Everyone loves (or hates) a good 2011 Top 10 list, and they are rampant among social media and the blogosphere right now. They tend to be fun because they judge highlights from the year, all in one convenient spot, and add a dose of good memories.
Why not jump on the bandwagon and create our own class Semester Top Things list? I could go a few ways here, like Top 10 examples of Citizenship or Top 10 Moments of Debate or even Top 10 Coolest People we’ve Discussed (in my opinion, de Tocqueville is not present for this list). Well, it’s time to bust out the old syllabus and discuss: my top 10 Concepts we’ve learned this semester!
10). (and obligatory): A nice teacher creates a better learning environment. Plain and simple: how many of your other profs have shaken your hand every class period and tried to get to know you? Not many, in my experience. Not much more needs to be said about this, but it’s true. It’s easier to learn when you have respect for your teacher and actually want to know what they’re talking about.
9). Emerson is one questionable dude. I thought he was awesome, with his Dead Poet’s Society-esque lack of interest in outside affirmation and instead looking to the individual. However, it seemed as if our class thought he was full of it. Whichever way he seemed to you, it was probably pretty clear.
8) It’s no surprise Emerson and Thoreau were friends. Both were all about looking inside yourself to form your own morality and following through with that. What I got out of this class was mostly Emerson: self-reliance and nonconformity, and Thoreau: challenge conventional morality and respond to injustice. We didn’t really discuss it in class but it is pretty clear to see how they link up.
7) (Frenchman) de Tocqueville’s views of America are very relevant in a discussion of American Political Thought. Whether he was right or wrong, as an outsider he observed a lot of things about how America was supporting its democracy. He especially noticed America’s religious roots that tended to instill manners in the people, but also noticed America’s major issue in still upholding slavery.
6 ) Shklar’s rules of citizenship are debatable. Yeah, we know that you need to earn, and vote, in Shklar’s book. But is that the end-all of citizenship? What if you earn and vote and are not a citizen? What if you are a citizen, but don’t vote or earn? American Citizenship was a pretty solid book, but her argument could use a lot of expanding.
5) (Speaking of citizenship…) It is important for us to keep talking about citizenship. It seems like a concept that most of us don’t really think about, but it is pertinent to today. Several discussions, like LGBT rights, undocumented immigrants’ statuses, and global democracy/citizenship as transcending national boundaries, are all alive and well. These are very topics that we are fighting for in our generation. They need to stay alive.
4) The Lottery was crazy. Seriously, what was going on here? I know that it represented the ridiculousness of outdated customs, and there can be tyranny in a majority. Also, it was a relief to read something so short. But what was everyone’s main takeaway from this other than “?!?!?”
3) It was amazingly, insultingly ironic to have Douglass give a speech about the 4th of July. And he did it with biting wit. Maybe the abolitionists in the North thought they were so accepting by having Douglass speak as a runaway slave, about freedom. But he took the opportunity to show that sure, it was a great moment for white Americans. But for any African-American? The 4th of July as a celebration of freedom was a slap in the face.
2) T-Paine was (mostly) awesome. He was a risky revolutionary that made a real impact on American politics and history. He was also someone who I have heard and not cared about since 8th grade. Now, I realize that he seriously helped unite the colonists and pushed them to yearn for the Democratic Wish. I also realize that he wasn’t equal at all, and had big problems with Quakers and Tories, among other groups.
1) Civic Republicanism and Classic Liberalism can be applied to ANYTHING. We read and learned about these in the first few weeks of class, but the two concepts never really went away. Kemmis and Rand were so clearly opposite sides of extremes, that it was an easy way to compare the two views to all of society. Whether it was Occupy Wall Street or football players, the concepts will most likely stay with us after we leave this class.
These were just my top 10 things I learned. If anyone is rushing to comment something tonight, what were yours?