Tuesdays, 10:15 AM – 1:15 PM
We begin with an overview of the Constitution’s text and the leading methods for interpreting it. From there, we explore the Founding era—the Constitutional Convention, the ratification debates, and the creation of the Bill of Rights. Finally, we survey key parts of the Constitution—covering the relevant text, its origins, its underlying principles, its history (including landmark Supreme Court cases), and areas of ongoing debate. Topics include: the separation of powers, federalism, slavery in America, free speech, religious liberty, gun rights, digital privacy, women’s suffrage, and the battle for equality.
Importantly, this course also includes a practicum component led by Dr. Kerry Sautner—the National Constitution Center’s Chief Learning Officer—focused on civil dialogue and the practice of historical thinking. Penn students work with Dr. Sautner and the Netter Center for Community Partnerships to teach the Constitution inside Philadelphia schools—covering civil discourse practices and the constitutional content addressed in the substantive course. In these classes, Philadelphia students will examine the Constitution through a mix of civil dialogue, critical thinking, and active listening—with a particular emphasis on the Constitution’s text and history, and how the Constitution affects the students’ lives. Class meets once a week for lecture and discussion. Students also coordinate with Dr. Sautner and the Netter Center to establish a plan for their work inside Philadelphia-area schools. In addition to lecture, students meet once a week with high school students in Philadelphia. Finally, students also complete a final term paper on a constitutional topic of their choice.