Map showing potential invasion route
Tension in the Taiwan Strait
Introduction
The senior seminar serves as a capstone for the General Education program at North Central and provides students with the opportunity to apply the skills they have developed through their liberal arts education in the context of an interdisciplinary theme or problem chosen by the instructor. In this section of the class, we will engage in a role-playing game in order to develop potential responses to the ongoing tensions between the People’s Republic of China (hereafter referred to as China) and the Republic of China (hereafter Taiwan), which many fear could produce the spark that leads to World War III.
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Assignments
Assignments
 
 
Your final grade will ultimately depend on my assessment of your performance in each of the above areas, though the following descriptions should provide you with a rough idea of the defining characteristics of students within particular grade ranges:
 
AConsistently demonstrates a deep understanding of the major concepts and themes of the course, develops insights into their broader significance, and maintains a high level of intellectual engagement in class discussions.
BDemonstrates a serious commitment to the course and a strong grasp of the major concepts and themes but with less depth and/or consistency than the “A” student.
CDemonstrates a basic grasp of the course material as well as a reasonable effort to attend class and participate in discussions.
DDemonstrates a minimal commitment to the course and a weak grasp of basic concepts and themes.
FFails to demonstrate an acceptable degree of effort in the course through low attendance, inability to discuss basic concepts and themes, missed assignments and/or plagiarized work.

Please note that using ChatGPT or a similar AI tool can be a helpful way to generate ideas, though their use may stifle the development of your own independent thinking and creativity. Moreover, presenting material that was generated by such tools as your own work (for example, cutting and pasting such content without citing the source) is PLAGIARISM. To avoid plagiarizing — and the consequences of violating the College’s academic dishonesty policy — you should (1) submit material that is in your voice and based on your analysis and understanding of the topic; and (2) cite all sources — including AI software — when using content that you did not generate. Violations will be dealt with according to the college’s policy on Academic Honesty.
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woman shooting an arrow at a target
Learning Outcomes
By the end of the course, you should be able to:
 
1. communicate effectively using various modes of expression
2. evaluate information and approaches to complex problems
3. collaborate effectively with others from diverse backgrounds
4. demonstrate personal and social responsibility in various contexts
 
Student work for this course may be randomly selected for program assessment with identifying information will be removed. Your grade for this course will not be affected in any way, but if you do not want your coursework to be included in program assessment, please let me know.
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hands in the air (representing participation)
Class Attendance & Participation (25%)
The senior seminar is intended to help you apply the skills that you have developed through a liberal arts education by engaging in an interdisciplinary problem-solving exercise with your entire class. Given the collective nature of this work, your individual participation is essential for the success of our attempt to develop potential responses to the China-Taiwan conflict. Toward this end, you will receive 15% for simply coming to class — though you will lose 2% for each unexcused absence over the course of the semester. You will also receive a 10% participation mark that will reflect your ability to demonstrate that you have made a sincere attempt to read and understand the assigned material, engage in class discussions, and contribute to the development of responses to the China-Taiwan conflict.
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Map of China and Taiwan with RPG dice
The Role-Playing Game
In order to develop potential responses to the China-Taiwan conflict, we will engage in a role-playing game in which the entire class will function as the “State Department Advisory Committee on China-Taiwan Relations.” In the first half of the course, I (in my role as Committee Chair) will provide a general overview of the historical context that led to the conflict; in the second half of the course, you (as members of the advisory committee) will present “white papers” (reports that are intended to help readers understand an issue or solve a problem) on various aspects of the conflict. Toward the end, the committee will be divided into five groups, each of which will focus on one of the following areas: U.S.-China Relations, International Law, Negotiating a Settlement, Geopolitical Implications, and Military Preparations. Each group will develop a presentation to brief the rest of the committee on the particular issues associated with their area of specialization. After all groups have completed their presentations, the committee will have a final session to draft an Advisory Report on China-Taiwan Relations (which will be read by the President of the United States). The report should include concise statements summarizing the committee’s conclusions with regard to each of the five areas of focus as well as a final recommendation for the future direction of U.S. policy on the China-Taiwan conflict. In drafting this final section of the report, the committee should consider the following questions:
 
Should we continue to support the status quo (i.e., leaving the status of Taiwan unresolved, which has been the official U.S. position since the Shanghai Communique of 1972)? Should we push for a negotiated settlement in order to prevent a possible invasion (which could potentially lead to WWIII)? And in either case, how should we respond if the Chinese do initiate an attack on Taiwan? More specifically, if China attacks Taiwan, should the U.S.
 
