Biology Lab

EGMT 1530/1540: Do We Still Have Faith In Democracy?

Instructor: 

*Note: Since this class satifies both EGMT 1530 (Differences) and EGMT 1540 (Ethics), students must enroll in both Spring Session 1 and Spring Session 2 sections.

Democracy is currently face daunting challenges in the U.S. and around the world.  Authoritarian leaders and populist parties have undermined democratic values across the globe, including Brazil, Hungary, Algeria, Poland, and the United States.  In the U.S., there are attempts to make it more difficult for citizens to vote. Practices of gerrymandering and unethical campaign finance undermine citizen’s interests in representative government. In Charlottesville, especially in the wake of events of August 2017, questions have been raised about the responsiveness of local government to the needs of its citizens and the city’s failure to protect the safety of those who protested against the actions of self-admitted racist and fascist groups.

In the midst of these challenges, do we still have faith in democracy and, if so, why?  Must we have faith in democracy in order for it to succeed?   What do we mean by faith?  How might the resources of democracy itself (its ideas and its practices) help societies respond to these crises?

This course examines the character of democracy:

  • What is a democracy and what distinguishes it from other forms of governments?
  • What are the practices of democracy and the role of education in preparation for democratic participation? 
  • What does it mean to be a citizen of a democracy and who counts as a citizen?
  • What are the challenges and opportunities of pluralism (religious, cultural, racial, political) to the life of democracy?

A major goal of the class is to prepare students to connect questions about democracy to the different settings they will encounter in their years at UVA, from the classroom to the many social and political situations they negotiate.

In addition to reading assignments and short papers, students will be required to move out of the classroom and select, observe and reflect upon a real-life instance of democratic politics in action (e.g., city council meetings, school board meetings, and so forth).