Idea being illustrated: IR is not abstract or distant; it involves real people, real choices, and present-time developments.
Ask for two volunteers with wrist watches. Give each a piece of chalk and have them stand at opposite ends of the blackboard. Tell one to make a hatch-mark on the board (every fifth mark being a cross-hatch) every three seconds. Tell the second one to write "$1,000,000" every forty seconds. Explain that the hatch marks show the rate at which children around the world are dying from malnutrition-related causes. The dollar amounts represent the rate of world military spending. You can then lecture or lead a discussion about either or both of these phenomena while the numbers pile upe.g. how much money is -needed to prevent each of those deaths (a fraction of what's spent on the military in the same period). Then have students write a paragraph about what they got from the exercise; they will be variously shocked, defensive, outraged, etc. but it helps them engage with the subject.
Idea being illustrated: Balance of power. Aggressive moves to increase power tend to generate a counterbalancing force through construction of a containing coalition.
Have students form into teams of about five people and sit with their teams. (This can be done at the start of the semester and helps students feel less lost in a large class). Make cards, one per person, that say "PowerOne Unit." Give them out to all the students in the class. Larger teams, or those with better attendance that day, will have more cards than others. Explain that teams will be scored/graded on how many cards they have at the end of the exercise. Give a few minutes to formulate strategy (after explaining the rules below), then open the floor for challenges. Call on the first team to raise a hand and "challenge" another team. Then allow 5-10 minutes for the challenger to find other teams to join the challenge by giving their power cards to the challenger, and for the challenged team to find others to help it defend against the challenge by giving them cards. When time is up, the side with the most cards wins all the cards from the other side (and can redistribute them to the coalition partners). Sometimes the challenger and allies prevail, sometimes the defenders and allies turn back the challenge. What is interesting is that usually the power of the two coalitions ends up fairly equal; sometimes it is geographically based in the seating arrangement in the classroom (coalitions form among neighbors).
Idea being illustrated: Women and men may think differently about IR. Or, maybe not.
Split the class, and have women sit with other women, men with other men. You can lecture or lead a discussion on the differences between liberal and essentialist versions of feminism. This is an easy topic to tie to current events as well. Have the women and men caucus separately and "vote" on which feminism provides the best explanation (of the current event being discussed). See whether the women's discussion and vote diverges from that of the men. Have students write a paragraph about their own conclusions.
Idea being illustrated: Groupthink. People tend to go along unquestioningly with a bad idea if the other members of the group seem to agree with it.
Just before class, when most but not all students have arrived, announce that you are doing a psychological experiment in which those present will be collaborators and the students arriving later will be subjects. Make up a ridiculous story and tell students you will insert it in the lecture that day, and they are to pretend it makes sense. Prep them with some questions or answers that will make the story seem part of a normal lecture/discussion. [For example, I say that Energy Secretary Federico Pena has been put in charge of U.S. foreign policy directly under President Clinton. When I ask the class why this change was made, they are to raise their hands and respond that oil was deemed central to U.S. security after the Gulf War, that the Energy Department controls nuclear weapons, and that the Clinton Administration wants to win Hispanic votes in 1998. At the appropriate time towards the end of the lecture, I start diagramming on the board how U.S. foreign policy works, with Pena just below Clinton. I ask the questions and students give the answers.] After presenting your ridiculous information as part of the lecture, ask the students who did not hear the announcement before class to raise their hands. Explain to them that they are subjects of a psych experiment, explain the hoax, and ask them what they were thinking. They will say things like, "I thought it was strange that I hadn't heard about this, but everyone seemed to agree it was true so I wrote it in my notes." For added effect, you can lecture about groupthink, about the Milgram experiment and other psych experiments, just before, or after, doing your own experiment.
Idea being illustrated: Ethnic identity can be hard to define and brings up conflicting emotions, especially for Americans.
Give out a half-page "identity card" with blanks to fill in Name, Nationality, and Religion. Tell the students this will be their identity card in the class and they should keep it with them (this can be retracted later). Have them fill in the blanks. Explain that these forms appeared in the former Yugoslavia as nationalism was rising, before war broke out in 1991. Some people readily filled in religious/national groups (Croat/Catholic, Bosniak/Muslim, Serb/Orthodox), while others put simply "Yugoslav" and still others rebelled and put silly answers or left spaces blank. Ask students to talk about what they felt and thought filling out such a form, especially regarding ambiguities such as whether "Nationality" meant their current citizenship (e.g. U.S.) or their ethnic background (e.g. "German"). This is a good way to start a discussion/lecture about nationalism, about the differences between a multiethnic state like the USA versus the classical nation-state, and even about whether Yugoslav-type ultranationalism could happen in a society like the United States. In a smaller class you can even have students caucus by religious groups and have each group decide whether it shares something in terms of how it sees IR. Warningthis exercise does make some students uncomfortable; sensitivity is required!
Idea being illustrated: Nuclear proliferation may put nuclear weapons in more and more hands.
Have the class, or teams within the class, design a nuclear weapon. Have them think about where they could get the fissionable material and the engineering expertise to make a bomb, given unlimited amounts of money. Point out that plutonium would be easier to obtain (steal or buy on the black market) than U-235, but that a plutonium bomb is harder to design than a uranium one. Draw sketches of a tube with subcritical masses of uranium at both ends and show how easy it is to shoot one of them into the other and start a small nuclear explosion. Point out that a low-yield "fizzle" bomb of the type that might result would still be as powerful as the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Exercise helps demystify nuclear weapons.
