Political Science 307: A Civic Republican Class

As our last class is quickly approaching, I started to reflect on what we have learned this semester. I thought about our discussion on what makes a faction and whether or not they are valuable according to Madison, Calhoun, Lincoln and Thoreau, our discussion on what makes a citizen according to Shklar, Douglas, and Tocquiville, and our analysis of Emeron’s Self-Reliance. Finally I came thought back to our first discussion about Civic Republicans and Classic Liberals. Throughout our semester we have continuously looked back to our first readings and have applied our analysis of what classifies a democracy as a Civic Republican and what makes a Classic Liberal to other authors and concepts. Since we have applied this analysis to everything else we have done in class, I felt it only fitting to look at our Political Science 307 class the same way. Would our class be classified as a Civic Republican or a Classic Liberal?

 My vote is a Civic Republican and here’s why:

I think the most important characteristic that classifies something a Civic Republican is the emphasis on a participatory government. Unlike Classic Liberals who want a hands-off my back government where politicians are responsible for doing what they think is best for society, Civic Republicans encourage all its citizens to get involved in the government. This class’s professor Jennet Kirkpatrick and GSI Justin Williams do t the same thing. They encourage all of the class’s students to participate and contribute to our lecture in one-way or another.

Our lectures in Political Science 307 are somewhat non-traditional. Rather than having a professor stand up front and lecture to the class, students contribute a large amount and the lecture is run more like a giant discussion- just like a city hall meeting. While we are all individually graded through our “In Class Writing Assignments”, our contributions to class are aimed more at helping the class’s understanding of the material than our own understanding. Through our individual comments that are made during class we help the general welfare of the class by teaching them something. Even note taking in this class is meant to help the general public of the class (by having 2-3 students take turns taking notes for the entire class).





According to Kemmis the two ingredients for a revitalization of public is are “1.) A central concern with value, with standards of excellence, with what is good and 2.) A rigorous objectivity” (123). I think that this class meets those two requirements and as result has revitalized the way a lecture should be run. Students in this class share the central concern and standards of excellence through their drive to do well in this class and this success in the class is then objectively measured through ICWAS, blog posts, essays, and attendance.

Just like the community in Kemmis’s reading was working together to build a communal barn, students in Political Science 307 work together to build a successful class in which we all understand the texts.

As we learned on the first day of class American Political Theory is all about doing and thinking, which is exactly what we have done this last semester in Political Science 307. Through our readings and personal assignments we have thought about how society should be and through our participation in lecture we have implemented these thoughts into actions.


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3 Responses to Political Science 307: A Civic Republican Class

  1. bkemeter says:

    I would definitely agree that PolSci 307 is a Civic Republican class. Every class involved some sort of discussion of the topic and lead to students trying to expand each others knowledge of the subject at hand. Students read the material on their own, but class revolved around sharing what students got out of their interpretations. A classic liberal class would be something like Econ, where individual knowledge is important and student’s grade is based on their results compared to a class. With a curve, it doesn’t really do any good to help everyone. However, in this class there is an accumulated pool of information and the more people were involved and helped expand the class’s understanding the better everyone did. The more people building the metaphorical barn and the harder they all worked, the more the class could get out of it.

    The class is a lot different than many at Michigan. I like the difference, especially for the type of subjects at hand.

  2. bjacobs25 says:

    This class is probably one of the most civic republican class on campus. As someone who has toiled away in the harsh environments of Organic Chemistry and Animal Physiology where it seems every gunner is out to “get” everyone else (no offence to anyone who may fit in that category), Polsci 307 has been a warm change. The assistance that each one of us received from the other students has been instrumental in writing these blog posts, completing our papers, and even throwing ideas out in section. Morone’s civic republican assertion is that this train of thought gets “people out of doors.” In this class, cliche as it may be, our brains were “out of doors” as we were not forced to constrain ourselves to believe or think about the material in any particular way. We were truly students, able to make our own assumptions and interpretations. One must think if Paine or Kemmis were able to sit in with us in class, they would be quite proud of the format.

  3. newbieblogster13 says:

    I’m a student at ASU with Jennet Kirkpatrick as our professor and our class is the exact same set up as the one you spoke of and I agree with you completely on your classification. The environment is just like the barn raising as everyone helps and each has their own specialty or skill to add in. I can’t say this about myself as I’m not an outspoken person and tend to remain quiet. Anyways, everyone does get to participate and it’s quite remarkable how much information people share. There is just one aspect that I’m not particularly fond of yet love at the same time and that is that the fact that there is no set structure. Normally, when a person has a conflict with a teacher, the teacher explains and tries to “set the mind straight” with little arguing. However, this class allows arguments between teacher and student and student against student. This concept I love but if there is a particular idea the whole class doesn’t like, they single out the person. It’s wonderful to see a person stand their ground but if they can’t, they go through the pressure of the group to conform or be seen as arrogant. This suppression of the group reminds me of tyranny of the majority which can occur with an open classroom like such as this one and that’s the concept I dislike.

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