Monday, March 31, 2008

Great Questions in Poli Sci

Real stories from the front (and not from Duke, by the way):

American politics class. Students studying for exam. Two nights before the exam, prof receives following email:

"We were studying for the test, and came up with this question for you. Do we have to know the order in which the Federalist papers were written? And, if so, how can we find that out?"

My advice: If you get an email like this, go for a walk. Don't answer it right away.

7 comments:

Shawn said...

feature request: these, as often as possible.

Man...I'm glad blogs weren't big when I was in college, lest stupid questions of mine be all over the place.

br said...

It's really fairly complicated to get the chronological order. You take the Log of (13 colonies x VIII Henry - 8 letters in Alexander - 7 letters in Madison - 3 letters in Jay - 1 Nation) raised to the paper number, with a base of 85 total papers.

So,
chrono paper order = Log85[(13*8-7-3-1)^n]
where n is the Federalist Paper No.

br said...

Sorry, that's
Log85[(13*8-8-7-3-1)^n]
See how complicated?!

Anonymous said...

Tommy the Englishman got the following question when he was at Duke:

"When did Congress pass Duverger's Law"...

I've taught at a number of universities now, and it remains the dumbest question I've ever gotten.

Anonymous said...

That's dumb for sure, because everybody knows that Duverger's Law was passed in France, right?

Steven Taylor said...

The Duverger's Law question is a true classic.

Chris Lawrence said...

I could have sworn I posted a comment to the effect that I thought the correct response was to immediately forward the email and proposed response to RateYourStudents.

That said the question is potentially interesting in that it's possible later-numbered Federalists were written before lower-numbered Federalists (particularly when multiple Publii were writing simultaneously); all we know for certain is the publication order.

Or maybe George Lucas wrote the FPs, planning a 200-paper series, publishing the middle 80-odd out of order starting with #40 then going back and starting again once the right types of ink were available for the really florid parts in Federalist 10, and then decided he'd screwed over the Federalist franchise enough. But not before including an annoying jive-talking alien, reediting #51 to make it look like the states shot first, and adding a bunch of forest-dwelling critters to appeal to furries.