On Unity: Back to School with Unity and Democracy in Mind

Michael Newton

From Michael Newton:

"The Vanderbilt Project on Unity & American Democracy is an important effort based on dialogue, based on facts, reason, dignity, and respect where dissent is embraced as an opportunity for learning and inquiry, and not just an opportunity to destroy."  

-Michael Newton, Professor of Law and Political Science at Vanderbilt University  

Friends and fellow citizens,  

With school back in session, I wanted to make you aware of a new course offering, inspired by the Vanderbilt Project on Unity & American Democracy and open to the public online-PSCI 4444: Unity and American Democracy. This course blends political science, history, and current events to help us better understand democracy so as to achieve unity.  

It is taught by Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, John Geer; Pulitzer-Prize winning author and Unity Project Co-Chair, Jon Meacham; and Research Professor of Political Science and Law, and Unity Project Co-Chair, Samar Ali. 

We have all seen our nation's civic life struggling amidst deep political polarization. Many are now concerned about the strength of America's foundational institutions but are unsure of how we can begin to heal and move forward towards a more united state. These uncertain times led to the founding of the Unity Project as well as this course. The three distinguished academics teaching this class employ their unique perspective to help us locate the current moment in the context of America's history. They also will introduce guest lecturers, including scholars, politicians, policy experts, and journalists who will offer their own views on current events, as well as unity and democracy. 

The course will cover the following topics: 

  • Polarization: Its Past, Present and Future  
  • Hours of Hope: Case Studies in American Progress  
  • Race in America: Toward a Nation of Equality  
  • Under God: The Role of Religion in a Divided Time  
  • To Keep the Republic: Strengthening Democratic Principles at Home and Abroad  
  • Information Marketplace: Ensuring the Public has the Data  
  • How to Build Cultural Bridges to Narrow the Divide  

If this course is of interest, you can check out the following required course reading, which offers insights and perspective from a variety of perspectives: 

  1. The Soul of America by Jon Meacham 
  2. On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed  
  3. This America: The Case for the Nation by Jill Lepore  
  4. Faithful Presence by Bill Haslam  
  5. Last Best Hope by George Packer  
  6. Identity & Violence; the Illusion of Destiny by Amartya Sen  

In addition to these books, we recommend you follow national, state, and local politics through multiple sources to ensure you receive news from a variety of perspectives. Vanderbilt student, in particular, have free access to the NY Times and Wall Street Journal via https://studentorg.vanderbilt.edu/vsg/project/news/. 

To learn more about the class and to register, please email Unity4444@vanderbilt.edu 


Gray Sasser  

Executive Director  
The Vanderbilt Project on Unity & American Democracy