Sunday, June 17, 2007

Project On Liberty

Last summer I had to take a technical writing course during summer school at DePaul University's Loop campus to fulfill an English requirement. I didn't take the course very seriously, it kinda reminded me of high school English classes which is a depressing thought, but one project caught my attention and excited my entrepreneurial nerve. The final project in the two hour, dry, attendance mandatory session was to compose a draft proposal for presentation to your boss at work. We were to focus on a proposal that offered a potential improvement in how the office managed itself, how internal operations could be run more efficiently.

As a student and employee in the Political Science Department at DePaul I had grown frustrated with the way teachers conducted and facilitated the seminar styled class, in which participation was not only encouraged but required. Professors cannot remove their personal biases from the discussion, and frankly I think this is a good thing and should not be considered harmful because believe it or not, college students actually think for themselves. However, they do not always have the confidence to speak their mind because of the intimidated and lopsided nature of the classroom discussion.

Many politically inclined students may avoid the classes because a particular professor and his/her bastion of bloodsucking sheep posing as classmates. This leads to much of the disinterest and avoidance of political discussion and political expression, which leads to marginalization. It also leads to suppression of ideas that might of been worth realizing.

That was what inspired me to choose for my proposal an extension of the political science educational dynamic, which I decided to call Project On Liberty because of the inspiration I derived from John Stuart Mill's masterpiece work in political theory, On Liberty.

You can view the proposal exactly as I handed it in to my professor and subsequently sent to the Chairman of the Political Science Department, Dr. Michael Budde by visiting the public web page I created for it using Google Docs and Spreadsheets (which was at the heart of this blogs inaugural post). It serves as a good example of what Google Docs can offer as a substitute for other word processing solutions.

Below I have included the email I attached to the proposal when I send it to Dr. Budde. I got the impression that I was being dismissed, so judge for yourself the merits of my proposal. I think it cut to the heart of what is wrong with political education in American universities today.

Dr. Budde,

I hope you had an enjoyable and relaxing summer vacation, I am sure you are anxious to get back to work!

I spent my vacation in summer school, though I have had a lot of time to plan future projects and I am very excited about many of my ideas. I am writing this morning to share one of the ideas I had while working on an assignment for ENG 204- Technical Writing, and which was inspired by your Capstone class last spring. During the first few weeks of your class we focused largely on university education and alternative learning methods, and after reflecting for a few weeks about what was lacking from my college experience I realized that modern educators have failed to take advantage of and adopt recently popularized weblog and social networking Internet applications. As and
consume the attention of college students around the country, academia has (with few exceptions) missed the boat when it comes to integrating web publishing tools as an extension to typical classroom dialogue.

The attached proposal is an unedited copy of the final draft of an assignment which called for a proposal to compose technical instructions. It is far less ambitious than the ideas I have developed since I first wrote it, but rather than attempt to write a new proposal I have decided to just send the original to give you a general idea of the idea and discuss any specifics if you have any interest.

It is my hope to build this idea into a entrepreneurial venture and I have already reserved the web address , though I have not purchased server space in hopes of earning permission to use the Depaul server as a hosting location. I would like to apply for any grants the LAS department offers that may pertain to this type of project, as well as the entrepreneurial program and any other possible sources of funding you suggest.

I may be getting my hopes up, but I really believe this idea could add a new dimension to political science education at universities across the country. I can understand if you are busy or simply not interested, but if you are interested in meeting to discuss this further I would really appreciate the opportunity. I am available whenever you can make time, and would be willing to come in as early as this afternoon. I hope to get the ball rolling on this project ASAP, so I am excited to hear back from you!


Brian T. Edwards


Hi Brian:

Thanks for your note – your project sounds like an interesting undertaking of interest to many different groups and interests.

I’m afraid we have no funds for what you’re proposing at the departmental level; you might try the entrepreneurship program in the College of Commerce in case it has some undergraduate initiatives or resources that might apply.

I hope all else is well with you; best of luck with the fall term.


Michael L. Budde, Ph.D.
Professor and Chairman
Department of Political Science
Professor, Program in Catholic Studies
DePaul University
990 W. Fullerton Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614-2458
(773) 325-1974
Fax: (773) 325-7337

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