Day: August 14, 2011

Paintball and Pedagogy: A Bleg

Syllabus-revamping time this year coincides with the last few quiet, pre-soccer-season weekends available for paint-balling with my son. With both BT Omegas and class prep on the brain, thought I’d reach out for ideas on how to integrate class trips to the arena into a course on the laws of war.

I’ve done this once before, when I taught “War and Gender” back at Drake University. In that case, the students organized it as an experiment in sex-specific tactics on the field. They ran variations, pitting all male and all-female teams against one another, or working in mixed-gender teams. It was voluntary, so more boys showed up, though the girls who self-selected in were just as likely to beat the boys. There was also some ‘finding’ that teams with girls on them were more cooperative and less devil-may-care. I used it mostly to help them think critically about making inferences from small-N non-controlled experiments, but it was also great to see them self-organize some class-related fun.

I’ve also known a colleague or two to use paintball a little more systematically as a pedagogical tool. At the same time, I don’t know how common this is and haven’t seen an article in International Studies Perspectives or anything describing the value or pitfalls of this approach for different kinds of classes.

So my bleg is three-fold.

1) First, have any Duck writers or readers used paintball pedagogically (or been in a class where it was used) and if so how did the prof make it work as a teaching tool (v. just a fun class-building activity)?

2) Second, is anyone aware of scholarly articles or resources on using paintball to teach international relations, international security, or military affairs? (I’m certain there are military and law enforcement training materials that use paintball to teach small-unit tactics, but what I’m looking for is pedagogical strategies for supplementing liberal arts political science courses with paintball for students who like to study war but may have never picked up a gun.)

3) Any specific ideas on teaching Rules of War in particular through paintball? The course is about the Geneva Conventions and more broadly the role of ethical norms in armed conflict. Here’s a link to last year’s syllabus.

4) If you think this is a horrible idea (particularly as a required activity) please expound.

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Are You Ready for Some Football…..Analogies?

Recently I offered an “argument” about what conservative males find attractive about Sarah Palin — her attractiveness — and I provided some “evidence” by reference to the parallels between pretty female candidates and women sideline reporters with two XXs (Chromosomes, you creeps! Get your mind out of the gutter!). I made the claim that Bachmann’s support rested more on her craziness than her beauty, but then I found this. I am recalibrating my argument…..

But I want to push the analogy further, and ask — who gives a f*#k about the Iowa Straw Poll? Why, when Michele Bachmann wins, do they drop confetti? Don’t they usually wait to the convention for that? Winning the votes of 4,000 Iowans now gets you what American GIs had to fight the Battle of the Bulge for? Is ticker tape that much cheaper these days, that we can just use it wily-nilly?

I realized that a similar thing is happening on the NFL football field. It used to be that before a game the announcer would simply introduce the visiting team, it would run out, and everyone would boo. Then the announcer would raise his voice and cheer for “YOUR [insert city and mascot].” Everyone would cheer. And then they would play a football game. At the Super Bowl, though, they would bring giant inflatable helmets and place them in front of the tunnel to the locker rooms. They would shoot off fireworks when the teams came out. This added to the pageantry (wc?), the significance (wc?) of the ultimate game, the fight for the championship.

Now everyone has got an inflatable helmet for every regular season game. For all I know they use it in the preseason. It’s exactly like dropping confetti at the Iowa Straw Poll, a game that doesn’t mean a thing (unless you are Tim Pawlenty). Why is everything So Very Important Now so that we are all spent, jaded and unimpressed by the final contest? Seriously, unless someone’s nipple slips out, I just don’t care. (Don’t get any ideas, Romney. That was metaphorical.)

The same thing is going on at kids’ birthday parties. (Stay with me.) When I was a kid, the only place you found a bouncy house was at the State Fair. These were not available on an everyday basis, in your Personal Home. Maybe this is just Southern California, but there is a guy down the street with three kids who has a bouncy house three times a year in his backyard for every birthday. At my house, we put out some folding chairs in the backyard for the parents and turn on the sprinkler. The kids love it, but they are young. I know I am about two years away from a total meltdown when my son begins to demand a temporary rollercoaster be set up to mark the anniversary of his passing through my wife’s cervix. It’s just a birthday (straw pool, regular season game, etc)! I just want to understand this phenomenon.

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