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Course: American Civil Liberties

University of Maine

Promising Approaches

  • (1) Provide instruction in academic disciplines through the lens of government, history, law, and democracy.
  • (2) Incorporate discussion of current local, national, and international issues and events into the classroom, particularly those that young people view as important to their lives.

Overview

As a political scientist, one of my principal objectives probably best comports with the first of the eight promising approaches listed.  This is, instruction in political science aims first and foremost to have students formulate alternative frameworks for understanding government, history, law, and democracy.  In my courses and those of my colleagues, students come to understand that their coursework allows them to apply the substance of their discipline to the practical realities and problems of politics, and thereby they contribute to our democracy as scholars, citizens, and practitioners.

A good example is my American Civil Liberties course, POS 384.  Student learn about contemporary controversies in first and fourteenth amendment litigation, and also learn about the historical development of judicial doctrine in these areas.  Students must apply legal principles learned to hypothetical legal controversies and arrive at a reasoned judgment.  They come to appreciate the nature and limits of judicial reasoning, and the way in which judicial interpretation helps to structure American democracy.

Special Features

Civic Learning Goals

  • Civic Knowledge:  Recognize characteristics and actions of effective citizens; identify and describe the community in which they live; understand the principles set out in the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution’ appreciate history and the fundamental processes of American democracy.
  • Civic Skills:  Process and evaluate information for objectivity, accuracy, and point of view; apply information to effective efforts to help solve social and legal problems; develop and use critical thinking and ethical reasoning; examine structural causes of social problems and seek solutions; know how to become informed about community affairs, political issues, and the processes by which citizens effect change.
  • Civic Attitudes:  Become open to dialogue with others about different points of view; learn to tolerate ambiguity and resist simplistic answers; understand that rights and freedoms require accepting civic responsibilities; become more confident in their capacity to make a difference; foster commitment to principles of freedom and equality.

Contact Information

Dr. Timothy M. Cole
Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair
Department of Political Science
The University of Maine
233 North Stevens Hall
tmcole@maine.edu

 

Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools: Education for Democracy