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UE: POL 110-HA: Democracy in Troubled Times: Course Introduction

Practical Instruction in Civic Discourse

About This Course -- Revolution Now! Democracy in Troubled Times

POL110 HA -- Revolution Now! Democracy in Troubled Times

Saint Leo University catalogue course description

This course explores the rise and spread of democracy world-wide.  Democracy as a form of government and social movement will be traced from its ancient origins in Greece and Rome to the American and French Revolutions of the 18th Century, through its evolution and diffusion during the 19th and 20th Centuries, to its position of global dominance at the beginning of the 21st Century.  Democratic values, norms, and behaviors will be examined through the use of historic video footage and core texts. Attention will focus on governmental systems in the U.S.A., Western Europe, BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), and our neighbors Canada and Mexico, as well as on emerging democracies in the Middle East and Asia. Acquiring basic academic and critical thinking skills will be emphasized, as students are awakened to the significance of world historical events and the excitement of following current affairs.

Purpose of this course

Simply stated, the purpose of this course is to teach civic discourse.  The topics to be debated revolve around the historical evolution of democratic ideas, the spread of democratic beliefs, and ascendancy of democratic forms of governments around the world. The characteristics of democracy have often come to light during periods of stress and crisis.  It is to these troubled times that we will turn our attention, as indicated by the course title.  Although the future of democracy remains uncertain and its opponents vociferous and often violent, neither will democratic regimes survive nor democratic ideas flourish unless each successive generation is awakened to the values and traditions of democratic life, which include rational discourse and informed questioning on all relevant political, socio-cultural, and economic issues. With this course, each student will learn how open and robust political deliberations -- connecting core values to critical thinking -- must precede all responsible decision-making in todays' democratic governments and grass-roots movements. <See the Saint Leo University QEP.>

Instructional techniques used in this course

  • Flipping the Classroom
  • Online Academic Research and Evaluation of Internet Source Material
  • Critical Viewing of Multi-Media
  • Deep Reading of Core Texts
  • Responsive & Reflective Journaling
  • Composing Position Papers - i.e., Writing Across the Curriculum
  • Enriched Civic Discourse:  Synchronous (Debate) and Asynchronous (Message Boards)

All of these fall into the category of assessable Active Learning Practices.

Copyright © 2013 - Hudson Reynolds, Ph.D

LibGuide Table of Contents -- Course Module Summaries

From the historical origins of democracy to the most recent events impacting democratic regimes


Required Texts

The Problem with Textbooks -- Quotations to live by

I think one of the problems with textbooks is just this: textbooks almost have to adopt to a kind of Biblical tone and posture. They have to suggest to you that there are a set of rubrics and frameworks that are uncontested truths that you then read, digest, and supposedly learn. Whereas in fact, American history properly learned, and properly taught, is a series of contested truths, a series of arguments, not easily susceptible to a Biblical approach. And that's one of the reasons why textbooks are so boring. That they feel compelled to try to operate on a kind of level that in effect doesn't get that contagious excitement at the core of American history.

-- Joseph Ellis, Ford Foundation Professor of History
at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts

Bernard Crick's Introduction to Democracy is more of an extended personal essay on politics than a textbook as commonly encountered and understood. On the other hand, Tocqueville's Democracy in America is obviously a core text, the product of an informed and independent intellect, and as a original work susceptible to various  interpretations.  The LibGuide here offered as an accompaniment to the course seeks to present a selection of Internet sources that may be profitably read and viewed with an eye to deepening class discussion and furthering independent research.  This LibGuide is not to be treated as a definitive compilation of knowledge about democracy but as a springboard for additional inquiry and an expanding curiosity. It is my hope that this LibGuide will thereby avoid the "almost Biblical" tone and authoritative demeanor of a textbook.

-- Sincerely, Hudson Reynolds, Saint Leo University

Dr. Hudson Reynolds discusses Revolution Now! Democracy in Troubled Times

Important Information for faculty

This audio clip from the University Explorations Webinar, held in the spring of 2013, lasts a little over 10 minutes.  In it you will find a thorough explanation of the objectives of the course, "Revolution Now! Democracy in Troubled Times", and of the preferred means of instruction.  This clip should prove invaluable to faculty who have been assigned to teach this course for the first time, but it won't hurt an inquiring student to listen in on a faculty member presenting ideas to other faculty. It's too bad that the speaker can't answer any questions that might arise in your mind, as he did for the faculty once his presentation ended.

The report from the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, entitled A Crucible Moment, calls on educators and public leaders to advance a 21st century vision of college learning for all students -- a vision with civic learning and democratic engagement an expected part of every student’s college education. The report documents the nation’s anemic civic health and includes recommendations for action that address campus culture, general education, and civic inquiry as part of major and career fields as well as hands-on civic problem solving. This report pushes back against a prevailing national dialogue that limits the mission of higher education primarily to workforce preparation.

What This Course Is Not


We are in no way affiliated with the right-wing website "Revolution Now!  Independence Forever!", the left leaning radio program "Democracy Now!", or any other political movement or organization that has the words "Revolution", "Democracy", or "Now", or any combination thereof in its title. We are strictly non-partisan in viewpoint and allegiance.

We are students of democracy, it is true; but we are also inhabitants of a democracy (or at least most of us).  As reflective inquirers, we are perhaps more like Socrates than Pericles; and, as outside observers, more like Tocqueville than John Steinbeck.  In a way, though, we too are travelers, moving across a vast historical landscape which rises and sinks with human aspirations, achievements, and disappointments.  If we preach anything on this our intellectual pilgrimage, it is the gospel of Civic Discourse, Civic Engagement, and Social Justice to those who will listen, consider, and respond.

Copyright © 2013 - Hudson Reynolds, Ph.D.

Classroom Activities

Subject Guide