PSCI 410
Senior Seminar in American Politics: Civic Education in America Spring 2013
Division II
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Despite the fact that, according to a recent poll by the National Constitution Center, 8 in 10 Americans believe that democratic government requires an informed and active citizenry, fewer than 4 in 10 can name the three branches of the federal government. Whether or not we regard this particular encyclopedic fact as especially important, few disagree with the idea that, when it comes to politics and citizenship, Americans are an ill-informed people. But what exactly would we want Americans to know more about? And how exactly might we get them to learn it? Taking these questions as its starting points, this senior seminar will tackle the state of civic education in America — its promise and its pitfalls, its past iterations and its practice in contemporary times. In the first half of the semester, we will look closely at a series of debates about the goals, substance, and effect of civic education, including whether (and why) we should want it, what exactly it can and should look like (perhaps looking to civic education in other nations for meaningful points of comparison), and what sorts of effects it may have on citizens individually and the polity at large. In the second half of the semester, we will seek to put what we have learned into action, with students selecting a particular subject (an institution, a value, a process) and developing a civic education curriculum around it for introduction at several distinct grade levels in local schools. Embodying the idea that you never know something as thoroughly and meaningfully as you might until you have taught it, this seminar will seek simultaneously to deepen our own civic knowledge and practices and to cultivate more meaningful knowledge and practices in others.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 13
Class#: 3573
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: one or two short essays, class participation, and a multi-part experiential project culminating in a class presentation and a 15- to 20-page paper
Prerequisites: senior standing in Political Science or permission of the instructor
Enrollment Preferences: senior (and then junior) Political Science majors concentrating in American Politics
Distributions: Division II
Attributes: PSCI American Politics Courses

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