For Fall 2017, I’m looking forward to teaching as part of the GPS Program once again. This learning community combines a first-year seminar with mentorship, extra-curricular engagement, and a year-long community-based learning project. My 2017 course is called “We need to talk: Public Deliberation for Civic Renewal” and it lines up with our 2017-2018 Common Theme of Democratic Discussions. Many students this year have told me that they struggle to talk about politics and other controversial issues with even their friends and family– a problem that democratic theorists have long worried over. We’re going to read some of the core texts in democratic theory and practice their methods of “civic talk,” and research core issues that the students care about along the way.
This past spring, in American Political Thought, we worked together to put on an exhibit of cartoons from our own UWGB Archives and Area Research Center at the Cofrin Library. The exhibit was tons of fun and taught me a lot about large-scale projects in courses. We used Basecamp to collaborate; in earlier versions of the course, we’ve done a blog in WordPress because one of the shadow-goals of the course is learning and practicing useful technology.
I have been teaching our DJS Internship course, where students complete hours of work in the community and also comment on this work through a research based-public essay for medium.com– like this one, which is framed as a letter to the mayor of Green Bay.
I’m also teaching DJS 101 with my colleagues; this is our signature course, team-taught. One faculty member always organizes the course and this semester I am experimenting with more curated discussions between faculty to show the tensions between our methods, disciplines, and even political commitments. The goal of the course is to model DJS as an interdisciplinary unit where we have the space and tools to discuss contentious issues
One of my favorites to teach is American Political Thought, which explores the contributions to our understanding by American political actors, poets, and essayists. Usually, I center the course around blogs, but this semester we are doing a special version of the class linked to a speaker, Liza Donnelly. Donnelly is an editorial cartoonist, one of many ways to comment politically; we’re looking at American political thought as a tradition of weighing in on politics, from the Federalist Papers and beyond. Together, we’ll curate an exhibit of cartoons from our own campus Archives and Research Center, to be displayed at the 407 gallery on campus. We’re also exploring contemporary questions of race, class, and belonging, including in relation to the 2016 election, through books like Hillbilly Elegy, The Abolition of White Democracy, and Between the World and Me.
I just taught American Government and have been reflecting on the important place that knowledge of how the political system works is important for changing it. For example, many students favor a third party, but are unaware of the structures– like first-past-the-post– which virtually guarantee a strong two-party system. At the same time, the framework for American Government classes is often premised, just like polling, on how institutions and politicians have generally behaved, and so there were times when I was at a loss to explain national politics. However, Political Theory offers explorations of normative questions about government with many resources for reconsidering power and democratic legitimacy. Students debated heatedly whether President Trump’s administration and the proliferation of fake news, fit into the model of the Totalitarianism developed by Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism. We also revisited the legacy of the Iraq and Afghan War, which I’m starting to learn is a key political moment for many students, not only those who served. I also enjoyed teaching Gender the Law, which is an ever-evolving course that traces how the legal field produces and policies gender norms, including those related to sexuality, gender identity and expression– particularly through caselaw and activism around sexual harassment, rape, access to medical services and public facilities like bathrooms, gender discrimination in the workplace and military service.
For Fall 2017, I look forward to also teaching a First Year Seminar in the GPS Program, “We Need to Talk” explores public deliberation for civic renewal. Built in the tradition of the Civic Studies Summer Institute, this course challenges students to learn deeply about “wicked problems” that we face as a society, and then to facilitate difficult conversations about them.