27 December 2013

IB Global Politics: The politics of natural disasters

So I've been remiss in getting this unit plan up for everyone to see. The Politics of Natural Disasters should cover roughly 6 weeks of coursework in the Power, Sovereignty, and International Relations portion in the IB Global Politics syllabus. This topic covers three natural disasters-Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti Earthquake of 2010, as well as well as Typhoon Haiyan. In addition, there's 2 games and three simulations interspersed throughout the flow of the unit. I also have to give special thanks to the small group of students who I have lunch with each Wednesday. The idea and selection of cases for this unit were the result of their interest in the subject (of course, the rest of the Year 1 students were also enthusiastic about studying this topic as well). This process reaffirms my belief about the amazing learning and work that can occur when you encourage students to have agency in their own learning.

The Politics of Natural Disasters
Essential Question
In what ways, and with what effects, are responses to and effects of natural disasters politicized?
Key Concepts
power, sovereignty, legitimacy, interdependence, state, civil society, international organization, non-governmental organization, multinational corporation, global governance, cooperation, conflict
Learning Targets

  • You will be able to understand how various forms of power is distributed at various levels of global politics.
  • You will understand how state power is operationalized and legitimized in global politics.
  • You will understand the ways in which non-state actors such as international organizations, non-governmental organizations, multinational corporations, and others function in and influence global politics. 
  • You will understand the nature and extent of the myriad of interactions amongst all actors and events in global politics.

Simulations & Games
Survival, Red Cross Emergency Response Unit, Stop Disasters, DS-30 (Veritas and Pulchra), Inside Haiti Earthquake

  • Class debrief on cases: Hurricane Katrina, Haiti Earthquake, Typhoon Haiyan
  • Team presentation, “The Blame Game” (Hurricane Katrina)
  • Team presentation, “Cause and Effect” (Haiti Earthquake)
  • Individual survey responses on Key Concepts
  • Paper 1-type response (25 marks)
  • Questions to be derived from extracts; taken from articles in bibliography
  • Paper 2-type response (25 marks)
  • “For what reasons, if any, are governments, international organizations, and/or non-governmental organizations responsible for caring for people citizens from disasters?”
  • Individual responses to summary survey on the politics of natural disasters



  • Facilitate and debrief “Survival”; 1 class period
  • Watch, discuss, and debrief The Storm (Hurricane Katrina); 2-3 class periods
  • Construct, present, and debrief “The Blame Game”; 1-2 class periods
  • Facilitate, “I used to think but now I think” VT routine, watch Panorama-the ICRC in Action Worldwide; 1 class period
  • Play and debrief “Red Cross Emergency Response Unit”; 1 class period
  • Watch and debrief How to step up in the face of disaster; 1 class period
  • Facilitate and debrief “DS-30”; 2 class periods
  • Read and debrief “The effects of politics on natural disasters: lessons learned from Bangladesh”; 1 class period
  • In class writing, Paper 2-type question; 1 class period
  • Watch, discuss, and debrief The Quake (Haiti Earthquake); 2-3 class periods
  • Construct, present, and debrief “Cause and Effect”; 1-2 class periods
  • Revise Paper 2-type question; 1 class period. 
  • Play and debrief “Inside Haiti Earthquake”; 1-2 class periods
  • Facilitate, "Circle of viewpoints" VT routine to watch and debrief on “Disaster Preparedness: Three Things to Know”; 1 class period
  • Play and debrief “Stop Disasters:’ 1-2 class periods
  • In class reading, choice of articles on Typhoon Haitian; 1 class period
  • Team presentation, “The effects of politics on natural disasters: Typhoon Haiyan”; 2-3 class periods
  • In class writing, Paper 1-type question
  • Summary survey and debrief on the politics of natural disasters; 1 class period

17 December 2013

Mandela, "Invictus", and IB Global Politics

An amazing comic (via ZenPencils), celebrating the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. This is also a great piece to reflect upon when we think about the dynamics of our simulations today in both classes. To what extent can (or do) we seek cooperation with adversaries, particularly in the face of contentious, seemingly insurmountable circumstances? Enjoy!

13 December 2013

IB Glopo 1: 16 through 20 December

Its our last week of classes for 2013! We’ll close out the calendar with a look at the question of how governments are, or should be, responsible for protecting their citizens before, during, and after disasters. This theme of legitimacy also ties in with our current events discussion for the week. We’ll continue with our current events discussion with our revised approach, conduct one simulation from the PON at Harvard, and take a look at some more scholarly reading on the politics of disaster.

