Since the early 20th century, the predominant approach to teaching US students about their government has been in the form of what is known in academia as political science. This perspective is primarily (though not exclusively) concerned with educating students about the practical mechanics of government - in short, the branches of the United States political system, their differing roles and jurisdictions, electoral party politics, and so forth. This course will take a somewhat different approach, in that, while such matters will be addressed in the course, they will be taught within the broader context of Anglo-American political philosophy, history, and culture. As such, students will be provided with a crash-course on pre-revolutionary English political history, culture, and thought. Topics will include revolution from the middle ages to the 17th century, English common law, parliamentary government by consent, Enlightenment political philosophy, and other foundational concepts in Anglo-American political history, before shifting to examine how these were developed and refined within the context of the post-Revolutionary United States. The ultimate goal of this course is to show students that American government was not produced in a vacuum, but rather drew on long-standing elements of a trans-Atlantic British civilization and political tradition. Students are therefore expected to walk out of this course with not only a firm grasp of the organs of United States government, but also with a solid grounding in the cultural backdrop, history, and philosophy that has informed the American governmental system since its inception.
Course Website: United States Government
Instructor: Trevor Davis
Starts: August 31, 2020
Ends: June 11, 2021
Monday 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM ET • Wednesday 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM ET
Students will not be required to have met any specific prerequisites before taking this course, although they will be best served if they have at least some prior knowledge of American history.
This is not an AP certified course, and this course will not be geared towards specifically preparing for the AP Government and Politics Exam. The instructor hopes that the distinctive approach and content of the course will be sufficient compensation for participating students.
Textbooks and Materials
This textbook is required:Constitution of the United States of America. [Edition 1], Authors: James Madison et al.
Publisher's website: Constitution of the United States of America.
Best sources: www.usconstitution.net/xconst.html
Other information: Obviously this text is widely available, including many full-text online versions, one of which is linked here. Any version will serve, so long as the student can refer to it easily. Annotated versions, in any form, are welcome but not required. See course description for further details on course materials.
This textbook is required:Investigating American Democracy: Readings on Core Questions [Edition 1], Authors: Thomas K. Lindsay & Gary D. Glenn
Publisher's website: Investigating American Democracy: Readings on Core Questions
Best sources: Scholars Online Bookstore, publisher's website (Oxford University Press)
This textbook is required:Major Problems in American Constitutional History. Boston, MA: Wadsworth CENGAGE, 2010. [Edition 2], Authors: Kermit L. Hall and Timothy S. Heubner
Best sources: Scholars Online Bookstore
Other information: Feel free to purchase a used copy, but please ensure that it is the 2nd edition of the text.
This textbook is required:The Colonists' American Revolution: Preserving English Liberty, 1607-1783. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2019. [Edition 1], Authors: Guy Chet
Best sources: Scholars Online Bookstore, Wiley-Blackwell (Publisher)