The mission of the Department of Political Science is three-fold. First, we seek to make the study of politics an integral part of the liberal education of Kenyon students. Second, and also of great importance, we seek to give students a coherent and comprehensive introduction to the discipline of political science. Third, we aim to prepare our students for their future lives. We seek therefore to promote, on the one hand, the development of responsible, informed citizens and, on the other, to prepare students for graduate education in both the academic disciplines and the professions. Thus, our mission constantly involves the task of balancing, in roughly this order of importance, the demands of liberal education, disciplinary education, and education preparatory to the responsibilities of citizenship and to success in advanced graduate or professional study or public service.
The first part of our mission requires that we place the fundamental normative questions underlying politics at the center of our teaching. Those questions include: What is a good human being? What is a good political community? What is a desirable way of life? What are the proper ends of power? What is just and unjust? These questions not only form the basis of political science but also link political science to the core of liberal education. Because of our focus on these questions, political philosophy plays a key role in our teaching and curriculum. But we seek to address these questions throughout the curriculum in the broadest and most integrative way in order to encourage students to think more deeply about politics and their own role within the polity.
The second part of our mission mandates that we teach a broad curriculum covering the four major sub-fields of political science-American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. To that end, we require students to take courses in all four areas. In the various subfields, we seek to provide students with the analytical and conceptual tools necessary to understand and explain political and social phenomena. In American politics, we explore the foundations of U.S. government, the various perspectives on American political life most vital for the thoughtful citizen, and the effects of governmental institutions on policy and politics. In comparative politics, we seek to compare rigorously various political systems and to understand the consequences those systems have for principles such as representativeness, accountability, and effective government. In international relations, we examine problems of constructing social order under conditions of anarchy, the causes of war and peace, and the challenges confronting the nation-state in a globalizing world. In political theory, we explore the fundamental questions regarding the nature of man and government by carefully studying the texts of ancient, modern, and post-modern philosophers, as well as great works of literature and the activities of statesmen.
The third part of our mission, pertaining to our students' post-graduate lives as citizens and professionals, mandates that we teach students to think critically and seriously about the important issues of the day, to be open to contending viewpoints, and to be able to explore liberal democracy from a variety of perspectives. At the same time, we aim under this goal to attend particularly to the sequential aspects of learning in our curriculum. We try to assist students, especially in our advanced courses, seminars and honors program, to develop their research skills and to heighten their awareness of various approaches to the study of politics. We are also concerned to give students opportunities for primary research, extended expository writing, critical responses to the scholarship of others, and oral communication.
To achieve these goals, we place great emphasis on excellence in teaching. We pay close attention to improving students' abilities to read carefully and to write well. Within our curriculum, there is a prominent role for class discussion on controversial questions. Students need to have an opportunity to grapple with ideas and arguments in an atmosphere that combines openness to diverse viewpoints and an expectation of analytical clarity. We seek to avoid mere self-expression, polemics, or partisanship in discussions and to develop in students the capacity for thoughtful and considered judgment. In this way, we hope to encourage students to think independently and critically about issues in the world around them.
While the mission of the department places teaching above everything else, it must include the scholarly and professional development of our faculty. We seek to set an example for students by being involved in ongoing dialogue, debate, and learning with one another in our department, with other departments and programs in the college, and with the broader discipline through a variety of scholarship and public appearances. Students' learning is intensified when they see their professors publicly coming to grips with intellectual issues both on campus and in the national and international arenas. Moreover, engagement with others' views and methods allows us to bring new ideas and perspectives to the classroom. We also value continued faculty development and professional and scholarly engagement for its own sake. Individually, we aim to do research and to write about various aspects of politics, and to participate, even to have a hand in shaping, the course of the various subfields within the discipline of political science. It is also our hope that our individual scholarly efforts will keep us in close touch with the larger scholarly world and allow us to maintain high standards and a vibrant intellectual life within the department.