Every semester in my Introduction to Sociology courses, I offer students the option of completing the standard course assignments (midterm exam, final exam, memoir paper, reading quizzes) or undertaking a more comprehensive challenge: envisioning an alternative to current economic systems. This assignment encourages students to challenge hegemonic ideas of the economy to develop a new theory of how to run a functional society. Here is the assignment in more detail:
Envisioning Alternatives to Capitalism, Socialism and Capitalism
The goal with this assignment is for students to envision an alternative economic system that would benefit all human beings, as well as the planet more broadly.
It is required that students engage with sociology through the process of this activity. They must set up an awareness of the current economic systems (capitalism, socialism, communism), their weaknesses and strengths, using course material. In the process of developing an alternative model the other social problems discussed in class (gender inequality, racial inequality, crime, health inequality, educational inequality, food and the environment, etc) must also be considered. It is expected that course readings be used (and cited) in this project.
The product can take many forms, not limited to the following suggestions: essay, charts, presentation, artwork, video, or a combination thereof. However, in order to get credit as a replacement for other coursework, it must be of high quality.
It is my vision that there will be some “back and forth” between student and professor over the course of the semester. Perhaps the student would present ideas in some form, send it for professor feedback, and add more material as the course continues.
To recap, the student must:
1) Engage with course material about the current economic systems of:
2) Present the strengths and weaknesses of the current models, as explained in the class readings. This would include issues related to:
- Gender Inequality
- Racial Inequality
- Crime and Punishment
- Health Inequality
- Educational Inequality
- Food and the Environment
3) Develop a well thought out alternative that would provide solutions to the aforementioned problems.
The final draft will be due on the final exam date, but students should present different elements of the project over the course of the semester.
This semester I have my first student taking the challenge. I’ll keep you posted on how the project goes!