PS 460: The Constitution and American Political Thought (University of Wisconsin – Madison, Spring 2022)

In this course, we will explore the birth, development, crises, and adaptations of the American constitutional order, from the Founding in 1776 through the Civil Rights Movement of the twentieth century. We will study the ideas, commitments, and contradictions that first formed the Constitution and those that animated its later development. Themes will include liberty, power, justice, republicanism, community, equality, and race. In particular, we will focus on the Founding, Lincoln and the Civil War, the Progressives, and the Civil Rights Movement. We will also explore the role of American constitutional theory within the broader tradition of Western political thought.

PS 470: The First Amendment (University of Wisconsin – Madison, Fall 2020, Spring 2021)

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Together, we explore the history, meaning, and interpretation of these forty-five words, from their ratification in 1791 to their relevance in 2021, with a particular emphasis on freedom of speech and religion. We will ask what the First Amendment meant when it was ratified, what the Supreme Court has interpreted it to mean throughout history, and what we think it ought to mean today. In a constructive way, we will evaluate timely conflicts between free speech and hate speech, social media and public discourse, and religious religious liberty and anti-discrimination.

ILS 200: Critical Thinking and Expression, Arguments in Political Rhetoric (University of Wisconsin – Madison, Spring 2021)

In this course, students study the arts of critical thinking and expression through the arguments of famous political speeches. We observe critical thought and persuasion “in action” by reading, rehearsing, scrutinizing, and imitating some of the greatest speeches in our collective heritage. By engaging an array of speeches meant to inspire, provoke, contest, and transform their audiences, we learn the principles of what constitutes an effective argument. In addition, we will practice drafting, delivering, and arguing speeches of our own creation and will examine the relationship between arguments that seek truth and arguments that seek to persuade. Finally, we will examine threats to critical thinking, including limitations on free speech and the tyranny of majority opinion.