“This course is good for providing a strong, basic understanding of current events, American law, and policy.” – Carlo G. | London, England
In this course, students gain essential skills in critical thinking and written and oral argument by studying several prominent controversies in American law and society. In recent summers these have included free speech and hate speech, immigration and open borders, religious freedom and anti-discrimination law, and abolishing/defunding the police. In considering each issue, we study texts including legal cases and works in political theory so as to evaluate the meaning and relevance of key concepts such as freedom, equality, justice, autonomy, and individuality. Course materials also include book excerpts, newspaper and magazine articles, and film clips. Guest speakers from the fields of law, government, and non-profit advocacy join us to provide insights from the “front lines” of the issues under consideration. Students are encouraged to engage in serious dialogue with and pose challenging questions to these guests. Numerous public speaking exercises also help students to become more confident, trained, and effective speakers.
A primary component of the course is devoted to helping students achieve a firm grasp of the theoretical and factual arguments found in the readings, through a combination of presentations by the instructor and class discussion. Students then put these theories and facts to work in written and oral form, working both individually and in teams to construct powerful and nuanced arguments. At the end of each unit, students make arguments on various sides of each issue in structured in-class debates and other activities, marshaling ideas from the various sources so as to justify and defend their positions.
By the end of the course, participants are equipped with not only deeper knowledge of the legal and political debates surrounding various key issues but also with the tools to make, understand, critically evaluate, and communicate claims of all kinds—tools which should serve them well both in their studies and as future citizens and leaders. They come away with more developed reasoning and analytical abilities, and with improved public speaking skills.
Note: While the class focuses on issues within the United States, students from other countries should feel free to apply, as most of the arguments under consideration will also be relevant to contemporary debates in other nations.
Specific course details such as topics, activities, hours, and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.