Rebuilding American Civics

While many Americans know a bit about our government foundations, processes and institutions, it is important that we have a shared understanding of these topics, so that we can have better and more constructive political conversations. Join us for a series of classes that look at rekindling our shared understanding about the principles of American civics. These classes will be taught in a conversational format, refreshing your understanding of American government and political thought, while uncovering new insights. It is often said that people should avoid talking about politics in mixed company; in our country, however, it is important that, as citizens we discuss politics but do so in a civil manner using critical thinking skills and empathy. As such, these classes will emphasize critical thinking and dialogue, learning along the way that it is okay to “agree to disagree.”

Classes will be led by Sam Scinta, President of IM Education and Lecturer in Political Science at UW-La Crosse and Viterbo University, along with special guests.

Sessions will run from 6:30-8pm, and will initially be offered online via Zoom (in-person classes will be offered starting in the summer and fall).

Schedule of Workshops:

February 3rd: Re-discovering the Declaration of Independence. We all are familiar with the Declaration’s key phrases, but how many of us have actually taken the time to read it slowly and carefully? This session will break down America’s founding document, exploring the meanings behind the words and phrases that continue to shape our American principles today.

February 17th: Understanding Civil Liberties-The First Amendment. The liberties we enjoy as American citizens are among the broadest liberties granted to people in the world. What is the source and extent of these liberties? In this 2-part session, we will take a closer look at the First Amendment, specifically freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

March 3rd: Federalism-Balancing State and Federal Power: At the time of the creation of the Constitution, one of the key debates concerned the extent of and limits to the powers of the federal (national) government. After 230-plus years, this debate is still central to our understanding of American government, touching topics including legalization of marijuana, health care and response to the COVID pandemic. In this session, we will explore the history of this important topic, as well as the sources of state and federal powers in the Constitution.

March 17th: Public Participation-Voting and Elections. The easiest way for citizens to get involved in our political process is by voting regularly in national, state and local elections. And yet, even in years of high turnout, a significant percentage of Americans don’t vote. Why is this, and what does this mean for America as a democracy? In this session, we will look at the concept of democracy and representation, as well as the process for American elections and calls for reform.

To register for these classes or to get more information, please contact Jill Miller at jmmiller@viterbo.edu. You may also visit Viterbo Univeristy’s D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership Webpage for more information.