200 Days in the Life of the College

Wednesday, April 20

One way to learn politics: Invent your own country

By Redwan Saleh ’13

Six party leaders from the nation of West Europa debate one another for upcoming elections. The candidates not only rebut opponents’ statements but also answer challenging questions posed by the audience — which includes judges, guests, classmates and their professor.

The students in Introduction to Comparative Politics have been working in groups on a semester-long election campaign. Under the guidance of Associate Professor of Government Sharon Rivera, they apply what they have learned about current world politics to a not-so-real nation. As “candidates,” they have designed party logos, created campaign ads and, reflecting on such current salient issues as European economics, global warming and even personal scandals, are now trying to woo voters with their rhetoric. “Bureaucrats in Blandoon [West Europa’s capital] are still making the decisions … stand with me,” says Rodric Camron Waugh ’13 as he tries to win votes for the West Europan Provincial Party, promising more power to the people by spreading control of the nation to its provinces.

First created as a week-long mock election for the very real German Parliament, Bundestag, Rivera developed a distinctive way to “teach people how to think about politics.” With the help of several Hamilton grants, Rivera developed a longer simulation as a summer project, added it as a requirement to her introductory class and then published an analysis of the extended simulation in the Journal of Political Science Education in 2008. For her, the exercise is designed to help students become more “educated consumers of politics.”

Even though his party doesn’t win, Waugh describes the project as “an eye-opening experience,” and continues, “the simulation has expanded my understanding of the political process.”