tutorials
The junior tutorials, currently in a state of perpetual flux, offer a tremendous opportunity to further develop and rationalize the program of the CSS. As the sophomore year focuses primarily upon the rise of modern Europe and the development of fundamental literacy in the four disciplines of the College, the junior tutorials should serve to expand and extend the window of the analysis, to deepen the specific disciplinary training in each tutorial, and to foster the advanced research skills that are so crucial to the successful completion of senior theses.
As it stands, the junior tutorials are developed and fielded largely at the discretion of available personnel. While this method sometimes produces excellent courses, it also renders the junior campaign a haphazard affair at best, and at worst, self-contained and internally incoherent. The primary proposed change is the replacement of the current course system with a more rigorously defined set of prescribed topic areas. Although the specific terrain of each course would remain the province of the professor teaching it, the tutorials would cover only the span of time from World War Two forward, and would fundamentally focus upon the developing world and its relationship to the European powers. Such a system would preserve the variability necessitated by the College’s inability to hire its own staff, while sufficiently sharpening the focus of the year. Potential topics for each discipline include:
History--post World War Two colonial rule and decolonization, the modern history of India, France’s historical relationship to her colonies
Government--Latin American political economy, democratization in East Asia, post- World War Two international security, international political economy
Economics--the Economics of developing countries, international trade and dependency theory
In addition to observing these basic topical demarcations, each discipline’s tutorial would expand upon skills acquired in the sophomore year: for example, students in the history tutorial might gain experience examining primary sources or grapple with historiographic issues, while the government and economics tutorials might sharpen comparative analysis and empirical investigation, respectively.
As under the status quo, three seven-week tutorials would be offered in the spring of the junior year, with students selecting two for study. The fast pace and emphasis on writing and discussion would be maintained, but the emphasis of the workload would shift towards original research and the production of longer term papers. This has already been attempted in one or two recent tutorials, and has resulted in fine good results, including a greater appreciation of the problems and processes of original research. CSSers are often ill-prepared for the arduous and extended process of thesis research. With the minimal experience of producing two differently-geared research papers on the eve of their senior year, CSSers might reasonably fare far better in subsequent research work.
IV. The Senior Colloquium
Although the senior program comprises the capstone of the CSS, it is far less extensive than the years that precede it. Apart from the guided research of senior theses and projects, the senior year consists solely of a final group colloquium that is generally devoted to the study of the processes and problems of democracy. This course, though oft-articulated in powerful ways by different professors, suffers from the same inconsistency and curricular isolation as the junior tutorials. In order for the closing CSS experience to be truly effective, this must change. As the culmination of the CSS experience, the senior colloquium should focus on the mastery of subjects and skills crucial for success after Wesleyan. Ideally, it should shift the window of analysis to the contemporary, emphasize issues of political economy, and bring students to evaluate the problems of their world with the inter-disciplinary tools and historical framework provided by the two preceding years. CSSers should further develop their understanding of the connections between the rise of modern Europe and shape of the current world system, and should do so through a combination of case study analysis, class debate, and oral presentations.
Such varying pedagogical approaches will preclude interference with senior thesis research, and will additionally expose students to practical tasks that they will surely encounter after graduating. If possible, the colloquium should be co-taught by two professors emphasizing different disciplinary perspectives on the same issues. Alternatively, the course could be taught by a single professor, but make significant use of outside lecturers. Within these general strictures, the colloquium could take many forms. It might, for example, investigate how current patterns of trade influence political decision-making, or varying ways in which the European legacies of democracy and capitalism are being articulated in developing nations.
Although the reforms briefly sketched above are ambitious, we believe that their basic structure holds a great deal of promise for the CSS. By re-ordering and rationalizing the curriculum along thematic and temporal lines, we will ensure the continuing relevance of the program's essential characteristics. In addition to increasing the CSS' competitiveness for top students, these changes may attract to the College some of the growing number of professors who focus upon the developing world, but have as yet seen no convergence between their interests and the program of the CSS. This could potentially alleviate some of the staffing pressures currently placed upon us. Most importantly, though, curricular renewal will ensure that CSS'ers receive the most complete and powerful education possible, one that instills in them a broad and inter-disciplinary fluency in the social sciences, with a curiosity, capacity for self-expression, and deep sense of historical context to match.
Comments or questions concerning curricular renewal may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
During early May Georgia was on our mind. Giorgi Margvelashvili and Mark Mullen (History, '89) arrived from Tbilisi on May 10th. Looking to bring a liberal arts orientation to the institute they head, they had determined that in pedagogy and in curriculum the CSS was the ideal model for their situation. Following lengthy discussions with the tutors, numerous meeting with a small working group of students, and consultations with North and South College, this remarkable pair brought forth a detailed plan that evinced the excitement of all. They still have to line up financial backing and clear away possible bureaucratic roadblocks in Tbilisi. Once that is done, the CSS may become a major player in the global economy. We will keep you posted.
The CSS Endowment Fund was formulated 18 months ago. While it has taken University Relations a while to integrate the new priority into the overall Wesleyan Campaign, there is movement towards the fund’s $2 million goal. There are now commitments from 75 people totaling $370,000. The achievements to date owe a great deal to the time and effort invested by two alums, Donald Zilkha '72 and Mark Berkowitz '92. University Relations has begun a major gifts phase this Fall that will be followed by a broader effort to seek support from all CSS alumni. John Driscoll, a member of the University Relations staff and a 1962 graduate of the CSS, is coordinating University Relations efforts.
Some big changes. The first you have already experienced. We have shifted from printing and mailing some 800 paper copies to a system of postcards and reader down-load from the web. (Hard copies available upon request.) This results in a sizable savings to the Wesleyan budget, as the cost should drop from $750 to about $150. And there are further benefits. If you lose your copy, there is an infinite supply of free replacements on our web page. Not only the current issue, but all back issues are now available on the CSS web site. Carefully researched and smartly written, they are of lasting value! Especially useful for historical reference as to how our program has evolved over its four-decade history. And we owe this cornucopia of benefits to the skills and many hours of labor of Fran Warren.
The second event to report is that of a regime change. Associate Editor Jeremy Sacks has generously agreed to take over my job for the next few years. Jeremy – perhaps I should say "Mr. Sacks"-- entered the CSS in 1988 and was tutored by Messrs. Adelstein, Butler, Finn and Moon in his Sophomore year, Kilby and Galarotti in international economics and politics in the Junior tutorials, and did his thesis under Don Meyer on the genesis of Americans for Democratic Action. Following Georgetown Law and a brief stint working on NAFTA, he joined Fried Frank in Washington where he practiced complex commercial litigation and international trade law. In 1999 he moved back to the West Coast joining Stoel Rives LLP in Portland. He and his wife Dana, a publications editor, have a 4-year old girl (Hannah) and a 2-year old son (Jonah). Jeremy has published a number of articles, including "Lawyers" in the 1997 Newsletter!
Jeremy is going to need a lot of help. Help with ideas for issue topics and specific essays; help in volunteering to author essays, and help in doing research assistants via phone interviews with fellow-alumni. Beyond collecting your suggestions, Jeremy hopes to assemble an inventory of potential volunteers to whom he and his successor can turn to for assistance. With this regime change and your help, maybe in the future the train will run on time!
Before the impulse fades, would you please send him a one-line email signaling your desire to pitch in. Details about how you would like to help can be sent later. His address is: jdSacks@stoel.com