  • Monday: Current events discussion. Our theme this week is Legitimacy. As you read your article, please consider the following question; to what extent are governments accountable to their citizens as well as to the wider international community? Your articles for the week are as follows:
  • Tuesday: Simulation, Veritas and Pulchra (DS-30):
  • Thursday: In class reading and discussion, Hapeman, K. (co). The effects of politics on natural disasters: Lessons learned from Bangladesh. Unpublished manuscript, University of Denver, Denver. Retrieved December 12, 2013, from‎.
  • Friday: In class writing, For what reasons, if any, are governments, international organizations, and/or non-governmental organizations responsible for caring for people citizens from disasters? Please post your responses to the blog:

Supplemental Reading
Olson, R. S. (2008). Toward a politics of disaster: Losses, values, agendas, and blame. In A. Boin (Ed.), Crisis management (Vol. 3). Los Angeles, CA: Sage. Available here:

IB Glopo HL2: 16 to 20 December

To what extent do individuals and societies benefit from development?

Its our final week of class in 2013! We'll start the week with an introduction to development analysis. While not the same lesson I taught to our 5th grade classes last year, you will definitely want to learn how to play with Gapminder, especially as you plan for your HL Extension Tasks. We have another simulation this week-well done on the one from last Tuesday. We'll also take a look at complementary arguments about the darker side of development as well as what can or cannot be done about it. 
  • Monday: Debrief on Friday's in-class writing. Introduction to Development Analysis-Gapminder. Be ready to play and to develop a research question for us to investigate. For example, Is there a direct and measurable correlation between the amount of poverty in a country and the quality of education in that country?
  • Tuesday: Simulation, Foreign Direct Investment in Mandoa. Meet in the Learning Commons. 
  • Thursday: Watch and discuss the arguments and evidence presented in both Collier's (The Bottom Billion) and Wilkinson's (How Economic Inequality Harms Societies) TED Talks. 
  • Friday: In class writing: Compare and contrast the views of Collier and Wilkinson with respect to the divide between rich and poor around the world. What political solutions do they offer? To what extent do these seem reasonable?

12 December 2013

IB Glopo HL2: In Class Writing

(Based on your assigned Foreign Affairs article) How does the author(s) frame the issue(s) in terms of a geopolitical challenge related to development. What solutions does the author(s) provide? To what extent do these seem reasonable?

Please reply to this prompt in class on Friday, 13 December.

IB Glopo Year 2: Nationalization vs. Privatization

Year 2 students have spent this week coming to understand the complex issues surrounding development, foreign direct investment, and the (perceived?) tension between nationalization and privatization. The class took part in the Meridia and Petrocentram simulation via the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. Students worked in groups of four; two students representing the fictional government of Merida and two students representing the fictional oil firm Petrocentram. As you can see from the chart above (complete table here) each group found various ways to negotiate their perceived interests towards reaching a settlement. One of the (many) interesting topics that came up in the debrief is the topics of asymmetric information. Both parties in this simulation have access to information and prescribed preferences that the other side is not privy to. As a result, strategy, negotiating posture, and the various outcomes itself were functions of the different sets of information available to the parties. Of course, its easy to see how one could connect these issues to real world situations world politics; the students certainly did. 



11 December 2013

Amazing summer opportunity for IB Glopo students: IB World Student Conferences on Systems and Societies

Many of you are already starting to make plans for summer internships, research, and other programming. I think you would be remiss iic you overlooked a fantastic opportunity to head to any of these Commonwealth countries for this year's World Student Conferences. Registration is still fairly inexpensive as summer programs go at this point in time; there are scholarship programs available as well. MOST IMPORTANTLY, you'll have the chance to experience a summer program like no other. IB students from around the world collaborate along side policy experts, practitioners, and other individuals who are actively working in our discipline. You can learn more about what the WSC like here. Of course, I'm more than happy to chat with you about this in or outside of class at any time. 

06 December 2013

IB Glopo Year 1: The ICRC and humanitarian assistance

Week of 9-13 December

Suggested readings
  1. International Committee of the Red Cross. (2009). The ICRC: Its mission and work [Brochure]. Author. Retrieved from 
  2. International Committee of the Red Cross. (1994, December 31). Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Disaster Relief (Rep.). Retrieved from 
  3. International Committee of the Red Cross. (2013, May). Annual Report: 2013 (Rep.). Retrieved from
    1. For reference only; this report is more than 500 pages in length. 

