More than Lecture

Reading articles and watching video clips is one way to learn about world events.  Associate Professor Mark Tilton incorporates simulations into the classroom to enhance the learning experience.

General Douglas MacArthur

Students in Political Science 348, East Asian Politics, did a simulation of General Douglas MacArthur and six of his advisors responding to questions and criticism from members of the United States Congress in 1951 regarding the reforms implemented by the Allied Occupation of Japan.  Thomas Dwayne, playing the role of General MacArthur, and his advisors answered questions posed by critics on both the left and the right on policies ranging from land reform to zaibatsu deconcentration. General MacArthur did in fact speak to Congress in 1951, and a picture of his address is on the screen above the students.

Why add simulations into the classroom?

Professor Tilton explained, "I like to have students do a simulation of congressional representatives cross-examining General Douglas MacArthur and his advisors because it engages them with the study of politics in a different way from the usual combination of lectures, readings, discussion and analytic writing. As they play their roles students are forced to experience how occupation authorities chose their policies and how they defended them, and how the occupation of Japan looked to American leaders back home. Students are using different senses in the simulation. They are watching, listening and responding to each other.  They imagine themselves in the shoes of American leaders in the 1950s. Really what it is is improv theater; it’s “pretend politics.” Students like arguing with each other, and when you assign roles —“Lizzy, you make the rightist critique; Abigail, you make the leftist critique”—it gives students freedom to really have at it and argue with real focus."

Course Description for POL 348: East Asian Politics

The course will survey the politics of East Asia, with primary attention to China and Japan. Although American attention has focused on the Middle East in recent years, East Asia has five times the population and economic clout of the Middle East and presents a number of key political questions. Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are the only major non-Western countries to catch up economically with the West. They succeeded by intervening extensively in domestic markets, the opposite of what most American economists prescribe. Why did this strategy work? Japan has been plagued by slow economic growth and a low birth rate in recent decades. What political factors stand in the way of solving these problems?

China has the largest population in the world and the second largest economy. After growing at an astounding nine percent per year for 35 years, the economy has recently slowed. Now that China has achieved so much economically, will it turn its attention to environmental problems and the needs of the poor and accept slower growth? How does the Chinese Communist Party hold on to power, even when Communist ideology has lost support and when government policies are no longer communist in any meaningful sense?

Now that China is so much more powerful economically, it is beginning to project its military power, mostly notably by claiming ownership of the South China Sea and fortifying islands there. East Asian leaders express considerable nationalism and hostility to their neighbors in the region. What explains the nationalist grievances and are these likely to lead to military confrontation?

Finally, we will look at the governments of both communist North Korea and democratic South Korea. Why does a totalitarian version of communism survive in North Korea when the People’s Republic of China has become considerably more open and flexible? How did South Korea make the transition from authoritarianism to democracy and how significant is tension with North Korea for South Korean politics?

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