(i) declare war on China and immediately enter the conflict,
(ii) support Taiwan’s efforts without formally entering the conflict (as we have done in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine), or
(iii) focus on diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict without providing concrete military assistance to Taiwan (such as weapons, military intelligence, and tactical support)?
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White Paper
Group Presentation image
White Paper
Group Presentations (25%) & White Papers (25%)
Although the first half of the course will be primarily dedicated to helping the class develop a general understanding of the historical context of the conflict, each class session will include time for groups to work on their presentation. As Committee Chair, I will spend time advising each group, but it is ultimately up to the group to decide how to research their topic, which “white papers” to write, who will write them, and how they will present their findings to the rest of the committee. Generally speaking, each student in the group is expected to give a presentation on the white paper that they wrote, though other approaches to the group presentation are possible with the permission of the Committee Chair (Professor Hoffert). To get you started, here are some initial questions to explore for each group:
 
Group 1: U.S.-China Relations
Is China a global “superpower” — and if not, under what conditions would it become one? How would you characterize the current political and economic relationship between the U.S. and China? Should the U.S. work to preserve the status quo or if changes are desired, what are they and how should they be pursued?
"group" icon
Group 2: International Law
What is the current legal status of Taiwan? Does China have a legitimate claim to Taiwan? Does Taiwan have a legitimate claim to independence?
"group" icon
Group 3: Negotiating a Settlement
What are the potential options for a negotiated settlement? How would each option affect U.S. interests? Should we push for negotiations now in order to avoid an invasion in the future or maintain the status quo while using soft power to achieve our desired goals?
"group" icon
Group 4: Geopolitical Implications
How would China’s annexation of Taiwan or the establishment of Taiwan’s independence affect the political and economic interests of China, Taiwan, and the United States? How would each outcome affect global politics and economics more generally?
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Group 5: Military Preparations
Is China militarily prepared to take Taiwan? Is Taiwan prepared to defend against a Chinese invasion? How should the United States respond if Taiwan is invaded?
 
White papers should be a minimum of 1000 words and must include references to at least three sources, one of which must be The Chinese Invasion Threat (the only required text for this course); citations may be in whatever style is typically used in your major. Students will receive a unique grade for the white paper that they write, but the entire group will receive the same grade for the group presentation, so it will be important for you to work as a team and for each member to pull their own weight. And remember, this is a cooperative effort, not a competition, so feel free to work with other groups. For more details, see the “Group Presentation” and “White Paper” rubrics below.
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team at the top of a mountain (representing victory)
Winning the Game?
Since this is a team effort, there will be no individual winners; rather, “winning” will be defined in terms of the overall success of the committee’s efforts to produce high-quality recommendations for U.S. policy with regard to the China-Taiwan conflict. Accordingly, the entire committee will receive a “victory point” for each group that earns a grade of 90% or higher on their presentation and the results of the game will be characterized as follows:
 
0 Victory Points: The president was disappointed by the report and will look to other experts to determine the future direction of U.S. policy on the China-Taiwan conflict.
1 Victory Point: The president is impressed with parts of the report but will consider other perspectives before determining the future direction of U.S. policy on the China-Taiwan conflict.
2 Victory Points: The president is impressed with much of the report and will seriously consider its conclusions before determining the future direction of U.S. policy on the China-Taiwan conflict.
3 Victory Points: The president is quite impressed with the report and will use it as a framework for developing U.S. policy on the China-Taiwan conflict.
4 Victory Points: The president is extremely impressed with the report and will use it to redefine U.S. policy on the China-Taiwan conflict.
5 Victory Points: The president is deeply impressed with the report and decides to adopt it as U.S. policy on the China-Taiwan conflict.
 
In addition to winning the president’s gratitude and respect, all members of the committee will receive a 1% bonus for each victory point earned.
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"Liberal Arts"
Personal Reflection on the Liberal Arts (25%)
After finishing the role-playing game, we will turn our attention to the ultimate purpose of the course, which is to help you reflect on the value of the liberal arts education you received at North Central College. Your 1000-word paper should include responses to the following questions:
 
What is a “liberal arts” education?
Which specific aspects of the education you received at North Central embody the “liberal arts” principle?
How did your liberal arts education help you develop potential responses to the China-Taiwan conflict?
How do you anticipate using your liberal arts skills to achieve your post-graduation goals (personal and/or professional)?
 