IB Glopo Year 2: Development (continued)

Week of 9-13 December
  • Monday: Debrief on your responses to the Mingst and Karns prompt. Introduce next simulation: Meridia and Petrocentram: Oil drilling off the eastern shore of central America.
  • Tuesday: Play and debrief Meridia and Petroentram
  • Thursday: In class reading on Foreign Affairs article. 
    • Note: I have a conference call with the IB at 9am. Consequently, we'll meet in the Learning Commons at 8.25 and work independently throughout the class period. 
  • Friday: In class writing. Choose one (1) article from Foreign Affairs (located in the bibliography). How does the author(s) frame the issue(s) in terms of a geopolitical challenge related to development. What solutions does the author(s) provide? To what extent do these seem reasonable?
Articles (choose 1)

IB Glopo HL2: In class writing prompt

In what ways do Mingst and Karns define the concept of development?  What are some of the geopolitical challenges that Mingst and Karns identify that are related to development? To what extent do you agree with the way Mingst and Karns frame the idea of development?

Please post your responses to the prompt to this blog post. Feel free to refer to your reading (informal in text citations only; no formal APA) throughout your response. We'll reflect and debrief on these first thing next week. 

04 December 2013

IB Global Politics HL1: Monday

Its finally here-what you’ve been waiting for (apparently…you have nothing better to do?). Below is my set of ideas to get our current events discussions off the ground. I dabbled with the idea of presidential briefings or conducting a shadow UN on Twitter, but in the end I went for the easy. Of course we can do those other two if everyone is on board. In any event, we’ll take a look at this in class on Friday. Until then, please read through this document and please let me know what looks good, what will not work, and/or what’s missing.


The Monday Current Events Briefing

Each week, IB Global Politics HL1 will dedicate one day of class time to discuss and analyze contemporary geopolitical affairs. At the start of a previous class period, your table will choose a region at random (names in a hat, deck of cards, rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock, etc.). Each person at the table will then scour the list of courses (below) to find the most fantabulously interesting article on world politics for the week. As you read it, please  develop a set of notes, an outline, or a set up talking points that addresses each of the following:

  • Summary: Craft a two to three sentence synopsis of your chosen article. 
  • Connection: How are the ideas and information in the article connected to what you already know? How does this article relate to your wider study of global politics?
  • Extension: What new ideas did you encounter that extended or pushed your thinning in new directions? Are you able to answer the “so what?” question for this article?
  • Challenge: What do you still find challenging or confusing for you to get your head around? What questions, wonderings, or puzzles about the topic do you still have?

Each Monday, we’ll open a speakers list for the day. Please note that once you have presented your article, you won’t be able to do so again in a subsequent class until we we have exhausted the speakers list. As you listen to your colleagues discuss their article and analysis, please listen thoughtfully and consider one or two questions that you wish them to address as it relates to world politics. Finally, one speaker each week will be chosen through voting, or lottery, or by arbitrary fiat from the benevolent classroom dictator for the day to post their analysis on the blog. This lucky individual will then choose two of their colleagues to provide their own commentary and insight on the article in the form of comments to the blog post. Our hope is that we can use these briefing sessions to amplify and extend our knowledge of world politics in a discursive and constructive fashion. 

Suggested Sources

03 December 2013

Review, International Law and Treaties for IB Global Politics students

As        As result of the end of term feedback from IB Glopo students in Year 1 and Year 2, I've put together a set of resources that will serve to bolster your existing understanding of international law and treaties. Please begin by reading United Nations. (2013). Global issues at the United Nations. UN News Center. Retrieved from This, along with the links below, should serve as a good refresher of the concepts you felt you were less comfortable with than others we have covered so far this term. After reading these, you should be able to identify the (a) sources of international law, (b) examples or international law in several different areas of world politics, and (c) specific events, institutions, or other areas where international law exists as a part of the wider interactions of global politics. 

For those of you interested in reading a contemporary debate about the politics of international law would be well served by reading both articles below. (You can also email me and I will send you *.pdf copies from my subscription) If you're choosing to read both of these articles, please also take the opportunity to write a commentary to the following prompt, To what extent to the authors see international law as comparable to or in contrast to the concept of state sovereignty? Discuss the ways in which you agree or disagree with the authors' assertions outlined in the articles below. 

