Paper Topics

I have a number of complaints about the professor I'm TAing for this semester, not the least of which is that he gave an intro class (primarily freshman) the option to write their term paper on the topic of their choice. Their only direction is that it has to be a policy recommendation for a contemporary topic. While I appreciate giving students (1) the chance to write about something that they're interested in, (2) some self-responsibility, and (3) enough rope to hang themselves with, I think this is a bad, bad idea that's going to cause me major headaches this semester.

The paper isn't due until March 28th, but I gave my students instructions to bring a paper topic idea to section this week. The topics I got today range from OK (whether the US should have pulled out of the ABM treaty) to horrible/undoable/vague (why the US "should just mind its own business everywhere"). Also, in retrospect, I should have told them that they couldn't write on Israel-Palestine. Strangely, however, out of the 45 students I had today, only one student told me he wanted to write on the US intervention in Iraq. Odd.

Other complaints include (1) asking ridiculous rhetorical questions to which he expects answers and (2) confusing anarchy and chaos, as well as liberalism in American politics and Liberalism, the IR theory.

Edited to add:
Apparently I'm not the only one that's is annoyed (which is reassuring) - I just got this e-mail from another TA, and we're going to meet with a member of the IR faculty on Friday to discuss the issue (thanks, Jon!)
Timo and I were talking this morning about some of the problems we are inevitably going to encounter (or have already encountered) in trying to teach theory in a way that doesn't undermine Lamont and confuse the hell out of our students, but also gives them a solid grounding in IR theory for those who want to take more IR classes in the future.

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