For first-year students, the department recommends taking “The Quest for Justice” (PSCI 101Y-102Y). This is a year-long, discussion-based seminar designed specifically for first-year students. It is called “The Quest for Justice” because that is what it is about: the conversation that has been going on for thousands of years among human beings about the right way to live together.
This question is at the heart of any serious discussion of politics since it is about the ultimate ends for which everything else—forms of government, social customs, morals—is a means. It is also the question at the heart of all liberal education. Students come to college with many ideas about what we and other people are like, and what is right and wrong. This course, historically one of the most popular at Kenyon, provides a chance to find out whether those ideas make sense by getting one’s bearings in the rich, multimillennial conversation about human nature and right and wrong. We read and fight with philosophers like Plato, Locke, and Nietzsche, authors like Shakespeare and Sophocles, and politicians like Lincoln, Churchill, and, yes, even Stalin.
Although PSCI 101Y-102Y is not required for a major in political science, the faculty strongly recommends it as an introduction to the department’s program. Every year the department offers several sections of this course, with about eighteen students in each section. The course is designed to help students develop their writing, oral communication, and critical thinking skills. To develop these skills, students read and discuss primary texts and engage in intense discussions about authors and ideas that have relevance for their own lives and for issues facing contemporary America and the world. During the year, students also write six or seven five-page papers, in which they take a stand and develop a logical argument.
In the spring semester, first-year students who are taking “The Quest for Justice” may register for one of the department’s 200-level foundation courses that are required for the major. These are courses in American politics, comparative politics, and international relations. PSCI 200 (“Liberal Democracy in America”) explores the foundations, institutions, and operation of the American political system. PSCI 240 (“Modern Democracies”) examines the process of democratization and analyzes the operation of different democratic political systems. PSCI 260 (“International Relations”) analyzes the ways in which states and other political actors interact in the global arena.
Students who are interested in political science and wish to study abroad during their junior year are especially encouraged to take PSCI 240 (“Modern Democracies”) or PSCI 260 (“International Relations”) before going abroad.
Students who do not take political science courses in their first year may take any of the 200-level foundation courses in their sophomore year and still complete the major.