I need help. I’m teaching an experiment course next term that will be a semester-long constitutional convention. It’s not a plug-n-play simulation, and I’m not telling the students how to run it. Their first task will be to create their own organizational structure and rules of procedure, then work on devising a constitution. I don’t really care if they complete the task (it’s almost better if they don’t, so they better understand that it’s not a simple thing to do), because the primary purposes are to 1) get them thinking about various ways of designing governing structures, and 2) to develop organizational and problem-solving skills.
(I have been thinking a lot lately about how to save the liberal arts from the growing preference for pre-professional education and disdain for the supposed “want fries with that” majors. I think the evidence shows that the liberal arts are a good training ground for business careers, but we liberal arts folks don’t do a good job of selling that point or of consciously building into our classes the skills employers need.)
To make the simulation more demanding and to try to prevent them from immediately coalescing around a reformulation of the U.S. Constitution, I am assigning students particular states to represent, with each state having different interests. I am using Will Truman’s Trumanverse map for this.
What I’m looking for is a set of variables on which to distinguish the states, to give them divergent interests in the constitutional design. I’d like to have about 10, to keep the complexity manageable. I’m looking for variables that can be treated as binary (e.g., rural/urban), or at the most complex, marked as mixed. Of course all of them should have political significance. I have some in mind, of course, but I’ve found that crowd-sourcing things like this is a great way to reveal really good ideas I might overlook.
[P.S. Now that I’ve finished the mad dash to prepare my file for review (I had 4 weeks instead of the usual 4 months, which is fine, but hectic) I’ll soon post the next installment in the Presidency course.]