"Reacting to the Past" Seminar Experience
I am in the midst of completing my First-Year Seminar requirement. I'm taking “Reacting to the Past” and decided to share a little bit about this fantastic class in hopes that many of you take it. Please. Seriously. Take it.
Reacting to the Past is the perfect class for those that love role play, debate, history, and/or simply enjoy entertaining and interactive classroom settings. Professor Mark Carnes (aka the original creator of this curriculum and so far) teaches this class, and it has been nothing short of amazing. We just completed the first game, The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 B.C., where students are divided into different factions and assigned the roles of historic Athenian officials. From this, students engage in six Assembly sessions to debate various methods of governance and public policy.
For example, during our Athens game we came to class prepared to debate a new topic for every session by using various materials such as our role sheets, Plato's Republic, individual research, and our Athens Game Book which included game instructions/helpful background information. Classroom interaction was lively and intense, as each game started off with an invigorating speech given by an assembly member followed by a tough Q&A session by detractors and supporters of various factions. Here and there, the Game Master (Professor Carnes) will interject and provide clarifications and/or stir up the session's events with "newly" released information/plot twists/historical situations that alter our session's agenda. Of course, we always manage to adjust and respond properly and end the session with a vote on each law that has been introduced. Each law that is passed/maintained/removed affects the game points of every faction differently, therefore we all have different motives in attempts to ultimately win the game.
The greatest aspect of this seminar is the freedom we are given – essentially, we are not restricted to our respective roles because the game is never intended to follow the historical timeline of events. The game is won through collective persuasion and skillful arguments. Students take complete control of the classroom and navigate each game on their own (except when Professor Carnes decides to surprise us with mysteries and mishaps along the way), which is why this course instills such valuable leadership and academically enriching skills.
For those that fear and/or wish to improve their public speaking skills, I highly encourage you to take this course because it is the perfect opportunity to develop those skills. Our class is paired with Speaking Fellow workshops so that students are provided with the necessary resources to excel in this class. For those that fear debate and/or confrontational settings, I also highly encourage you to take this course because it teaches you how to construct well-crafted, intellectual, and logical arguments – a skill you will apply in potentially every class you take from here on out.
Overall, I can definitely say this has been one of my favorite classes this semester and I look forward to the final two games. Every game session is a new experience, leaving you to walk away with a new perspective after each and every class.