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Democracy and Crisis: Freedom, Security and Emergency Politics

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Course DatesWeeksMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRN
July 14, 2014 - July 25, 20142M-F 9A-11:50AOpenMatthew Lyddon10656

Course Description

Wiretapping. Airport security screening. Evacuations. Financial bailouts. In these and many other ways, our regular ways of democratic life are disrupted when a crisis looms. But what happens to individual freedom and the accountability of government to its citizens when the red alert siren goes off?

How can (and should) we "as citizens, future policymakers and leaders" think about and shape our politics and public debate to ensure our best chance of staying both free and safe?

This question will organize our studies and discussions in the class. Students will become familiar with basic democratic values and dilemmas drawn from political theory and constitutional law, and will explore historical and current cases (possibilities include the post 9/11 period, Hurricane Katrina and the 2008 financial crisis). The class will employ a dynamic mix of group discussions, class presentations, viewings of documentary, news and drama clips, research and reflective writing challenges, a mini college-paper and a mock conference project.

Students will achieve a concrete understanding of the stakes involved when liberal democratic political institutions and rights protections are challenged by crises, magnifying the ever-present need for strong, decisive leadership to potentially destabilizing proportions. They will also develop and enhance their reading, research and critical thinking skills. In particular, students completing the course will leave with a strengthened set of skills for making sense of current affairs and global issues, forming and defending arguments, and planning and writing a successful college paper.

The class will support and stimulate further study in the fields of democratic theory and constitutional law, and more generally in subject areas such as government/political science, public service, negotiation and public speaking, and also aims to encourage interest in civic participation among students.

Students should have taken generic high school classes in government and/or politics such that they have a familiarity with the concept of democracy, the general structure and institutions of democratic government (largely in the US). Some experience of reading, interpreting, analyzing and discussing texts in a humanities/social-science discipline is advised. Specific knowledge or experience in history, media studies, public speaking and experience in debate would also be helpful though not essential. Students should be able to produce short research assignments and be familiar with the requirements of a standard 5-page research paper and should be prepared to develop their presentational and public speaking skills and confidence.