American Foundations

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American Foundations


Course Description:

In this course we seek to understand the fundamental principles and institutions that underlie American politics, economics, and culture.  The class will provide students with the intellectual tools and historical knowledge to analyze, comprehend, and navigate the American experience.

Course Requirements and Grading: 

Class Participation (10%): Students are expected to come to class prepared to actively participate in our class discussion.  Students will be graded based on both the quantity and quality of their comments.  In addition, students will often be called upon to discuss the material without prior warning.  If this makes you uncomfortable, you are encouraged to enroll in another section.

Discussion Question Assignments (10%): We will “prepare” for each day’s class by writing and submitting answers to the discussion questions for that day’s reading.  You can find the readings and submit your assignments on Brainhoney.  These must be single spaced, ½ page to a full page in length, written in Times New Roman 12 Point Font with 1” margins.  Double space between answers.  Put your name, section, and the submission date at the top right of the paper (single space these three lines only).  Each student will be allowed to drop their two lowest assignment scores (meaning you could miss two assignments and still get full 10%).

Group Project/Presentations (15%): Each group will be required to research a set of course outcomes throughout the semester.  Each group will give a 10-15 minute presentation of their findings (with PowerPoint) on the days listed below and then email their PowerPoint file to the instructor.  You will be graded on depth of thought, exhaustiveness of findings, and the quality of your presentation.

Exams (20% Each): You will take an exam at the end of each Cycle (see below) that will test your familiarity with the major concepts, events, people, and ideas that we learned during that Cycle.  The tests will consist of multiple choice questions.  The three exams are a great chance for you to demonstrate your hard work, study, and mastery of the material.

Gateway Foundations Seminars (5%)


Date                        Subject            (Readings assigned for that day below—available on I-Learn)                                   


Cycle I: Political Foundations of America 


Apr 19                        Introductory Concepts: Agency , Rights, Equality (also: Create Groups, Explain Project)

Gen 1:26-27, 3:22; 2 Nep 2:14, 16; Mosiah 3:19; D&C 93:29-31; Moses 4:1-4; Abr. 3:18, 21-22; D&C 134; Alma 43: 9, 26, 47; Alma 46: 20; Alma 48: 13; Alma 51: 6; Alma 55: 28; Alma 61: 9; 3 Ne. 3: 2-10


Apr 21                        Group Meetings to Discuss Group Projects


Apr 26                        Introductory Concepts: Rule of Law

Frank W. Fox and Clayne L. Pope, City upon a Hill, pp. 34-39


Apr 28                        History of American Independence                       

Selections from Thomas Paine, Common Sense.


May 3                        Principles of the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence


May 5                        Conditions of Freedom

Fareed Zakaria, The Future of Freedom, pp. 29-51


May 10                        Realism & Constitutionalism                                   

Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws, and Mosiah 23:5-12 and chapter 29


May 12                        Principles of the U.S. Constitution

Constitution of the United States of America


May 17                        Checks, Balances, and Government Power

Selections from The Federalist Papers




Cycle II: Economic Foundations of America


May 24                        Market Principles I: The Miracle of Exchange

Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics, pp. 1-23.


May 26             Market Principles II: Supply, Demand, and Misconceptions

[Watch Film, “Greed”]


May 31                        American Economic Development

John Steele Gordon, An Empire of Wealth, pp. xiii-xviii


Jun 2                        Varieties of Political Economy

Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics, pp. 23-37


Jun 7                        Keynes and the Great Depression

Robert Reich, et. al. “John Maynard Keynes” and “Great Depression”


Jun 9                        Monetarism and Seventies Stagflation                                                           

Milton Friedman, “The Anatomy of a Crisis,” pp. 70-90.




Cycle III: Cultural Foundations of America


Jun 16                        [watch film “Eyes on the Prize” using streaming link and submit summary (both on Brainhoney)]


Jun 21                        Group Project Presentations


Jun 23                        Group Project Presentations


Jun 28                        Exclusion and Inclusion-Immigration and Diversity & Political Culture: Democratic Extension

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Selections from Writings and Speeches.”

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., “E. Pluribus Unum?”                       


Jun 30                        Religion in America

Timothy Samuel Shah, “Born Again in the U.S.A.”


Jul 5                        Political Culture: Parties & Ideologies

Whittaker Chambers, “Letter to My Children.”


Jul 7                        Technology, Communication, Socialization: Issues and American Examples

Merril J. Bateman, “Nothing Shall Be Withheld.”

Also: [Know the following terms: “Rachel Carson,” “Mary Shelley,” “Henry David Thoreau,” “Transcendentalism,” “Industrial Revolution,” “Post-Industrial Society”]


Jul 12                        America and the World: Historically

George Washington, John Quincy Adams, Woodrow Wilson, “Selections from Presidential Speeches on Foreign Relations.”


Jul 14                        America and the World: Approaches                                                                       

Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations.”