Your paper should provide references to at least three sources, which may be cited using the style that is typically used in your major. For more details, see the “Personal Reflection on the Liberal Arts” rubric below.
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picture of texts
Easton, Ian. The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia. Manchester, United Kingdom: Eastbridge Books, 2019. (CIT)
Additional readings are available by clicking the links on the web syllabus.
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Sign saying "the teacher is in"
Virtual Office Hours & Contact Information
My virtual office hours (via Zoom) and contact information are:
Monday/Wednesday/Friday 10:30-11:30  ●  Thursday 4:00-5:00    Friday (Tea/Talk) 4:30-5:30
bhoffert@noctrl.edu  ●  brianhoffert.com
 
Rubric's Cube
“White Paper” Rubric

 

Unsatisfactory
0 - .69

Good
.70-.79

Very Good
.80-.89

Exceptional
.90-1.0

MARK

LENGTH

<750
words
750-1000
words
1000-1250
words
>1250
words
2.5%

STYLE

Ideas are poorly expressed with substantial spelling and/or grammar issues

Ideas are adequately expressed but there are many stylistic errors

Ideas are clearly expressed with some stylistic errors

Ideas are eloquently expressed with very few stylistic errors

2.5%

REFERENCES

There are no references to relevant sources

There are references to less than 3 credible sources that minimally support the paper’s thesis

There are references to at least 3 credible sources (including the course text) that appropriately support the paper’s thesis

There are well-chosen and skillfully used references to at least 4 credible sources (including the course text)

5%

CONTENT

The paper shows little understanding of the issues that are relevant to the China-Taiwan conflict

The paper shows minimal understanding of the issues that are relevant to the China-Taiwan conflict

The paper appropriately explores an issue that is relevant to the China-Taiwan conflict

The paper develops an insightful perspective on an issue that is relevant to the China-Taiwan conflict

15%

TOTAL





25%

 
Rubric's Cube
“Group Presentation” Rubric

 

Unsatisfactory
0 - .69

Good
.70-.79

Very Good
.80-.89

Exceptional
.90-1.0

MARK

INDIVIDUAL LENGTH

<5
minutes
5-6
minutes
7-8
minutes
9-10
minutes
2.5%

INDIVIDUAL DELIVERY

There was a significant problem in the presentation

The content was simply read and there was little eye contact and/or poor body language

The conmtent was clearly presented with good eye contact, body language, etc.

Strong presentation skills resulted in a high level of audience engagement

2.5%
INDIVIDUAL MEDIA

No audio-visual aids were used to enhance the presentation

The content was minimally enhanced by a PowerPoint (or similar) presentation

The content was significantly enhanced by a PowerPoint (or similar) presentation

The content was greatly enhanced by a creative PowerPoint (or similar) presentation

5%

INDIVIDUAL CONTENT

The presentation does not express a coherent perspective on the China-Taiwan conflict

The presentation identifies a relevant issue and expresses a coherent position

The presentation develops a thoughtful perspective on a relevant issue

The presentation develops an insightful perspective on a significant issue

10%

OVERALL COHESION

There was no apparent connection between the individual components of the presentation

There was some attempt to connect the individual components of the presentation

There was a clear connection between the individual components of the presentation

The group created a highly cohesive presentation on their assigned topic

5%

TOTAL

Note: marks for the first four categories will be an average of each member’s individual score while the mark for “overal cohesion” will be based on the group’s presentation as a whole.

25%

 
Rubric's Cube
“Personal Reflection on the Liberal Arts” Rubric

 

Unsatisfactory
0 - .69

Good
.70-.79

Very Good
.80-.89

Exceptional
.90-1.0

MARK

LENGTH

<750
words
750-1000
words
1000-1250
words
>1250
words
2.5%

STYLE

Ideas are poorly expressed with substantial spelling and/or grammar issues

Ideas are adequately expressed but there are many stylistic errors

Ideas are clearly expressed with some stylistic errors

Ideas are eloquently expressed with very few stylistic errors

2.5%

REFERENCES

There are no references to relevant sources

There are references to less than 3 credible sources

There are references to at least 3 credible sources that appropriately support the paper’s thesis

There are well-chosen and skillfully used references to at least 4 credible sources

5%

CONTENT

The paper shows little understanding of the liberal arts and its relevance to education

There is an attempt to define the liberal arts and reflect on its significance to their education, the game, and their future goals

The concept of a liberal arts education is clearly defined with thoughtful reflections on their education, the game, and their future goals

There is an insightful reflection on a liberal arts education and how it has impacted their education, the game, and their future goals

15%

TOTAL





25%

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