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Summer Civics Institute on American Principles and Debates Professional Development Seminar for Teachers

July 11-15, 2022
American University
Washington, DC

The Political Theory Institute is hosting a week-long professional development seminar for middle- and high-school teachers at American University exploring the key principles and debates of the American republic from its founding until today through the careful study of primary source documents. In this five-day, small-group seminar, led by faculty from American University (and perhaps some additional outside experts), we will read and discuss key texts, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers, as well as key speeches and writings from the United States’ most thoughtful leaders, such as Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, among others.

The seminar aims to explain and assess the key principles of American political thought, elucidate the tensions and conflicts within and between these principles, examine how the principles are embodied in American political institutions, and trace some of the ways in which the principles unfold – and fail to – over the course of American history. Emphasis is placed on great American debates, as the meaning of our principals and the best manner of instituting them has always been contested. The course does not supply a single interpretation of American principles. Rather, it aims to immerse you in the complexity of the issues. This seminar thus provides invaluable preparation for civics, American history, and government classes.


We will survey conditions and teacher preferences, and we will decide by mid-June whether to hold this Institute in person or online.

If the Seminar is in person, then teachers selected to participate will receive:

  • A stipend of $300
  • 20 contact hours towards professional development credit
  • A bound volume of primary source readings, sent in advance of the seminar
  • Catered Breakfast and lunch each day

If the Seminar is held online, then teachers selected to participate will receive:

  • A stipend of $300
  • 20 contact hours towards professional development credit
  • A bound volume of primary source readings, sent in advance of the seminar


Public, private, and other qualified teachers of grades 6-12 are invited to apply. Applicants for this seminar must be able to either access the class via Zoom or travel to American University’s campus during the week of the seminar, depending on the modality. To apply, please complete the application form and email it to Alan Levine at with the subject line “Civics Institute Application.” The application deadline is May 23, 2022. Applicants will be notified by June 1, 2022.

Daily Schedule

(9:15-9:45) - Optional Breakfast
9:45 - 11:00 - First Session
11:00 - 11:15 Break
11:15 - 12:30 - Second Session
12:30 - 1:30 Lunch
1:30 - 2:45 - Third Session
(Two lunch sessions will include presentations/discussions to make 20 total contact hours.)

Tentative Reading Schedule


American Principles and Institutions


Session 1: Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence (Jefferson’s original submission with official edits)
John Locke, Second Treatise of Government (excerpts)
Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to Madison, 6 September 1789: The Earth Belongs in Usufruct to the Living”
The Federalist Papers, #49


Sessions 2 & 3: Debates over the Constitution I: Institutions

“Address of the Pennsylvania Minority” (18 December 1787)
The Federalist Papers, #1, 6, 10, 23, 47, 48, 51, 68, 70, 78
Brutus, # XV (20 March 1788)


Sessions 1 & 2: Debates over the Constitution II: Representation, Citizenship, & Trust

Edmund Burke, “Speech to the Electors of Bristol,” (excerpt)
The Federalist Papers, #35, 39, 45, 55, 57, 63
Montezuma, Philadelphia Independent Gazeteer (17 October 1787)
Newport Man, Newport Mercury, March 1788
Agrippa, #IX (28 December 1787)
The Federal Farmer, “Letter #VII” (31 December 1787)
Melancton Smith, Speeches 21-27 June 1788 (Pay special attention to the Federalist responses in endnotes, especially notes 13, 17, 18, 22, 23, 30)


Session 3: Debates over the Constitution III: Bill of Rights & Natural Aristocracy

The Federalist Papers, #84
Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to Madison, 15 March 1789: A Bill of Rights”
Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to John Adams, 28 October 1813: A Natural Aristocracy”

Slavery in the United States


Session 1: Slavery and the American Founding

Patrick Henry, “Letter to Alsop” (1773)
U.S. Constitution’s slavery provisions: Art. 1, Sec. 2, Clause 3; Art. I, Sec. 9, clause 1; Article 4, Sec. 2, Clause 3; Art. 4, Sec. 3, Clause 2.
Benjamin Franklin, “Address from the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery” (1790)
Thomas Jefferson, “Letter to John Holmes” (1820)


Session 2: Slavery, Abolitionism, & the Constitution in Antebellum America

William Lloyd Garrison, “On the Constitution and the Union”
Frederick Douglass, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” (5 July 1852)
John C. Calhoun, Speech to Congress, 6 February, 1837: “Slavery a
Positive Good”
Alexander Stephens, “Corner Stone” speech, 21 March, 1861


Session 3: Lincoln & the Civil War

Dred Scott Case (edited)
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates (selections)
Alan Levine, “A Reader’s Companion to the Lincoln-Douglas Debates”
Abraham Lincoln, “Gettysburg Address”
Abraham Lincoln, “Second Inaugural Address”

The Fight for the American Promise


Session 1: Civil Rights Movement

Martin Luther King, “Letter from the Birmingham City Jail”
Martin Luther King, “I Have a Dream”
Martin Luther King, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”
Malcom X, “The Ballot or the Bullet”
Malcom X, “Statement of the Organization of Afro-American Unity”


Session 2: Women's Movement

Abigail and John Adams, Correspondence
Stanton, Anthony, & Gage, History of Women’s Suffrage, Introduction
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Declaration of Sentiments”
Sojourner Truth, “A’n’t I a Woman?”
Betty Freidan, The Feminine Mystique, ch. 1
Betty Freidan, “Our Revolution is Unique”

Roots of Contemporary Ideology


Session 3: Roots of Progressivism

Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward (1889, excerpt)
The Populist Party Platform (4 July 1892)
The Progressive Party Platform (5 August 1912)
Progressive Era Amendments to US Constitution (1913-33)
Theodore Roosevelt, “New Nationalism” (1912)
Woodrow Wilson, “What is Progress?” (1912)


Session 1: Roots of Liberalism

John Dewey, “The Future of Liberalism” (1935)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “Second Bill of Rights” (1944)
Barack Obama (TBD)


Session 2: Roots of Conservatism

James Ceaser, “Four Heads and One Heart: The Modern Conservative Movement” (2010)
Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (excerpts, 1962)
Irving Kristol, “Human Nature and Social Reform” (1978)
Irving Kristol, “What is a Neoconservative?” (1984)
Donald Trump (TBD)

How to Integrate Primary Sources into the Classroom


Session 3: Pedagogical Wrap Up with Practical Advice and Suggestions