Literary Devices: Teaching Social Contract Theory with A Short Story

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2 Scopus citations


Teaching the social contract tradition to students can be frustrating. Works by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau may seem arcane, abstract, or irrelevant to students. Yet, it is important for students to think about what processes or mechanisms would make consent and dissent legitimate. To address this problem, this paper explains how to use a short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” to examine the procedures of obtaining consent and of engaging in dissent. This paper includes: a plot summary, two paths for integrating “Omelas” into syllabi, and a number of practical tools to use in the classroom, including discussion questions, learning objectives, and a classroom activity. After reading it, you should be able to decide if “Omelas” would be a good addition to your syllabus and, if so, how to use it in your classroom.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)554-566
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Political Science Education
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - 2021


  • Active learning
  • Citizenship
  • critical thinking
  • undergraduate education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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