| American Political Controversies
Y100 | 3268 | Hoffman
In American politics today political controversies are seriously
debated mostly by elites - rich, powerful, and well-educated individuals
who occupy posts in the government, the media, big business or elsewhere in
the policy "establishment." The majority of citizens catch only glimpses
of these ongoing debates, and understand very little of what they do see.
Yet the political decisions made in the course of these elite contests have
tremendous effects on everyone in the country. They determine what
citizens can or cannot legally do with their own bodies (what they can eat,
smoke, drink, wear, etc.), what ideas and values their minds are going to be
exposed to, and even who will or will not be counted as a citizen in the
This course is not going to turn students into elites. It will not
make you rich and famous, or even completely well-educated. It will,
however, seek to educate you somewhat by increasing your political literacy
- your grasp of the terms and ideas that make up the shared vocabulary of
the elites who run this country. Students will become politically literate
by finding out who this elite is, by following discussions of political
issues in "establishment" media (required reading will include the
Washington Post Weekly), and by looking at how the controversies are
packaged in media aimed at the mass public.
Throughout the ten weeks of this course we will talk about the
stream of current events and the personalities behind them. We will also
take time to look at some issues that remain current even as the day-to-day
news changes: how different ideologies clash in our system, how the media
works, and how our system deals with conflict. While the course will
include some lecture, it will also feature smaller group discussion, guest
speakers, and video presentations.
This course assumes no prior knowledge of politics or political
science. A curiosity about politics and about the media will help greatly,
as will a willingness to examine your own views and to engage with others in
some discussions about politics.
Y100 may be repeated once for credit for different topics; however,
political science majors may count the course only once for credit in the
major. The course is especially geared to non-majors.