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Salisbury University BW
A Maryland University of National Distinction
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Public Affairs and Civic Engagement
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Eric Rittinger

Political Science

Civic Engagement Across the Curriculum

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Past Participants and Courses

POSC 101- Introduction to Politics and Government--Sample Syllabus

Offered with civic engagement enhancement: Spring 2015

What is politics? What makes political authority legitimate? Why do you obey the law (most of the time)? Is democracy really the “worst form of government, except for all the others”? Are there such things as “just wars?” Why are some countries rich but others poor? And why are there rich people in poor countries and poor people in rich countries? These kinds of questions drive the study of politics and government—a topic that covers a broad range of issues, from the nature of power to the trade-off between security and liberty to the debate over what justice looks like.

This course introduces students to major themes studied in political science. Our aim is not to cover every aspect of the field, but rather to confront the big, unresolved questions that students of politics have puzzled over for ages. As we attempt to answer these questions, we will work to make them relevant to current controversies. For instance, how does Max Weber’s definition of the state as the entity that “monopolizes the legitimate use of violence” shape the gun control debate? How does what Karl Marx said about the economy in the 19th century speak to the extreme inequality we see today? And what can Just War Theory, a body of scholarship that began with Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, tell us about whether to attack Iran? By studying old political theories, you will be better able to make sense of the complexities of modern politics.

Beyond just requiring you to learn about political theories, this course also requires you to take an active part in some political debate—by composing a letter to the newspaper editor or an elected official, by blogging, by organizing a protest, or by writing a petition and soliciting others to sign it. Your frustration with the American democratic system will provide the basis for this civic engagement assignment. What prevents that system from working as it should? Based on what we cover in this course and on your own views, you will need to identify the biggest problem plaguing our democracy and then do something to address it.

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