As of Summer 2017, I've screened five films, most as part of a series to honor actors and musicians who died in 2016, called "Musicals of the Recently Deceased." Also tried to help students understand how Robert Putnam compares the 1950s to contemporary America in his 2015 book "Our Kids" by screening "Back to the Future." Attendance has been pretty spotty, though, so I don't know if there'll be another series in the fall or not unless it's more appealing to the target audence of 18-20 year-old Chinese college students.

RUNIN COURSES & "RECOMMENDED" VIDEOS, MOSTLY FROM YOUTUBE (NOT ALL WERE PLAYED IN COURSE SESSIONS, AND SOME PROBABLY SHOULDN'T BE, DUE TO NAUGHTY LANGUAGE AND NON-ACADEMIC THEMES) Note that most of the videos either had subtitles on them originally to help with listening comprehension, or you can turn on Youtube's closed captioning with the "CC" button on the video player.

Jump to: 2. Budgeting 3. Democratic Foundations 1. Critical Thinking 2. English Speaking

Fall 2015: Writing 098

Fall 2016: Public Service Organizations Syllabus (available eventually!)

Spring 2017: 1. Leadership for the Service Professions

Syllabus Julian's Outline File from Facilitated Sessions

Being a good leader often means following your personal convictions and quotes like, "What's popular is not always right, and what's right is not always popular." It entails a certain amount of risk tolerance. It requires mastery of various skills. It means encouraging and managing diversity. Although the archetypal leader in the USA will, for some, always be a tall, handsome, strong, white man, that conception is justifiably subject to ridicule for excessive hubris.

We saw examples of good and bad mentorship, including asking a lot of people (sometimes too much) to get the best results. Instructions on how to introduce yourself to show "executive presence" and how "visionary" leaders communicate. A strategic plan would help too! Leaders must lead, encourage, and navigate innovation, not get left behind by it, even if one's organizational cutlure is inclined to resist it.. Leaders must attract & retain "top international talent."

What is good collaboration? Does a corporate board of directors work the same way as a non-profit organization's? Nah, corporations are different! Not least in being givers and recipients of philanthropy.

Do generations differ in their leadership styles and expectations about careers? Kinda. But we know that as they retire, younger generations must replace them!

We considered the popular phrase, "follow your passion." That can mean working 20-hour days? What would you do willingly for that long?

As the textbook uses several academic articles, we tried to give reading strategies for scholarly literature and to establish that the scientific method is the best way we have to find the truth about complicated topics in society. That's the only way we'll know for sure if private and public sector leadership is merging or diverging. Why do Americans trust military leaders more than those in other institutions?

2. Government Budgeting & Financial Management

Syllabus Julian's Outline File from Facilitated Sessions

We reviewed levels of government, from federal to state to local, as well as the differences between a federal and a unitary state. We watched all the NASBO videos and can't wait for sequels! We learned about the non-partisan CBO!

Under a recession, Keynes is credited with the idea of governments using deficit spending to stimulate the economy out, though this fiscal policy adds a lot to the national debt. Much to the chagrin of some individual citizens, government budgeting is quite different from personal finance, though most states especially are still required to balance the budget. Government bonds are used widely in the U.S., but especially at the federal level. Jack Lew of Clinton & Obama's OMBs threw some subtle shade at the second Bush Administration. Of course, we also heard from members of the Bush Administration like John Taylor on the matter, as we in academia value an objective, neutral classroom setting!

Surely China couldn't possibly have a debt problem anywhere near as severe as the USA, right?

No consideration of budgets would be complete without videos on Detroit's municipal bankruptcy! But it's far from the only city to have these kinds of problems.

Tax policy was explained from a conservative perspective and rebutted by Clinton's Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich. Elizabeth Warren also has a liberal opinion on the debt and fair taxation to represent the Democratic Party. Which is "The Party of Fiscal Responsibility" remains an open question!

What can a state do to pay its expenses before tax revenues come in once a year? Tax Anticipation Notes are one option to get through liquidity and cash flow problems.

In assessing the state economy to estimate future tax revenues, pay attention to key industries. Which of these NJ industries do you think are most important to evaluate the economic health of "The Garden State"? Fishing. Horticulture. Craft brewing. Construction.

Under budget crises, many states must conduct "maintenance triage" with their infrastructure, leading in part to the 2007 bridge collapse in MN. Today, IL has one of the most serious budget crises, but explanations and solutions for it are divided along partisan lines.

Final stages of executive budget preparation includes meeting with agency heads and public sector unions. John Stossel on Public Sector Unions

We closed my facilitated section of the course with considerations of Trump's budget proposal, including OMB Director Mulvaney's press conference,

3. Democratic Foundations of Public Service & Public Administration

Syllabus Julian's Outline File from Facilitated Sessions

We began with varying meanings and forms of democracy, regime types, and the ideological spectrum in the USA. We identified moderate/centrist, liberal, conservative, and libertarian political views from videos of Lieberman, Bachmann, Paul, and others. Very carefully, we considered Chinese contexts and whether countries calling themselves democracies might actually be oligarchies. Many conservatives also like to distinguish between republics and democracies when confronted by oligarchic or plutocratic accusations.

After receiving the textbooks, we followed the syllabus as best as possible, which began with a consideration of rights, The Founding Fathers and founding documents of the USA. To spur creativity in student presentations on these topics, we introduced several musical numbers of various production levels. I think Cathy's group did even better, though!

