It's a Conspiracy

A collage of photos representing various conspiracy theories in recent American history.

What the course catalog says:

This course seeks to promote critical thinking through an examination of conspiracy theories (and some actual verified conspiracies) in American and world politics. Cases to be examined may include September 11, one or more assassinations, and the 1953 coup in Iran. In addition, students will investigate and evaluate on their own a conspiracy not covered in class.

What the professor says:

I have always been amazed by how many people believe conspiratorial theories about politics, especially those that can't be true because the conspiracy would have to involve too many people. The goal of the course is to promote critical thinking, not only about conspiracy theories but about politics generally. At the same time, there are real conspiracies, so I'm trying to teach students how to analyze evidence rather than assuming that a theory is true or false based on what it sounds like or how they feel about the people involved.

Michael Engelhardt, professor of political science

What the students say:

Before this course, I had never written a research paper at the college level. This turned out to be the most challenging and rewarding part of the course, because after completion of my paper, I felt fulfilled, that through my research I came to a logical conclusion and knew a great deal about a specific topic in history. 

The thing that I will take away from the course is the ability to critically analyze a theory, whether it is one pertaining to a conspiracy or not. Most of the conspiracies analyzed in class turned out to be false once the facts of the situations were analyzed, leading me to be more critical of data and theories. Overall, I found the course to be fun, entertaining, and it turned out to apply to much more than just conspiracies.

—Max Uetz