By Taylor Forrest
He starts the day teaching Aristotle and political arguments made 400 years ago. The next hour he teaches about principles of criminal law in the past 30 years. Then he teaches on present day German politics.
Chris Barker, assistant professor of political science, spreads his knowledge about various topics and centuries while leading all legal studies and political science courses on campus.
Barker is finishing up his first year teaching courses that range from Principles of Criminal Law to Comparative Politics to Introduction to Political Science.
“Taking on so many different subjects and content matter spreads me pretty thin. It takes a lot of preparation and focus to acquire such a vast pool of knowledge,” said Barker. “I have to separate it all and not get lost in one subject.”
Barker is originally from Toronto and has lived in the United States since 2003. He has always known that he wanted to teach, especially in the U.S.
“I went to grad school with the idea that I was going to be an academic, and it was because of teachers that I had. It’s as simple as that,” said Barker. “But I always knew I wanted to teach in America. I have always admired their constitutional system.”
Barker is also working on two academic books. One of the books, which is close to publication, is a book about John Stuart Mills. Mills was a leading British liberal, born in 1806, who died in 1873. Mills is famous for being a leader in the harms principle. The harms principle generally states that a person can do whatever he wants and the government can’t provide restrictions as long as his actions don’t harm others. Barker’s book will be focusing on how Mills thought society should operate.
“I’m specifically interested in things like marriage, speech, religion, science, and how people form opinions and decide what they should and should not do,” said Barker.
The second book a collection of some of his published essays and the collected essays will try and assess what intellectuals do. The book will look at how intellectuals inquire, observe, and quiz in order to shape power when utilized correctly.
“It will be about the actual skills and practices that they have, and how all of these things that they do challenge power relations,” said Barker.
Southwestern is not the first place Barker has taught. Barker has also taught at Ohio University, California State University, Boston College, and Harvard University.
“While teaching at Southwestern I have encountered this tension that I have never experienced before between sports and academics,” said Barker. “I think sometimes students forget that there are better reasons to pay to go to a university rather than participate in activities such as playing sports.”
Barker also said that he is a long time defender of the education that sports can offer.
“Sports teach you to act under rules, and to take one for the team, or act as a team,” said Barker.
Cheryl Rude, chairperson for social sciences, agrees with Barker regarding sports and has talked with him on the subject several times.
“I think the presence for this tension is the size of our school,” said Rude. “While I think it can be a problem that students get over-involved, it is not all bad because they become involved with campus.”
Being such a small campus, Barker gets a range of students in his classroom.
Tim Rosproy, history junior, has taken American Politics and is currently taking Comparative politics with Barker. Rosproy, being a third year transfer with not much time or wiggle room to pick and choose classes at his will, doesn’t take Barker’s classes by choice. Although, this doesn’t deter him from enjoying them. Rosproy said that Barker’s classroom could be described as compelling, challenging, and rewarding.
“What I enjoy the most about Dr. Barker’s classes is that there is always an incentive to dig deeper,” said Rosproy. “There’s just enough self-direction there to make it feel like fun instead of work.”
Rosproy continuously wanders into Barker’s office to talk about the political aspects of current events.
“It’s interesting to me to bounce ideas off of someone who is not only well-informed and educated, but whose political views are also different from my own,” said Rosproy. “Barker is profound, avid, and humorous and it is nice to escape the political echo chambers we seem to shut ourselves into these days.”
Sometimes education takes place outside the classroom. Barker traveled with ten to 11 Principle of Criminal Law student to Wichita to observe a second degree murder trial in April. The week of the outing, their class was cancelled and it was required for students to attend the event.
If he can’t take students somewhere, he transports them back in time hundreds of years by reading straight from the works of great minds.
“If I’m teaching a class about Aristotle, I don’t want to read about him, I want to read his printed word,” said Barker. “There is nothing more important, except for great students with the ability to think for themselves, than primary sources. That’s how I teach my classes.”
Taylor Forrest is a freshman majoring in communication. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org