Idea being illustrated: Power of the great powers in the U.N.; frailty of human rights norms.
Have individuals or teams in the class represent the 15 current members of the UN Security Council. Pick a current issue somewhere in the world having to do with human rights or self- determination (for example, Kurdish nationalism). Have each "country" think about and present what interests it would bring to bear if the matter came to the Security Council. It should quickly become clear that almost all the Council members would face their own problems at home if they allowed human rights and self-determination to go too far. Usually you can go down the list and find almost nobody that would go to bat for a group like the Kurds that is not already a state. One or more of the five permanent members would probably oppose any attempt to push self-determination at the expense of sovereignty.
Idea being illustrated: Cooperation can be achieved despite conflicts of interest; prisoner's dilemmas can be overcome with a long-term view of rationality.
Have individual students, or teams in a large class, pair off and play a Prisoner's Dilemma game within each pair. Each student/team writes down on a piece of paper without showing the other student/team, either "cooperate" or "defect" (you can gear this to a specific conflict such as decisions whether to open markets or keep nontariff barriers in place, for example). Announce ahead of time that they will be graded as follows: Both cooperate, both get a B; both defect, both get a C; one cooperates and the other defects, they get an A and a D respectively. Typically at least half such pairs end up mutually cooperating even though a strictly myopic rationality would suggest both would defect. Point out the difference of practice from theory. This is a good way to get into a discussion/lecture on liberal views of rationality as applied to I.P.E.
Idea being illustrated: Events sometimes spin out of control, beyond what would be considered "rational."
Remind students how important stability is for the efficient functioning of trade and business. When things spin out of control a high price is exacted and the process can be hard to stop. Examples include successive devaluations of a currency; pouring money into a bad investment; or (from international security affairs) failing to end a war even after both sides have lost more than they could gain even by winning. Now auction off a dollar bill (which you can hold up in front of the students to mesmerize them). The rules are, the top bidder pays the bid and gets the dollar; the second-highest bidder pays their bid and doesn't get the dollar. Start low and ask for successive bids by five or ten cent increments. After a while two bidders will get locked in, each thinking "if I bid a bit higher at least I can get the dollar" which sticks the other with having to do the same. Beyond fifty cents, of course, the prof is making money, but more interestingly, the logic of bidding continues even after both are above a dollar (if I bid $1.30 and get the dollar, I'll only lose 30 cents; if I don't bid I'll lose my last bid of $1.10, etc.). You can put them out of their misery somewhere around $3.00 when you've made the point. An age-old classroom gimmick; still works beautifully to show how myopic rationality leads to irrational and out-of-control results.
Idea being illustrated: New information technologies are changing the world.
Have individual students or teams develop and write up a concept for a "video that will change the world." Have them think about where to get particularly compelling footage on some international relations topic; how to get a message across through the video; and how to distribute it for maximum effect. Gets them thinking about the effects of information on IR.
Idea being illustrated: Collective goods problems are hard to solve, especially with large numbers of actors.
Split a large class into teams, but keep a relatively large number of individuals or teams as participants (a dozen or more). Tell students or teams that each must pick a number and write it down. Their grade will depend on the number: 11=A, 10=B, 9=C. To make things more interesting, offer a bonus prize like a dollar bill (which you can wave around) to the team/person with the highest number. Now count the number of teams or individuals and multiply by ten and add two. Announce that the total must be at or below this number in order to receive the grades listed and the bonus prize. If the total of all the numbers is above (n times 10 plus 2), then everyone gets a D and nobody gets the bonus prize. Here, the collective good is staying below the ceiling on the total (by all writing down 10 and getting a B), while the individual good is to write 11 and get an A. If one or two teams free ride the collective good will still be provided, but if more teams try to free ride all will lose.
Idea being illustrated: The gap.
Tell the class that the seats in the classroom (or the floor- space) represent all the goods and services in the world. Put up a rope two-thirds of the way to the back of the classroom, and announce that the amount of space/seats behind the rope is the share of the world economy in the global South (or, if you do not adjust for purchasing-power parity, the rope goes five-sixths of the way toward the back!). Now tell students to get up from their seats. Tell the people with last names that begin with A- F, or wherever the cutoff is for the first one-quarter of the people in the class, to sit up in front of the rope. The other three-quarters of the people must stay behind the rope (generally, much too crowded to sit down). Announce that this is the population split of North and South. Encourage those in front of the rope to spread out and make themselves comfortable. Now lecture for a while on North-South issues, for about ten minutes; at some point try to get the people in the "North" to look back at those in the "South." Then invite everyone to go back to their seats, and have them write a paragraph about the experience. A lot of students will write that they knew about the North-South gap in the abstract but didn't realize how extreme it was. Some will write things like "I was hot and uncomfortable in the South, and I just wanted to get out and go back to my seat. Then I realized that if I really lived in the global South I wouldn't have any way to get out!"
Idea being illustrated: Development strategies.
Make up a hypothetical country, like a large island with one basic natural resource, lots of poor people, and little capital. Have students individually or in teams map out a development strategy for the country. Make sure they deal with political factors such as how to keep the population under control if they impose austerity measures. Get them to write up a page on their plan.
Idea being illustrated: The future is up for grabs.
Ask students to answer the questions on p.612. For each question, they can compare the answer they desire with the answer they expect. See if there is consensus in the class about the "sticking point" questions where expectations most strongly diverge from desires. Could anything be done now to change the future outcomes on these issues?