POL 376: American Exceptionalism with Professor Tracy Munsil
What makes America unique – not necessarily better, but different – from other nations? American government courses often focus on the political processes and institutions that define our nation – typically the presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court, and how these institutions function. But what values undergirded those institutional choices of the American founders when the U.S. Constitution was drafted? What defined the American character, its heart and soul then – and does it still define us 240+ years later? Are there values – are there “habits of the heart” as Robert Bellah described them – that make the American political experience different from that of other nations?
Specifically, this course considers aspects of the American political system that make it unique among nations, including the role of the biblical worldview and Christian heritage in the American founding, the idea of America embodied in the Declaration of Independence and other founding documents, the American republican ideal, the concepts of liberty, virtue, and self-government in the American context, capitalism and the free-market system, and the importance of the First Amendment and other constitutional protections to a free society.
During the semester, we will evaluate the concept of “American Exceptionalism” using primary documents, historical context, popular political rhetoric, and political science scholarship that focus on American Exceptionalism. Students will consider the writings and arguments of both advocates and critics of the concept, as well current and future challenges to American Exceptionalism.