Opinion | Diversify the PoliSci / IR curriculum

“Know the enemy and know your self, and you may combat 100 battles with no hazard of defeat.” — Solar Tzu, historic Chinese language basic and navy strategist

No matter whether or not you might be an Economics or TAPS main, reside in a co-op or EVGR, have by no means set foot out of the U.S. or come from throughout the ocean, the present Russian invasion of Ukraine has undoubtedly been one of many gravest issues occupying your thoughts and the inevitable vacation spot of sophistication discussions. The conflict reminds us that we should always cherish the privilege of participating in mental pursuits at Stanford and use our alternative to arm ourselves with instruments to higher the world. This battle has inspired me and my friends to seek for programs that supply an in-depth view into the conflict’s advanced, multidimensional historical past and usually instilled in us a want to achieve various views on world politics. Nevertheless, scrolling by way of the course catalog, I discovered that the lessons provided inside the Worldwide Relations division — my desired main — that promise worldwide views are few, boiling all the way down to the “Chinese language Politics” and “Understanding Russia” electives. 

From my previous experiences, programs with titles promising a give attention to politics from worldwide views are insufficient in actually providing us an understanding of present politics from the factors of view of worldwide international locations. The theories we delve into are virtually completely Americentric: we research the eroding civilian management of the navy by specializing in the way it manifests within the Pentagon; we find out about nuclear weapons’ impact on worldwide safety to attract conclusions relating to whether or not Washington ought to provoke additional arms discount. Little of my course materials educates me on how different international locations, particularly non-Western ones, strategy the identical points; usually, these programs fail to contemplate cultural variations. That is particularly ironic for me, a Chinese language native who finds herself writing coverage memos to coach herself to suppose like American decision-makers.

With the mission to “promote the general public welfare by exercising an affect on behalf of humanity and civilization,” Stanford ought to diversify its Political Science and Worldwide Relations curriculum to permit college students to achieve a extra complete worldview. Whereas there was a acutely aware effort throughout the nation to include the narratives of individuals of colour into the literature curricula, exemplified by the Diversify Our Narrative program based by Stanford college students, multiperspectivism has largely been ignored in politics lessons. 

Bhu Kongtaveelert ’25, a local of Thailand, has been annoyed in his makes an attempt at discovering programs on Southeast Asia. “There is no such thing as a political science class on Southeast Asia moreover a course on human rights that examines the area with a savior advanced,” Kongtaveelert mentioned, including that that is significantly irritating on condition that “the high-tech market there was burgeoning in recent times — I wish to study extra in regards to the international financial potential of my house.” He additional criticized how the area is normally handled as a monolith of injustices and backwardness within the present programs, which may solely strengthen the scholars’ perception in stereotypes about Southeast Asia.

Nowhere is the necessity for various narratives extra acute than within the Political Science and IR packages, which focuses on “permitting college students to discover how international, regional and home components affect relations between actors on the world stage.” Whether or not we are going to turn into international leaders or just educated residents sooner or later, the perennial knowledge in Solar Tzu’s phrases reminds us that we are able to solely make knowledgeable choices once we are accustomed to the views of each our adversaries and our allies. This understanding includes not solely the info but in addition the methods of considering, that are the underlying assumptions and worldview beneath every particular person’s actions. The present disaster in Ukraine displays exactly that — to understand and preempt Putin’s choices, Washington must first have in-depth consciousness of his determination patterns and the historic traditions that inform his views. To raised assist Ukrainians meet their wants for safety and survival, we have to familiarize ourselves with the nuances of their priorities.

This understanding can’t be gained by way of the one Methods – Participating Variety requirement that college students should fulfill, or by way of the Chinese language Politics and Understanding Russia politics electives that may simply be bypassed utilizing different substitutes. The Stanford Political Science and Worldwide Relations packages ought to combine the views of different cultures into all of their programs, no matter content material or focus, with a view to prepare college students to turn into knowledgeable international residents able to empathy and educated decision-making. For college kids, this might enhance illustration of various narratives and permit them to higher join with these round them with totally different experiences. As an extra profit, it will additionally give school members from extra various backgrounds an opportunity to share their tales. When we’ve higher entry to details about these in contrast to ourselves, we are able to suppose exterior the field and make sudden connections and discoveries.

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