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Social Studies Colloquium

A series of presentations designed to help high school teachers earn Continuing Education Credits, and to provide content that they may use in their classrooms. These sessions can be viewed live or click on the links below to watch them at your leisure, or use these as a resource for your students.

If you have difficulties in accessing the audio or video, please contact Russ Crawford at  I will get you a version that will work.

Session ONE: Dr. Robert Alexander - The Electoral College and Faithless Electors
Date of Session: September 22, 2010
Location: Hakes-Pierstorf 122
Time: 7:00PM

Dr. Robert Alexander
PhD - University of Tennessee, 2000
MA - University of Tennessee, 1997
BA - Ohio Northern University, 1994

Robert Alexander is an associate professor of political science at Ohio Northern University. He teaches a variety of undergraduate courses, including introduction to American politics, introduction to political science, state and local government, public administration, interest groups and political parties, mass political behavior, mass media and politics, film and politics, presidency, and Congress. He has been published two books examining the role of interest groups in the American political system. Additionally, his research has appeared in a number of academic journals. Dr. Alexander’s most recent project is a book examining the Electoral College. The book draws upon surveys of presidential electors he has collected with students over the past three elections. In addition to his research, he has been recognized for his teaching through numerous teaching awards. Professor Alexander is a frequent contributor to media outlets, having been interviewed in nearly 80 instances by print, television and radio media. He has appeared on C-SPAN, MSNBC, and NPR’s Day to Day as well as being cited in newspapers from Japan, Singapore, Slovakia, and Poland.


Forthcoming book on the Electoral College
The Classics of Interest Group Behavior, Editor, Wadsworth Publishing, 2006
Rolling the Dice With State Initiatives: Interest Group Involvement in Ballot Campaigns, Praeger Press, 2000

Summary: Dr. Alexander spoke with the assembled teachers and students about the Electoral College, the institution that selects the President of the United States.  He argued that while this system has advantages such as legitimizing the winners in presidential elections, and promoting a two-party system, it also violates the value of counting all votes equally.  Winner take all states give all of their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote in their state, regardless of whether the winner has one million more votes or one.  It also gives disproportionate voting power to small states, but also due to the pressure to focus campaign efforts, means that these states rarely see a presidential candidate or campaign commercials. 

Alexander also spoke of the "faithless electors," or those few who have changed their votes from the candidates they were supposed to support.  This has been rare in American history, but the potential exists for widespread disruption of the process.  This is particularly pertinent since interest groups have stepped up efforts in recent elections to lobby electors to change their votes.  This became an issue in the contested 2000 Election, but increased in frequency in the last election.

Several audience members asked Alexander questions on his talk, and the recording of his comments, the questions, and his answers can be found  here. (We are still working on making this recording available here, but for now click here).

Session TWO: Dr. Jo Ann Scott - Jury Nullification and the Legal System
Date: October 6, 2010
Location: Hakes-Pierstorf 122
Time: 7:00PM

Dr. Jo Ann Scott
PhD University of California

Dr. Scott spoke to a good crowd that included teachers and several students from Lima Senior High School.  She began by outlining the importance of the jury system in  American jurisprudence.  There is a long history stretching back to before the Magna Carta in Britain, flowing through the colonial period, and continuing through the centuries since the American Revolution.  Juries are integral to our system of justice, despite some critics who claim judges could make more equitable decisions.  Scott told the audience that over the course of that history, we as a nation have determined that whenever a defendent is threatened with incarceration, they have the right to a trial by jury of their peers.

The bulk of her talk concerned the fairly rare circumstances when juries have ignored the evidence and returned a not guilty verdict, or jury nullification.  The first instance of this was in England when two Quakers were charged with violating laws against proselytizing their religion.  Even though they admitted to the acts, the jury found that the law was unjust and returned a verdict of not guilty.  The trial judge overturned their decision, but on appeal, both the king and judge were told that the jury had the last word in the matter.  Since then, jury nullification has occurred in several high profile cases, including the the Zenger case, the OJ Simpson Murder Trial, and in the Lorena Bobbit case, among others.

Dr. Scott told the audience that juries return not guilty verdicts despite the evidence for several reasons.  In some cases, the Simpson trial, for instance, the jury seemed to think that the police and prosecution acted wrongly.  In other cases, the jury may believe that the laws are wrong, as in the case of Catholic priests arrested for protesting the Vietnam War.  in yet other cases, juries may consider the punishment too extreme, or might believe that the circumstances of the case left the defendent no other options.

