Introduction to Civic Life


What does it take for people to engage productively as informed, skilled, and effective members of democratic communities and the world? Whether we are scientists, doctors, engineers, advocates, public servants, or anything else, we are all members of pluralistic communities. This introductory course seeks to introduce students to the theory and principles of civic life and the rights and responsibilities of active citizenship. We’ll examine the history of and struggles for freedom, inclusion, and civic participation, the role of information, deliberation, and free expression in the public sphere, and the threats and opportunities for global democracy.

Students will read and discuss materials by civic studies and democracy scholars, building a foundational understanding of civic life across disciplines and perspectives. Many of these scholars and practitioners will appear in class to discuss their work directly with students. The course will pay particular attention to the ways that students from all backgrounds can apply these ideas in their everyday lives, regardless of the professions they pursue.

This course is also the first course for students interested in minoring in the SNF Agora Institute Minor on Civic Life, but is designed to inspire a commitment to participation in civic life for all students, including those who do not major or minor in related fields.