I’m going to be a super nerd for this post and talk about how much I enjoyed my last assignment for my favorite class.
The class is called Presidential Foreign Policy Decision Making, and the professor Douglas Foyle happens to be my thesis professor (correlation, not causation).
The structure of the class is pretty fascinating. At the beginning of the year (and by beginning, I mean they were due last night at midnight), we were each assigned a case study to elucidate on in 20 pages. Each class, we’ll all read one of those case studies and analyze them in class. Besides learning what a counter-factual is, I’ve also learned how different writing can feel when you know your peers are going to read and critique it. My work = textbook.
People wrote on 9/11, Truman’s decision to recognize Israel as an official state, and decisions made during the Suez Crisis. Of course, with my fear of repetition and my eternal fear that I’ll create something boring, I decided to choose the Syria 2013 chemical weapons crisis.
Naturally, I ran into a few logistical problems. Around September 15, I declared my preliminary research done. I wrote an outline, I had some bibliography notes, and I had some implications determined.
Then things kept happening. Actual, global-reaching and life-changing things kept happening in Syria, and I kept having to change my implications section and add paragraphs. Another problem was the lack of helpful, library-acclaimed books. My last count of my sources was 38 New York Times Articles, and a few congressional research documents that were hastily formed with time limits. I threw in a few Wall Street Journal editorials for diversity.
It was a pretty solemn moment for me yesterday when I decided that my Syria chronicle was over, and that I was no longer responsible for complete shifts in international relations. The responsibility was lifted, mostly because I had to start editing.
This was the most current assignment I’ve ever had, and it felt pretty awesome. I felt relevant and powerful – I was one of the first people to write on this. I searched for other secondary sources, and came up short. I guess the great thing is that my professor will have difficulty finding any mistakes or inconsistencies (fingers crossed). Problem is I’m terrified more important things are going to happen in between now and when I present my paper.
I’m the very last presentation this semester, and obviously Syria is going to change. I don’t want people reading an out of date paper, but the online system means that I can’t edit my paper now. It’s done, and it’s in. And yet I hate being wrong. Maybe it’s the Wesleyan-ambitious-contrarian person in me, but I can’t stand the thought of something huge happening, and me being just a few days too early. Secretly, I’ll probably edit my paper from now until my presentation, and slip an anonymous copy under the door of Professor Foyle. Gee, wonder who it’s from?
Regardless of my personal academic problems, it’s going to be a fantastic semester. Putting ourselves on the spot defending and talking about huge historical events is inspiring. Doesn’t hurt that Professor Foyle knows each of these cases more comprehensively than we ever could. It’s sink or swim time.