After her prepared remarks, Scott answered several audience questions, and solicited audience participation throughout her talk.
Session THREE: Dr. Robert Waters - Only 90 Miles Away: The Cuban Missile Crisis
Date: October 20, 2010
Location: Dicke Forum
Time: 7:00PM

Summary: Dr. Waters began by providing some background to the crisis, including the Cuban Revolution, the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administration's attempts to overthrow the Castro regime, and superpower relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.  He told the audience of a few of the Kennedy Administration's efforts to get rid of the communist regime in Cuba, which sometimes degenerated into the bizarre, such as plans to make Castro's beard fall out, denying him of his charisma, and a proposal to put explosives in a seashell so that when the dictator picked it up, it would blow his head off.  Relations between the U.S. and USSR faced difficulty because Nikita Kruschev, the Soviet leader, wondered how he could speak as equals with the very young American president.

Much of the content of Water's talk focused on how historians writing in the early years after the crisis got the story wrong, often obscuring the true history of the event.  For instance, Arthur Schlessinger's Pulitzer and Bancroft Award winning work A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House contained several innacuracies, particularly concerning Attorney General Bobby Kennedy's role as a "dove" during the crisis.  Despite Schlesinger's contention that Bobby continually advocated for a peaceful resolution, the eventual release of recordings made of the Executive Committee's (XCOM) meetings revealed that the Attorney General had early made repeated calls for an invasion of the communist island.  Water's also maintained that President Kennedy set out a position during the crisis that was eerily similar to the Bush Doctrine of preventive war.

At the conclusion of his talk, Waters' maintained that his experience in writing his dissertation on the Cuban Missile Crisis caused him to lose his faith in history.  He argued that absent the recordings, our knowledge of the events would be wildly innacurate, because of the vested interests of the historians records of the events, which caused them to write mythology designed to celebrate the principal's roles, rather than history.

Water's took questions after his remarks, and the recording of his talk can be found at a couple of locations.
Session FOUR: Dr. Robert Carrothers - The Sociology of Crowds: Celebration Riots in North American Sports
Date: November 3, 2010
Location: Dicke Forum
Time: 7:00PM

Summary: Ripped from the days headlines - San Francisco Giants fans staged a celebratory riot the night before - Dr. Carrothers explored the elements that must be present before sports fans in North America will riot.  Carrothers took the audience trough sociological theory, particularly that of Emile Durkheim, who argued that a crowd often takes on a life of its own and forms "currents" that sweep fans along, allowing or causing them to perform acts that they would never do normally.

The November 1, 2010 San Francisco riot feature fans setting mattresses on fire, attacking police, and vandalizing business properties.  Caroothers demonstrated that this was not an isolated incident, speaking of 2008 riots in Philadelphia after the Phillies won the World Series, and Los Angeles in 2010 after the Lakers won the NBA championship.

Carrothers then explored the "patterns of behavior' that influences celebrating fans exhibit as they riot, and the conditions necessary for a celebration riot to occur.  He argued that several elememnts, based on a model developed by Lewis, that make rioting more likely.  Among those are: the team has experienced a long period of losing before the win, the presence of a natural social gathering area near the ball park - including places where alcohol is sold, the presence of a large group of young white males - who tend to make up most rioters - which means that everyone is a homogenous mass and it is harder to pick out individuals, and a championship series that goes into later games.  When these conditions are present, a riot becomes more likely, as was the case in San Francisco.  Police actions also play a role.  When riots happen, the police presence is often absent or they fail to take prompt action.  Carrothers added to Lewis' model by arguing for the culture of the city mattering also.  He told the audience that riots do not take place after Yankee wins because they are used to winning, and they are absent in New Orleans because people there know how to behave in the streets.  He then gave his take on which cities were likely to see a sport riot.  One of the most likely cities would be Cleveland, and Carrothers told the crowd that had the Cavaliers won the NBA championship last year, there likely would have been riots.  On the other hand, had the Texas Rangers won the Series this year, riots would have been unlikely since the stadium is surrounded by parking and little else.

Carrothers finished by taking several questions from the audience, and several lingered after the talk to discuss the talk further.  To watch the complete lecture, click here.  We are still experiencing technical difficulties, so you can find the lecture titled "Dr. Robert Carrothers - Sports Riots."

Session FIVE: Dr. John Phillip Lomax - Myth in History: Or, How Myth Defines Reality
Date: November 10, 2010
Location: Dicke Forum
Time: 7:00PM

Summary: Dr. Lomax explored the difference between a mythological construction of the world and a philosophical construction, arguing that while philosophy explores the world that exists in nature, myth exists outside of nature.  He argued that myth was a powerful tool for early societies to define reality.  The Philosophical Revolution of the Enlightenment gave us a new way of looking at reality that often pushed myth to the sidelines.  He posited a divide between myth and philosophy that saw myth as subjective causality - someone caused an event, and philosophy as presenting an objective causality, or things happening because of their nature.

