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Deconstructing the European Union: Making the Complex Accessible to Students

Elizabeth Sheppard, Sophie Enos-Attali

The European Union, its institutions, how it works, its policies, each of which are the consequence of individual decision making processes and a particular history, are not easily accessible intellectually. This is all the more true for university students. This complexity represents a true challenge intellectually and pedagogically for teachers in the classroom. How can integration and its consequences, decision-making processes, Europeanization, cognitive transfers be explained to and above all UNDERSTOOD by students? These specificities are all the more difficult when compared to other international organizations since the EU is based fundamentally on a varying mix of intergovernmental relations and supranational institutions. Whether it is a law student or a political science student, these terms and the processes behind them are a challenging task. Our own personal experience has taught us that deconstruction of the European Union is necessary in permitting students to grasp the inner workings of the European Union and the attached vocabulary.How does one intellectually deconstruct in order to make the intellectual reality accessible to undergraduates unfamiliar with the European?Based on our own teaching experiences, our analysis proposes on the one hand to look at the real challenges involved including but not limited to questions of comparison (is it appropriate to compare to more familiar systems and vocabulary or does this hinder a real understanding). With a non-exhaustive list of challenges laid out, we look at the possibilities offered for teaching the European Union and helping students wrap their minds around the complexity of the EU and own the knowledge. The options for teachers include the use of metaphors or new activities to "help the medicine" go down.

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