U.S. Politics, Public Policy and Social Justice

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Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
June 28, 2021 - July 14, 20216/28 - 7/142 WeeksOnlineWaitlistedOnlineNicholas Fernald

Course Description

This course is designed to help students more fully understand American politics, the ways in which public policy shapes and is shaped by American politics, and the different levers of social change at the local, state and national level. In this course, students will be able to learn more about the current and historical political landscape and consider the ways that movements for social change have come about. Students will also learn about policymaking and the influence that organizations and individuals hold to shape and pass policy. The course will also incorporate social justice theory as a lens through which students can analyze the political landscape and consider the multitude of avenues for social change, with an emphasis on policy as one principal avenue. Students will then utilize the knowledge gained from this course to critically analyze a contemporary social justice topic of their own choosing and consider the ways that they can individually and collectively work toward creating a more just, equitable society.

This course takes a varied and multidisciplinary approach to understanding and analyzing historical and contemporary American politics and public policy and how they relate to social justice topics. As such, we will be utilizing a variety of resources to better understand American politics, including academic journals, articles, videos, podcasts, tweets and more, looking at the topic from multiple perspectives (politicians, scholars, journalists, etc.) and from various disciplines (history sociology, economics, etc.). Further, the course will be grounded in social justice theory from esteemed scholars and practitioners such as bell hooks, Howard Zinn, Ronald Takaki, Beverly Tatum, Gloria Anzaldúa and more. In our analysis of American politics, a large focus will also be on various social justice issues, including LGBTQ rights, educational inequity, immigrant rights and criminal justice reform. In addition to having a better understanding of American politics, public policy and social justice theory, a big emphasis of this course will be on applying that knowledge. In addition to reading, viewing, or listening to all course materials, students will also be expected to engage in virtual discussions, write short response papers, and complete an independent research project on a specific social justice topic of their choosing. They will analyze this topic from multiple lenses, make connections between course content and their own research, and consider the ways that they can use the knowledge to push for social change. For example, a student might choose to focus on the rights of transgender people in a certain part of the United States and research the work that organizations are doing to support them, as well as policy alternatives (local, state and/or national) that might make the lives of transgender Americans better. The project will consist of a short research paper, with various check-ins throughout the duration of the course where the instructor will provide feedback, as well as a culminating presentation on the research.

As a result of completing this course, students will be able to: -Gain a better understanding of American politics through course content, discussion boards, and independent research. -Understand social justice theory and be able to apply it to different political topics. -Articulate various mechanisms through which they and others can push for social change. -Research a social justice topic of their choice. -Write a short research paper. -Give a short presentation on their research topic.

Prerequisites: There are no required prerequisites for this course.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEHI0978

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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