Lomax gave examples of several mythologies, which included the 23rd Psalm, that hailed the God that protected the writer from a dangerous world.  He told the audience that myth does not mean that what was written about was false, but rather myth was simply an alternative explination for an event.  He also referenced the popular Harry Potter series to illustrate his point that something outside of objective criteria (Lord Voltemort) caused Potter's scar to burn, rather than some objective reason.  A philosopher would reject any causality outside of the nature of objective reality (Potter might suffer from an incipient aneurism). 

Myth at its base, is a story about what we experience that argues someone is causing events to happen, as opposed to philosophy that seeks to describe what things are and how they work, outside of external agency, or someone causing them to happen.  At the conclusion of the talk, Lomax read the children's version of the graphic and violent story of Demeter and Persephone.  Persephone was the daughter of Demeter and Zeus, and she was taken captive by Hades, god of the underworld.  Demeter's grief at the loss of her daughter was such that she could not be consoled.  The other gods, who knew what had happened, would not tell her where her daughter had gone.  Demeter finally found a measure of respite by becoming the caretaker of a human, but when the child was taken from her, she caused crops and the abundance of the earth to stop.  Finally, Zeus forced Hades to give Persephone back to Demeter, but he tricked the maiden by giving her pomegranate seeds, which meant that she could not leave permanently.  Demeter realized his design, and knew that Persephone must live part of the year in the underworld, but while her daughter was with her, the earth would blossom, dying when Persephone had to return to Hades' realm.  That was how the ancient Greeks made sense of the changing of the seasons, absent any objective causes. 

That, then, is the purpose of myth: to explain the unexplainable.  To access Lomax's talk, click on the following link.

Session SIX: Dr. Phillip Zoladz- How Stress Affects Memory and Psychopathology

Date: December 8th, 2010

Location: Dicke Forum

Time: 7:00 P.M.

PhotoDr. Phillip Zoladz

Ph.D Behavioral Neuroscience - University of South Florida

M.A. Behavioral Neuroscience- University of South Florida

B.A. Psychology - Wheeling Jesuit University

Last night Dr. Phillip Zoladz presented his research concerning how stress can affect memory and may be linked to psychopathology.  Zoladz, an assistant Professor of Psychology at ONU has extensive background in the field of neuroscience.  He received his B.A. in Psychology from Wheeling Jesuit University, and then earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Behavioral Neuroscience from the University of South Florida.

     Zoladz used research from a few of his studies, including some held on ONU's campus this year and last year to show the correlation between stress and learning.  Zoladz experimented on both rats and humans to see how stress affected their learning curves and maintenance of the material they learned.  Zoladz was attempting to determine why some forms of stress improve memory and learning (such as flash bulb memories like 9/11) and some stressors actually cause us to forget what we have learned. 

     Zoladz examined how the release of cortisol ( a chemical released during stressful times) was processed by both the amygdala and hippocampus parts of the brain.  He found that cortisol impaired the hippocampus, but benefitted the amygdala.  He did explain also, that acute stress, such as the stress of a pop quiz, surprise, etc. can aid the hippocampus first and then eventually impairs it.  What did this student take away from the study? That a little stress while trying to learn can be beneficial, however reoccuring or omnipresent stress (such as the stress of a term paper *couch cough*) can actually hinder the learning and recall of facts.

This session was recorded.

To view the recording, click the link below:

SESSION SEVEN: Dr. David Smith- Water and Conflict in Central Asia?

Date: January 12th, 2011

Location: Dicke Forum

Time: 7:00 PM

Dr. David Smith
Ph.D. Geography - University of Chicago
M.A.  Geography - University of Chicago
B.A. Russion/Soviet Area Studies - Kent State University, Ohio

Summary:  Dr. Smith's presentation "Water and Conflict in Central Asia?" was an extremely intriguing geographical perspective considering water conflicts and tensions in several countries in central Asia.  Based upon his extensive travels to Tajikistan and other areas, Dr. Smith has had some first-hand experience with these areas of conflict.  Dr. Smith explained that throughout his career, he has tried to come to a conclusion as to whether water was a source of tension, or a resource used for uniting countries. 
         Smith seemed to come to the conclusion that it was a dividing power for the countries of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan.  In an area which was used by the Soviet Union for agricultural production, especially cotton, and a biochemical testing site, these countries in central Asia have been drastically affected by geographic politics.  The countries in the mountains, especially Tajikistan, need the water to generate power in their dams in the winter, whereas the more agriculturally productive countries in the valleys need access in the spring and summer for their crops.  As water in the area is disappearing, and the countries are finding it to be one of their major resources, it is becoming a major point of contention for these central Asian countries.  Dr. Smith's presentation was both informative and extremely interesting.

