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**Freshman Inquiry: On Democracy (no longer offered as of Fall 2011)

As of Fall 2011, Freshman Inquiry: On Democracy will no longer be offered.

Please contact the University Studies office if you have any questions.


"(Democracy) is a great word, whose history, I suppose, remains unwritten because that history has yet to be enacted" -Walt Whitman, American poet.


In January 2005, the world was riveted by images of Iraqis lining up to cast votes in a free election. Their actions were accompanied by many commentaries on the power of democracy. But what is democracy? Why does it succeed and flourish or dissolve into tyranny? Why does the idea have such power to move us? This course will trace the idea of "Democracy" in history, culture, art, economics and political institutions at various times and locations.

We will begin with the idea as conceived among the elite of Athens, and follow its many and varied transformations in Europe, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Throughout the course we will examine the critical relationship between economic structures and the evolution of democracy. At different points in the course we will examine the present moment in Iraq, Palestine, Haiti, Mexico, and the United States. Throughout the year the tension between democratic principles and minority rights will underlay our discussions. We will end the course with an exploration of how democratic practice takes place in local communities in the United States.

Throughout the year we will ask: How has the idea of democracy changed over time and in different locations? How do "democratic" principles impact the development of new ideas, in science, economics and the also in the arts? Can democratic principles be applied to life in the University? Can democracy be exported or imposed? Why do democracies fail?

In addition to the reading and written analyses the course will ask students to organize and present their conclusions in oral and visual form, to engage in statistical analysis the use of charts and tables to examine experience of democracy, to debate various aspects of the democratic project, and to explore democratic practice through projects in the local community.

 

Faculty

Christopher Carey, J.D., is a former Deputy District Attorney and currently an Assistant Professor at Portland State University. He has recently served as a Teaching Fellow at Arizona State University's Hugh Downs School of Human Communication where his focus was intercultural communication. His expertise extends to the application of international law with an emphasis on human trafficking in South Asia and working with groups to improve collaboration with the field of human rights. When not learning about the world from his children Eli and Lilah, he can be found fly fishing the rivers and climbing the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

Ken Ruoff

Alex Sager is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and University Studies at Portland State University.  He teaches the FRINQ "On Democracy" course for University Studies and specializes in courses in political philosophy and philosophy of education for the Philosophy Department. His research interests are mainly in social and political philosophy with a sideward glance toward business ethics (which he regards as a sub-discipline of socal and political philosophy).  His current research is in applied political philosophy on topics surrounding immigration.  Thinking about immigration requires the re-examination of basic issues of equality, rights, citizenship, and the moral status of the nation and state.  It also provides grounds for inquiring into the nature and normative status of political philosophy as currently practiced, particularly the uneasy juncture between theory and practice.  Alex is the Editorial Coordinator and one of the General Editors of the two-volume Broadview Anthology of Social and Political Thought.  Current projects include co-editing (with David Rondel) a volume of Kai Nielsen's selected papers in political philosophy (under review with the University of Calgary Press) and an introduction to political philosophy tentatively titled Political Philosophy for the Twenty-First Century (under contract with Broadview Press).  This introduction emphasizes feminist theory, critical race theory, and the Marxian tradition over the dominant liberal zeitgeist. Alex can't think of anywhere he'd rather be than Portland State University.  He doesn't even mind the rain.

Chuck White has been teaching at Portland State University since 1971. He holds a PhD in political science. After a period of administrative responsibilities, He enjoys the theme because of the other faculty members on the team and their disciplines. He especially appreciates the opportunity the team has to explore topics important for understanding our contemporary lives and each other. He very much enjoys the opportunity to teach Freshman Inquiry because of the number of different topics we cover. Being with the same students for the entire year is something he enjoys because it gives the class the opportunity to form a very strong community of learners. When he is not teaching, Dr. White spends time with his three sons, attempts to play golf and, in the winter, very much enjoys skiing. He also is a reasonably accomplished cook with expertise in multiple cuisines.