New Prep for Fall 2018: Questions of Citizenship

Fall 2018 has been breathing down my neck really since the start of this year, knowing I’d have a brand-spanking new prep to teach that’ll be off and running no sooner than next week when the semester kicks off. The Common Good Seminar: Questions of Citizenship dives into a powerhouse reading list, which I’ve adopted thanks to Professor Kathleen Tierney, who previously taught the course. (May the teaching saints help me do justice to her syllabus). In the next fifteen weeks we’re tackling:

Kwame Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (W. W. Norton, 978-0393061550)

Aristotle, Politics
Translated by Ernest Barker, Revised by RF Stalley (Oxford University Press, 9780199538737)

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 9780679744726)

Ta Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
(Random House Publishing Group, 9780812993547)

Plato, The Trial and Death of Socrates: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Death Scene from Phaedo Edition 3 Translated by GMA Grube, Revised by John M. Cooper (Hackett Publishing Co., 9780872205543)

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Marx-Engels Reader
Robert C. Tucker, editor (Norton, WW & Company, Inc., 9780393090406)

Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 9781555976903)

Jean-Jaques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality

(Dover, 9780486434148)

Hopefully, we’ll not only be practicing Socratic Dialogues, where students should be taking responsibility for the “health and well-being” of our Seminar class and discussion, but the conversations we share should circle around and center on citizenship and, definitely in this climate, non-citizenship.

The course description reads pretty hefty:

The Common Good Seminar: Questions of Citizenship

The liberal arts were originally understood in part as the arts proper to a life of political freedom; one aim of a liberal education was to prepare students to be citizens of a free state. This course is meant to support that aim by engaging students in questions of citizenship and the common good. Where did the institution of citizenship come from? How has it evolved? Who has been included or excluded by evolving definitions of citizenship? What does it mean to be a good citizen? How can citizens best contribute to the common good? How best to understand the common good itself? How do different visions of the good entail different views of human nature? How do views of human nature underlie ideas of the most just social order? How can citizens best work for a more just society? Does the concept of citizenship imply allegiance to a particular state, or can one be a cosmopolitan “citizen of the world”? Can one balance the claims of patriotism and cosmopolitanism? How should we understand the meaning of citizenship today?

The course presents a series of texts in conversation with one another around these questions of citizenship and the common good. Through critical engagement with the readings, students will engage in these conversations on human nature, the common good, and a just social order. The current reading list examines competing claims in the Western tradition about the nature of human beings and the conditions of human existence, and explores the implications of these claims for our understanding of social justice and the ends of civic and human life. As students gain a deeper understanding of these debates, they will learn to uncover and to critically the assumptions about who we are that underlie claims about how we should live together. Moving deeper into issues of social justice, the course will look at how evolving definitions of citizenship have enfranchised and disenfranchised people in America, and how this evolution has been driven by movements of politically engaged citizens and non-citizens. The last part of the course challenges students to analyze current political issues from local and global perspectives, and to think about how citizens can best act together for social justice.

In the model of Collegiate Seminar, students will engage in the process of shared inquiry through close reading and discussion. Students will practice the skills of civil discourse necessary for politically engaged citizenship. The seminar setting itself models a type social order where students are members of a learning community with roles, rights and responsibilities to oneself and to the group. The pedagogical model of the course generates a experiential learning environment, where students wrestle with the difficult issues raised by the readings in an effort to reach a common good for the seminar.

Stay tuned and Happy Fall!

"Shyness is nice and shyness can stop you"

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