"The American Dream" is based on a belief that if you work hard, you will succeed, and it's available to everyone (rich, poor, male, female, or ethnic minority) through an ideology of "rugged individualism" wherein one should "pull oneself up by one's bootstraps." It includes strong elements of materialist values and consumerism. Increasingly, scholars like Putnam and liberals like Obama decry it as a myth, or at least becoming much less possible than in the past.

Poverty and race in the USA: neighborhoods. Unicef on a boy in NJ. Rich Benjamin on "Whitopias" and the effects religious institutions, of having more or no friends.

Final Review Game: Determine the ideological position in the main message of the following 2-minute videos (far left, liberal, centris/moderate, conservative, libertarian, or far right?)

Bernie Sanders on Democratic Socialism CNN Debate Trailer for Michael Moore's "Sicko"

Paris Climate Change Pull-Out Assessment Moral Hazard Explained in Gov't Bailouts Gary Johnson's Positions on CNN Tomi Lahren to Obama on "Radical Islam"

How polarized are individual Americans? Why not handcuff a liberal and a conservative together for 24 hours and find out? Do U.S. campuses restrict free speech or try to maintain safe spaces for free expression of ideas?

 

Fall 2017: 1. Critical Thinking

Attempts to make arguments relevant to students were numerous but not always successful. Early on, and of clear importance to our program in Jilin Province, we tried with limited success to consider John Bolton's highly provocative editorial suggesting that it's in China's interest to work with the USA to overthrow the Kim regime in North Korea and that some form of military strike may be "inevitable" should this shared interest fail to be perceived. This was in part selected as a prelude to a major component of this course, Assignment 1: critical assessment of an editorial, whose revised assessment would conclude the course. After one session using it, it was clear that students were either not interested or taking umbrage at my foreign perspective on China (despite my full repudiation of Bolton).

Blatantly pandering to those preferring a lighter topic, we then considered whether makeup is bad for you. While still feeling out what kinds of activities work and don't work in class, a massive attempt to match premises and conclusions was tried, again with mixed results after at least eight hours of preparation, requiring a not unexpected simplification of the instructions. By the end of the course, students were directly confronted with an original text from the facilitator suggesting that they are less Chinese than their grandparents, prompting a consideration by both Julian and Prof. Buechner of whether "Chineseness" should or can be essentialized or even understood by foreigners, in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions.

Videos from class sessions include a special production called "Dillon's Dreadful Day," one that Prof. Buechner didn't like (and you shouldn't take too seriously for this course). Monty Python featured prominently in their classic sketch "Argument Clinic" & the witch trial village scene from The Holy Grail. Some in need of encouragement to think critically were also given the famous sermon on the porch from Life of Brian. Charlotte's Web was used as another example of the human tendency to believe any old thing one reads without critical assessment.

It wouldn't be a Julian-facilitated course without at least one clip from the PBS Crash Course series, though we only got one about what argumentation is. Another, drier one from a series called "Elon Argumentation" largely reinforced what we covered and made sure students didn't think the facilitator was just rambling and making this stuff up.

Students took four practice quizzes based on lectures and readings to assess their understanding and record the occasionally spotty attendance. I'm not sure if anything actually counted toward their grades, but it's always better to be safe than sorry. The first one focused heavily on the bad way to assess reasoning by assuming that an argument that "makes sense" and whose conclusion follows clearly from the premises is a good argument. All that shows, we learned, is that the premises and conclusion don't contradict, and an assignment followed to examine just what we mean by a contradiction. In the Chinese context, students were asked to respond in a paragraph whether it was contradictory for China to be at once "strong and weak" and a "superpower." It is my hope that imaginative minds were expanded by this thought experiment as well as command of the English language. Don't get us started on loopholes, which comprised the meat of the course and may have been the most important vocabulary word.

Over the objections of the professor, who worried that it would give students the impression that this was another course primarily concerned with memorization of jargon rather than one intends to teach a skill, with the help of students from the Dept. of Law & Politics I compiled and distributed an English-Chinese Glossary of Critical Thinking terms. Those with the highest scores on the fourth and final practice quiz were awarded a copy of the unofficial music mix from the course. As usual, every session's notes on "the board" were meticulously cataloged in a Word file, but unfortunately this semester a jolt of static electricity killed Julian's flash drive in Dec., and everything from sessions 5-22 was irretrievably lost. The infrequently backed-up original file and its replacement have a gaping hole between them.

Going off lecture notes, I see that when it came to assessing complex arguments, we put together Agent Smith's "Humans Are a Virus" categorizing argument with a prescriptive one in partial response to it by the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT).

As Prof. Buechner's own textbook, "Ways of Reasoning," proved difficult to acquire on the relatively short notice that this course was authorized and confirmed to be offered, some supplementary textbooks were used, such as Sinnott-Armstrong/Fogelin's "Understanding Arguments", as well as Hausman/Kahane/Tidman's "Logic & Philosophy". The logic textbook filled a significant portion of Prof. Buechner's "intensive teaching period" for four hours daily, stretching the nine days from Dec. 24th to Jan. 1st, 2018. All in all, and despite divergence from the syllabus (this is the only file here included from Prof. Buechner; there are many more available upon request which, being proprietary, I've chosen not to post on my personal site), I'm sure the students learned a lot from this course and would declare it an unqualified success!

2. English Speaking General Syllabus, Julian's Syllabus

 

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