As a behavioral neuroscience major, I really did not know what to expect going into my first political science class. Not having a background in political science, I was a bit nervous about the coursework and wondered how this class could contribute to my interests and studies. After spending a semester in comparative politics, I am excited to take back what I have learned when it comes to thinking critically in a comparative way, which will continue to benefit me in all of my endeavors.
This course was divided into three phases. The first phase taught us how to critically read, analyze, and compare societies in the general sense. The second phase of this course involved submerging ourselves into the world of drugs, taking both a domestic and international approach. We looked at aspects such as the different drugs themselves, the supply and demand they have had, the effects that drug trafficking has had on individual countries, and how societies in various countries view drug use, both in the form of governmental policy and in public opinion itself. One assignment that aided our studies was that of a case study. The class was divided into teams and each team was assigned a country to focus each of these aspects on. My team, group 420, was assigned Iran. We researched the government’s views on drugs, society’s views, and were very surprised by our findings. We learned that in Iran, citizens found guilty of drug trafficking/consistent using were subjected to dozens of lashings! The third phase of this class was to develop our own formal policy memo on how to reform drug policy in America.
One of the coolest parts of this class was getting to interact live with the head of Philadelphia’s DEA, Agent Tuggle. Agent Tuggle graciously took the time to speak to our class and provided a unique perspective from a different generation’s view of the world in relation to drugs. As members of the millennial generation, many of my classmates and I posed questions about the legalization of certain drugs and questioned the stigma surrounding them. It was really interesting to hear Agent Tuggle’s side of the argument since he had personally lived through drug epidemics such as the crack-cocaine epidemic of the mid 80’s-early 90’s. My biggest take away from Agent Tuggle was that you can only rely on books and the internet so much. At some point, as millennials, we must learn to accept the opinions and perspectives of those who have come before us because they have truly lived through what we have only learned about.
Following Agent Tuggle’s visit, our class worked to decide what the most specific topics were that needed policy reform in the United States. A few of the areas we decided to focus our reforms on were marijuana legalization, pharmaceutical control, shifting the focus from supply to demand, and mandatory minimums. Each of the groups/teams was assigned an area of reform. Each team submitted their policy and the final memo was created by putting all of them together.
I came into this class not knowing what to expect and wondering what I would gain from it. Leaving this class, I can honestly say I have learned and taken away much more than I could have possibly imagined. I gained skills in critical thinking, team building, both oral and written communication, and public speaking, each of which will help me throughout the rest of my life.