Const Law II: Constitutional Design

Course Information

Registration Information

Meeting Times

Day Time Location
TUE, THU 2:30 - 3:45 pm JON 5.206

Evaluation Method

Type Date Time Location
Final May 7, 2024

Description

This course will address the process by which constitutions are designed and the implications of the design choices made.  The former raises extremely important issues of political theory (as well as practical politics). That is, how is that that some discreet set of people claim the authority to draft a constitution for the society at large.  This is an especially pressing issue for anyone who takes the theory of "popular sovereignty" seriously.  Who can legitimately claim to speak for "We the People"?  As we will see, actual constitutions have been drafted by a myriad of different processes.  Does process matter?  For example, how important is popular "ratification, a very common part of the overall process in the contempoary world (but absent, notably, with regard to the United States Constitution proposed in 1787)?  But then there is the second question of the actual importance of the design choices made by "framers," whoever they may have been.  This part of the course will involve looking at materials drawn from political scientists as well as lawyeers.  How important, if at all, is the choice of a "presidentialist" system insead of a "parliamentary" one?  Are Bills of Rights ultimately the "parchment barriers" that Madison suggested they would be?

 

The couse will compare a variety of constitutions to one another.  These will include looking at a number of other national constitutions, but also frequent reference to American state constitutions, which differ from one another and from the United States Constitution in a number of important and interesting ways.  All students will be expected to become especially knowledgeable about a foreign constitution and about the constitution of their own state (that being Texas for anyone who is a foreign national).  

 

The final grade will be based on two papers written during the course of the semester (one before the spring break, the other afterward) responding to the assigned materials for a given class and subject, which will count for half the final grade, and then a two-hour in-room final examination at the end of the courses.  If a student is at the cusp between two grades, then class participation will be used to decide whether to boost the final grade.  A student can write a seminar paper in lieu of the final examination, though only with advance approval of the teachers.  

Textbooks ( * denotes required )

The Second Founding : How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution *
Foner, Eric
Norton & Company, Incorporated, W. W.
ISBN: 978-0-393-35852-0
The Essential Douglass : Selected Writings and Speeches *
Douglass, Frederick
Hackett Publishing Company, Incorporated
ISBN: 978-1-62466-453-3

Instructors

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