Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas | College of Liberal Arts
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Civic Thought Initiative

College of Liberal Arts

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The Jefferson Center is launching a new program of course development grants in the College of Liberal Arts.  Like many existing offerings in the Core Texts and Ideas program, the purpose is to deepen students’ understanding of the theoretical foundations of liberty, the historical development of free institutions, the modern traditions of liberal and conservative thought, and the practices of constructive civil discourse. These courses will supplement existing offerings to support several programs including the Certificate Program in Core Texts and Ideas, the new Philosophy, Politics, and Economics minor, the new minor in Law and Religion, and other programs likely to be developed in the future.

Grants will be offered to develop or adapt existing courses in the following areas:

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1. Foundations of Liberty: courses that explore the philosophical arguments for political, religious, economic, and intellectual liberty in ancient, medieval, and modern thought; the historical development of free institutions, especially in the Anglo-American tradition; and the expansion of liberty in different historical contexts, all with the aim of understanding the deepest arguments for the liberty we enjoy and the deepest challenges that liberty faces.

Examples of possible courses, some of which have been taught in the past:

The Discovery of Freedom in Ancient Greece

The Roots of Religious Toleration

The Scottish Enlightenment (David Hume, Adam Smith on political and economic freedom)

The Development of Parliamentary Democracy

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2. Intellectual Pluralism: courses that explore the intellectual sources and most compelling expressions of political views on both the left and right, taught with a view to deepening students’ understanding of important controversies. Each course should thus include multiple perspectives on the ideas explored.

Examples of possible courses, some of which have been taught in the past:

The Liberal Tradition in America

The Conservative Tradition in America

African-American Political Thought

Left and Right in Comparative Perspective

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3. Civil discourse: grants will be given to revise existing courses in a variety of disciplines, introducing activities that teach skills of civil discourse capable of bridging ideological divides. A pilot project for this initiative is now under way in GOV 312P Constitutional Principles: Core Texts. The instructors are creating a series of debates on the model promoted by the organization Braver Angels, in which students will explore controversial topics in a structured forum that encourages respectful disagreement. This project will build on the dean’s initiative of “Civil Discourse and Disagreement” course development grants offered in spring 2023.

Funding and Support

Tenured, tenure-track, and instructional track faculty may apply for grants of $5000 to develop a course under any of the above rubrics, which they will commit to teaching at least twice. Preference will be given to courses built around core texts, but others will be approved as funding allows. Grants may in most cases be taken either in research funds or summer salary.

Departments may subsequently apply to the Jefferson Center to cover the cost of graduate students to teach these courses during the summer or after their sixth year of funding.

Occasional lunchtime discussions will be organized for faculty developing courses with a civil discourse component to share their ideas and experiences.

Grant Application:

PDFWord Document

For more information, please contact Lorraine Pangle.