Politics Department

Overview & Features

Program Guidelines

The basic unit of instruction in politics is the semester-long class, and our methods for assessing student progress along every parameter are identical to our evaluation of student performance in these classes. The program is so structured that the senior seminar in politics effectively serves as the culminating class for students in the major. It sets the standard for the major; students know that in order to pass this class, they must develop skills and habits of serious scholarship.

The subject matter and texts for the senior seminar are selected to challenge students who come to the class with substantial knowledge and tested capacities from previous required classes. In the 300-level required classes, we have tried to insure that students understand the basic elements of the regime anticipated in the Declaration of Independence and given form in the Constitution of the United States. In the senior seminar, we continue our effort to help students appreciate the intellectual depth and complexity of the Framers' constitution and the contribution of classical and modern political philosophy to the American constitutional regime.

The chief features of the Hillsdale major in politics are as follows. The program rests on the foundation of an introductory class offered regularly by all three full-time faculty in the department. While emphasis varies, in every class a few classics in politics (usually Tocqueville, Aristotle, and Machiavelli, often Kant, and The Federalist) are studied in some depth in order to lead each student into the great debate over the virtues required for responsible citizenship. We all give the drama of serious citizenship a prominent place, usually by studying a Shakespearean play, because we think that political science is inseparable from the task of measuring the claims to greatness, nobility, and justice advanced by citizens on behalf of the regime they support.

The trunk of the program consists of 300 and 400 level classes in political theory (classical and modern), American politics, constitutional law, international and comparative politics, and literature and politics.

All classes in politics require extensive writing assignments; the most important basis for evaluating the student's work in politics is performance in written essays. Normally, a student who completes the program will have written 25 to 30 essays in politics classes. The essay assignments in the senior seminar are designed to consolidate and challenge the student's understanding of the responsibilities of the serious citizen as well as the capacities for scholarship and writing developed in previously required classes.