American Liberal Arts Blog

Teaching the Liberal Arts in the American Context

July 2009

Teaching Aid?
By Anonymous on July 23, 2009

The conservative humorist P.J. O'Rourke has a piece in a recent Weekly Standard issue that includes—bizarrely enough—a "twittered" (meaning truncated and txt style) version of the Constitution. It is funny and biting and brilliant. And I think I will use it next year with my American government students, after they read the full version of the Constitution. Does it denigrate our grand founding document, and the intellectual accomplishments of its authors? Some might say so. But this strikes me as an excellent way for 18 year olds in 2009—those doyens of the digital—to latch onto the fundamentals of our governmental form.

See what you think.

Home, Sweet Home
By Alex Tokarev on July 24, 2009

I worked at a school that claimed to be tolerant to all ideas. It turned out that this was the case only for as long as one does not refer to the Bible as God's revelation or argue for the superiority of capitalism over all forms of socialism. Now I have found an intellectual home at the King's College. Why? Because we make no false pretenses. We know who we are and what we stand for. We stand for Christ. We stand for freedom. And that sets us apart. Apart from the moral relativist. Apart from the economic interventionist.

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California, the budget crisis, and the Constitution
By Phil Hamilton on July 26, 2009

Friends of the Lehrman American Studies Center should look at Tom Karako’s insightful op-ed piece in today’s Los Angeles Times on the budget crisis in California.

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-karako26-2009jul26,0,757702.…

Karako notes that the crisis is partly due to the state’s dysfunctional constitution, which has left the legislative and executive branches too weak “to resist special interests and non-elected bureaucracies.” The solution, he argues, is a state constitutional convention and the federal constitution written in Philadelphia in 1787 ought to be the delegates’ model.

The piece is certainly worth a look and well-worth discussing.

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The Invisible Plutarch
By Anonymous on July 27, 2009

During my time at the Lehrman Summer Institute, I was often asked to give an account of my current research project. When I informed curious parties that I planned to write my dissertation on Plutarch, I met with great interest and even greater sympathy: my lack of job prospects were apparent to everyone. So, believing as I do that the solution to most difficulties in life must begin by admitting that there is a problem, I will offer a general explanation of why I think it is that Plutarch, who used to be widely read, is now so rarely studied.

I will begin by saying that I think one of the many sins of our modern academy is that Plutarch's Lives has been pushed to the periphery. After all, if Shakespeare had founded a college, he would have required the students to read Plutarch. The same could be said of any curriculum launched by Machiavelli, Milton, More, Montaigne, Rousseau, Madison, or Emerson.

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The Study of Law as True Substantive Order – Part 1 of 5
By Lee Trepanier on July 28, 2009

When students learn the law today, they are taught more likely than not from the perspective of legal positivism. This school of thought asserts three principles: 1) the social fact thesis, 2) the conventionality thesis, and 3) the separability thesis. The first claims that legal validity is a function of certain kinds of social facts; the second emphasizes the law’s conventional nature; and the third denies any connection between law and morality. These assumptions are usually not explicitly stated in the classroom but are implied when students read about constitutional cases, examine legal ethical dilemmas, or explore the philosophical underpinnings of the law itself.

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Christianity and the American Founding
By Anonymous on July 29, 2009

There is an interesting series of books coming out of Johns Hopkins Press, edited by Garrett Ward Sheldon: The Political Philosophy of... So far it has covered Jefferson, Madison (both by Ward himself), Franklin (Lorraine Pangle), and Washington (Jeffry Morrison). All seem to subscribe to the basic idea of a synthesis of classical republicanism, British liberalism, and Christianity is the basic backdrop of the American Founding. I would be interested to know what other Lehrman fellows think of this collection and this synthesis.

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On Teaching Students to Write Well
By Anonymous on July 30, 2009

I try to design my classes so that students will learn both the materials and important skills that they will continue to use for the rest of their lives. In the coming semester, I want to focus in particular on writing ability, and I’m trying to devise a system that will help my students to develop their writing skills over the course of the semester.

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Introducing the Subfields of Political Science: International Politics - Part 6
By John von Heyking on July 31, 2009
Part 5 of this series is here.


States depart the lawless state by the same logic as individuals depart the state of nature. They simply tire of killing one another and find mutually beneficial relations advantageous. In pursuing their self-interest (for peace), they discover the advantages of avoiding war. Kant insists individuals remain as depraved as ever. Rather, the "mechanism of nature" enables cooperation to evolve; individuals seeking their self-interest inadvertently produce public goods.

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