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Using historical simulations to teach political theory

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  • D History (General)
  • Jc Political Theory
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science


As teachers of political theory, our goal is not merely to help students understand the abstract reasoning behind key ideas and texts of our discipline. We also wish to convey the historical contexts that informed these ideas and texts, including the political aims of their authors. But the traditional lecture-and-discussion approach tends to obscure the historical and political dimensions of political theory. Reacting to the Past historical simulations provide a powerful tool for remedying these shortcomings. The simulations foster three kinds of lessons that are difficult to impart with more traditional approaches. First, they help students see the intimate and reciprocal connections between politics, history, and political philosophy. Second, the simulations bring to light the inherently political dimensions of interpreting key political ideas. Finally, drawing upon the ideas of Hannah Arendt, we argue that the simulations educate students about the nature of freedom and political action.

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