Finally, for the visually-inclined, please take advantage of Prof. Kal Raustiala's brief lectures on the nature and application of international law.  

End of term competencies in IB Global Politics HL1

As I posted earlier, here are the results from the end of term survey for IB Global Politics HL1. First year students report a strong understanding of power, sovereignty, and cooperation, were as there's clearly more work to be done with respect to treaties and international legal agreements. In contrast to the HL2 students, we have far more time to work to develop enduring understanding of these concepts before the IB exam in May of 2015.

End of term competencies in IB Global Politics HL2

At the end of each term, students in IB Global Politics are tasked with completing a comprehensive review of their learning. While part of this review addresses concerns about assessment and grading in the course, the more interesting information comes in the way in which students rate themselves and their competencies with respect to the prescribed syllabus topics. Students were asked to rate their level of expertise (novice, competent, proficient, expert, master) on the key concepts that were embedded in our coursework, lessons, content, and assignments over the past thirteen weeks. The first four concepts-human rights, justice, liberty, and equality-are new concepts for the HL2 students this term. The second concepts-power, sovereignty, legitimacy, and cooperation-are a part of the core syllabus unit of Power, Sovereignty, and International Relations that runs through the entire 2-year course. The final set of concepts-international cooperation, international organization, treaties, and international legal agreements-are subsidiary concepts that are also a part of the Power, Sovereignty, and International Relations unit. I tabulated the results from the student surveys (N=16) in the table at the bottom. I also developed a simple index for each concept (5 points for master, 4 points for expert, 3 points for proficient, 2 points for competent, and 1 point for novice) to calculate an aggregate score for each concept. Finally, I graphed these results above as it pertains to the students' perceived level of accomplishment (or lack there of). 

While there's a lot than can be drawn from this data, the most important bits for me are the ways in which students identify their perceived strengths and weaknesses in the course. For example, I am confident that most of the students feel confident that they have a high level of proficiency regarding the concept of human rights, but they are less confident when it comes to their understanding of liberty. In general, the students perceive that they have sustained a strong level of understanding of power, sovereignty, and cooperation over the year and half they have been in IB Global Politics, but less so when it comes to the idea of legitimacy. Finally, most of these students perceive that they have a weaker sustained understanding at this point in time of treaties and international legal agreements than they do about international organization and international cooperation

So what? First and foremost; survey results such as these, those where the students are reflecting on their learning, allows me to target key areas of learning that need to be reviewed and reexamined in the remaining months of the course. Its clear from this set of data that I need to develop and facilitate games and simulations, case studies, and other learning opportunities that give students the opportunity to bolster their understanding of international law, justice, and liberty. I can use this data both at the aggregate (class) and individual level; this leads to very targeting learning for students in IB Global Politics HL2. Secondly, these results can also help the students see their own and their colleagues' strengths and weaknesses This should allow students to take an even more active role in their learning as they revise towards the IB exams in May. 

I'll publish the results for the HL 1 group in a subsequent blog post. I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this information via a reply to this blog post. 

02 December 2013

Survival Simulations in IB Global Politics Year 1



To kick off our study of the politics of disaster, IB Glopo Year 1 got the opportunity to choose their own disaster survival simulation; plane crashes in either northern Canada or the Sahara desert, or being lost at sea in the Atlantic. Consistent with several models of experiential learning (Kolb's, for example) students used this simulation as a concrete experience for which to reflect upon. Later this week, we'll look at our first case study-Hurricane Katrina-as a vehicle to actively conceptualize and experiment with their ideas in analyzing and synthesizing real world case studies. Interestingly, the groups found that despite their familiarity with each other, the crisis conditions in an anarchic environment put a strain on their ability to articulate interests and preferences, cooperate and make thoughtful decisions under time constraints.

IB Glopo HL2: Introduction to Economic Systems

Thanks for the great discussion this morning as we began our inquiry into the nature and debates of economic systems around the world. For work outside of class tonight, please finish watching our favorite geopolitics professor John Boyer's lecture on Economic Systems from Boyer, J. (2011). GEOG 1014: World Regions. Lecture presented at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA. Retrieved from

Tomorrow, please meet in the Learning Commons at 8.25. We'll use our 90 minutes to read Mingst, K. A., & Karns, M. P. (2007). Economic development and sustainability. In The United Nations in the 21st century (pp. 178-216). Boulder, CO: Westview Press. I'll hand out copies in TOK today