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We live in a time where there is a good deal of confusion about what conservatives and progressives actually believe. Conservatives tend to have predictable opinions about marriage, guns, taxes, and morality, but what philosophical convictions underwrite these opinions? What philosophical convictions underwrite progressive opinions on these matters? What does it mean for a man to consistently reason and act according to conservative principles?
In order to answer these questions, one must go back to the beginning of the debate between conservatives and progressives. In Foundations of Modern Politics, Joshua Gibbs leads students through three works of modern political philosophy which have deeply shaped contemporary political discourse: Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract, Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolutions in France, and Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto. We will also read Plato’s Republic, the first and most important work of political philosophy ever written. In reading these books, students will not simply find lists of issues about which either party feels strongly. Rather, students will encounter the divide between liberals and conservatives which originates in disagreements about time, nature, and pleasure.
Foundations of Modern Politics will prove a helpful class for parents whose children have lately begun inquiring about the news, about fashionable political movements, and about the concepts of justice and injustice. Students will be given the tools and perspective they need to see beyond the surface of contemporary news stories to the theological convictions which drive modern men and women.
The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity edited by John McManners
The Republic by Plato
Links will be provided for the editions students need to purchase. The entirety of the assigned works by Rousseau, Burke, and Marx will covered; however, only two chapters of The Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity will be read by the class.
ASSIGNMENTS / ASSESSMENTS
Students will be assigned two papers, one in the middle of the semester and the other at the end of the semester. The papers should be a minimum of 1200 words long and will receive written feedback which will be returned to students and parents.
Foundations of Modern Politics is open to students aged 15 and above.
The class will meet every Friday between August 28th and December 18th (except the Friday after Thanksgiving) from 2:30 to 3:35 EST. No make-up sessions will be given, but recordings of the class will be available for all students.
All emails exchanged between students and Mr. Gibbs should be copied to a parent. All emails sent from Mr. Gibbs to individual students will be copied to parents. No private conversations between underage students and Mr. Gibbs will take place.
Students are expected to use their real names and unmodified backgrounds when in class Zoom sessions.
Students will be clearly informed of due dates for the two papers. It is the responsibility of the student to turn in work. If a student does not turn in work, Mr. Gibbs will not remind or hound the student to do so, neither will parents be notified.
Students are expected to be courteous and polite to one another in class. They are also expected to represent and defend their opinions with dignity and common sense. Disagreement between students will happen, but this is simply part of discussing politics and philosophy like mature adults. If one student’s feelings are hurt by another student, it does not necessarily mean anyone has been mistreated or that an apology is warranted.
Refund policy: A full refund is offered for anyone who decides to drop the class before the start date. A 50% refund is offered for anyone who drops the class before September 5th, 2020. Students are free to join after the August 28th start date, but will not receive a discounted rate.
Class will begin each Friday with the assumption that students have already done the reading which is being discussed.