Wikipedia:United States Education Program/Courses/Intro to American Political Thought (Edward Erikson)

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Course description[edit]

In 1831, while traveling in America, Alexis Tocqueville noted that no other country in the world cared as little for philosophy as the United States. Others have noted aptly that America’s greatest contribution to political thought may be the idea of America itself. How that idea took shape is an extraordinary and ongoing story. The founding of The United States of America is marked by a debate in which multiple and competing ideas of governance and statehood clash and combine. While the enlightenment principles of liberalism, including liberty, property, and individual rights dominate America’s founding documents, these ideas remain riddled with ambiguities and contestation. Thus, the mature form of American democracy was not present in the seeds that the Europeans settlers carried with them from the old world – as Tocqueville claims; rather, American democracy emerges through debate and dialogue.

The following course will provide an introduction to American Political Thought through an examination of these ambiguities and contestations. We will trace the development of American Democracy through the debates and dialogues that advanced and challenged the very grounds upon which the country was founded. The course begins with an exploration of the multiple and competing philosophical traditions that influenced the founding of the country including liberalism, Puritanism, and the often ignored Native American Indians. Part II examines the practice of democracy in America focusing on the late days of antebellum America through the beginning of the 20th century, a tumultuous time in which the lofty rhetoric of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights began to take on new meaning. While the course is rooted in the historical circumstances of the founding and re-founding of America, students are highly encouraged to draw parallels between historical readings and the contemporary political environment.

Instructor and Ambassadors[edit]

Ege3 (talk)Edward Erikson
Campus Ambassadors
Online Ambassadors
Swarm (talk)


The following is a timeline designed to help introduce you to wikipedia and advance your midterm project one week at a time. The timeline and readings are recommended, but not required.

Week 1: Wikipedia Essentials[edit]

In class
  • Overview of the course
  • Introduction to how Wikipedia will be used in the course
  • Handout: Welcome to Wikipedia (available in print or online from the Wikimedia Foundation)
Assignment (due week 2)
  • Read Five pillars, an explanation of Wikipedia's basic rules and principles

Week 2: Editing basics[edit]

In class
Assignments (due week 3)
(See this and this for example assignments.)
  • Create a Wikipedia account, create a user page, and sign up on the list of students on the course page.
  • To practice editing and communicating on Wikipedia, introduce yourself to one of the class's Online Ambassadors (via talk page), and leave a message for a classmate on their user talk page.
  • All students have Wikipedia user accounts and are listed on the course page.

Week 3: Exploring the topic area[edit]

In class
Assignments (due week 4)
  • Critically evaluate an existing Wikipedia article related to the class, and leave suggestions for improving it on the article's discussion page.
  • Research and list 3–5 articles on your Wikipedia user page that you will consider working on as your main project. Ask your class's Online Ambassadors for comments.

Week 4: Using sources[edit]

In class
Assignment (due week 5)
  • Add 1–2 sentences of new information, backed up with a citation to an appropriate source, to a Wikipedia article related to the class.
For next week
  • Instructor evaluates student's article selections, by week 5.

Week 5: Choosing articles[edit]

In class
  • Discuss the range of topics students will be working on and strategies for researching and writing about them.
Assignments (due week 6)
  • Select an article to work on, removing the rest from the course page.
  • Compile a bibliography of relevant research and post it to the talk page of the article you are working on. Begin reading the sources.

Week 6: Drafting starter articles[edit]

In class
  • Instructor and/or Campus Ambassadors talk about Wikipedia culture & etiquette, and [optionally] introduce the concept of sandboxes and how to use them.
  • Q&A session with instructor and/or Campus Ambassadors about interacting on Wikipedia and getting started with writing
  • Video resource: Sandbox tutorial
Assignments (due week 7)
  • If you are starting a new article, write a 3–4 paragraph summary version of your article (with citations) in your Wikipedia sandbox. If you are improving an existing article, write a summary version reflecting the content the article will have after it's been improved, and post this along with a brief description of your plans on the article's talk page.
  • Begin working with classmates and Online Ambassadors to polish your short starter article and fix any major transgressions of Wikipedia norms.
  • Continue research in preparation for expanding your article.
  • All students have started editing articles or drafts on Wikipedia.

Week 7: Did you know[edit]

In class
Wiki assignments (due week 8)
  • Move sandbox articles into main space.
  • For new articles or qualifying expansions of stubs, compose a one-sentence "hook," nominate it for "Did you know," and monitor the nomination for any issues identified by other editors.
  • Begin expanding your article into a comprehensive treatment of the topic.

Week 8: Building articles[edit]

In class or outside of class
Wiki assignments (due week 9)
  • Expand your article into an initial draft of a comprehensive treatment of the topic.

Week 9: Finalize Article[edit]

Wiki assignments (due week 10)
  • Add final touches to you Wikipedia article. Try to address issues from Good Article reviews.

Week 10: Due Date[edit]

You made it!

  • Students have finished all their work on Wikipedia that will be considered for grading, and have submitted reflective essays.


This table will list each article that a student is working on, and which other students will be peer reviewers for the article.

Sueampolthl (Sue O.) Serbian Orthodox Diocese v. Milivojevich open open
Zooidu (Linda B.) 14 Penn Plaza LLC v. Pyett open open
Kchampagne (Katie C.) Williamson v. Mazda open open
Ammeunie (Amy) Scheidler v. National Organization for Women (2003) open open
EllinaK (Elli) Madsen v. Women's Health Center, Inc. open open
Erickrl (Erick L.) National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley open open
User:Rule (Irene) Goldblatt v. Hempstead open open
Daveplace (Dave) Smith v. Kansas City Title & Trust Co. open open
JRoberts202 (Jason) Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB open open
(Paul D Pfizer, Inc. v. Government of India open open
(D. Fiske) Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission open open
(K. Quinn) McKune v. Lile open open
(M. Connors) STOCK Act open open
(Carol) Galloway v. United States open open
(Jules) Cabinet solidarity open open
Steve New York Dada open open

Article banners

To mark each article the subject of a student project, add the following code at the top of the talk page for each article: {{ WAP assignment | course = Wikipedia:United States Education Program/Courses/Intro to American Political Thought (Edward Erikson) | university = University of Massachusetts, Amherst | term = 2012 Spring | project = }} That will result in the following banner (and make the articles easy to track):


Wikipedia contributions will be graded as follows:

  • 20%: Sources
  • 30%: Clarity
  • 30%: Content
  • 20%: Format


Add your username to the list here using the format for Example User below:

Template:Katelynn Quinn

The name of this course is: POLSCI 203, Introduction to American Political Thought. According to the syllabus, "the primary objective of this course is to gain a better understanding of key historical and theoretical debates that helped to shape American government and the way in which we understand government. By the end of the semester students will develop a rich understanding of key concepts and politico-philosophical debates such as liberalism, republicanism, federalism, democracy, constitutional government, natural rights, and others."