Open to all majors; most students are "seniors."
The purpose of the class is to learn how to think about hazardous materials policy and regulation. We consider "hazardous materials regulation" in broad terms to include regulation of hazardous materials from manufacture, to use, transportation, storage, disposal, and then cleanup from environmental media. Although we will address the current regulatory structure, we are mostly concerned about how hazardous materials should be regulated. With that in mind, the course proceeds towards student projects that outline reform of an area of hazardous materials policy.
The course consists mostly of discussion, with some guest speakers and videos. In addition to readings, there are four short quizzes on basic material and several assignments, including the course project, which is broken up into several pieces. Students each define an environmental problem that interests them, analyzing it in a cradle-to-grave perspective. They investigate the environmental risks posed by their "problem" and the current regulations that are supposed to solve it. Finally, they propose their own solution.
The class is generally small--from 6 to 20 students. (Twenty was too large.) Most students are seniors in environmental studies with a 3.0 or better GPA. We generally have a mix of students from both the science and policy tracks within the major.
1998 was the first time we used Ishmael, though we had previously recommended it to students, several of whom read it. We weren't sure how it would fit in, but we had been increasingly frustrated that students were not looking beyond tinkering with current programs in devising solutions, so we decided to show them that we really do want them to think.
We used it at almost the beginning of the semester. There is always a period of adds and drops at the beginning of the semester, which we filled with fairly easy material that was mostly review for many students. We read Ishmael and discussed it over a period of three class periods, labelled "challenging paradigms" in the syllabus. We continued to use the concepts, especially "Mother Culture" and "pedalling airman" throughout the course. It was very useful to have a common vocabulary for the concepts.
We broke the book into three sections for reading and discussion. Students were given simple questions to answer as homework questions and meatier questions to discuss in class. Discussion questions are listed below:
Through Chapter 5:
Only one student said, "You mean we're really going to read a story about a gorilla?" They seemed to enjoy the book while we were reading it, and they got involved in the discussions of it, but some were puzzled about its relevance to the course for a while. However, by the time they were writing the last two papers, they knew they had to listen to Mother Culture in designing solutions. One student devoted half of his final paper (he proposed reducing air pollution through a mass transportation program) to changing people's minds.
We found that reading Ishmael early in the semester did just what we wanted--it encouraged students early on to think of environmental problems as symptoms of cultural problems, and not just deficiencies in laws and bureaucratic problems. Other materials that we used in class meshed with the book quite well.
Information about this class (which we will not teach in 1999) and other classes we teach may be found at: http://www.ukans.edu/~hazards