SESSION SEVEN: Dr. James Schul - Desktop Documentaries

Date: January 26th, 2011

Location: Dicke Forum

Time: 7:00 PM

  Dr. Schul
  Ph.D. Social Studies Education - University of Iowa
  M.Ed. - Miami University
  B.S. - Miami University

Summary: On Wednesday, January 26th, Dr. James Schul presented a lecture on a new field of interest in education: Desktop Documentaries.  Essentially what Desktop Documentaries are student-made compilations that present a topic of interest to the rest of the class. Using Ken Burns methods of juxtaposition, students can create documentaries that are expository or poetic.  To see an example of a poetic documentary refer to this: .  An expository documentary is more descriptive and detailed than poetic documentaries which attempt to evoke emotions in the audience.

Dr. Schul described the steps it takes to create a Desktop Documentary:

1) Select your topic
2) Make a plan as to how you'd like to portray your topic
3) Collect images onto a file
4) Select appropriate music sources (download files or use CDs)
5) Open software (Movie Maker: Windows, Photo Story 3, or iMovie:Macintosh) and get to work!

Despite technological issues, Dr. Schul has found that the inclusion of Desktop Documentaries in the classroom attracts a wide range of learning styles, and extends discourse of the community of inquiry.  His goal with the documentaries is "To get students to make their own History".

SESSION EIGHT: Dr. David McClough; Adam Smith & Capitalism

Date: February 9th, 2011

Location: Dicke Forum

Time: 7:00 P.M.

  Dr. David McClough
  PhD - University of Southern California

Summary:  Wednesday, February 9th, 2011, Dr. McClough presented a fairly entertaining, albeit historically inaccurate discussion concerning Adam Smith and his economic principles.  Dr. McClough structured his talk to mirror the interests of people involved in the social sciences.  By providing historical context like the intellectual, political, and economic climates surrounding Adam Smith, McClough showed how Smith came to the economic conclusions for which he is famous.  Mcclough also presented Adam Smith as a controversial figure, and he attempted to determine whether Smith was an extreme radical, or a conservative.  Dr. McClough allowed historians to see into the life of Smith: his biographical information, contributions to humanity, and his legacy.  He showed the cause and affect of technology and innovations, as well as the emergence of the merchant class and physiocrats.  Through Dr. McClough's colorful presentation of Smith and the concepts of capitalism, attendees gained impressive insights into the life of a man who altered the accepted rules of economics for the better.

To access the recording of this session, click here.

Session NINE: Dr. Kofi Nsia-Pepra: Rwanda & Sierra Leone, Case for Robust Peacekeeping
Date: March 16th, 2011
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: Dicke Forum


Dr. Kofi Nsia-Pepra

Ph. D, Political Science, Wayne State University 2009
LLM, International Law, Essex University (UK)
BA, Political Sci., University of Cape Coast (Ghana)

Summary:  Dr. Kofi Nsia-Pepra began his argument for robust peacekeeping on Wednesday, March 26th, by explaining his personal experiences in Rwanda and Sierra Leone.  Before Nsia-Pepra became a professor, he spent some time serving as a United Nations peacekeeper.  He described his missions in Rwanda and Sierra Leone and the atrocities he witnessed in both places.  He also described his frustration at being unable to help the citizens suffering around him due to UN traditional peacekeeping training and restrictions.

Nsia-Pepra enumerated what traditional UN peacekeepers were allowed to do during their missions.  With all forms of traditional peacekeeping, like multi-dimensional and observer missions, peacekeepers were usually brought in in small forces with either no arms, or small rifles.  Furthermore, they were not allowed to use force for any reason other than self defense.  So as citizens were suffering from major human rights violations, the peacekeepers could take no forceful actions to protect them and aid in trying to achieve peace.

This is why, Nsia-Pepra explained, there is a need for robust peacekeeping in the world.  He defines robust peacekepping as large operations with many UN peacekeepers, participation of the UN's major powers, heavy arms (e.g. tanks), and the ability to protect citizens as well as oneself.  While there are critics of robust peacekeeping, Nsia-Pepra had very strong arguments for its usage and success in the field.

To view Dr. Nsia-pepra's talk, click here.