Donald Taylor
PPS 302D
Spring 2020

This course posits the existence of a Hierarchy of Human Value across United States history that has most commonly been marked by race. I do not ask you to take my word for this, but want you to discover for yourself what you think about this assertion. Obviously a hierarchy of human value marked by race is in opposition to the commonly celebrated ideals of Freedom, Liberty, Self-determination and Equal Justice Under theLaw that are more typically used to describe the United States. We will start the class by reading three key primary documents of U.S. history: The Articles of Confederation, what was essentially the first U.S. Constitution; the Declaration of Independence; and the U.S. Constitution, that with Amendments, forms the legal basis for the United States of America today. From this basis of shared discussion, we will then move through a series of topics that ask you to read and think about United States history with a focus on what it means for us today.

This course encourages discussion of ethical issues and competing values by reckoning with the history of the United States. The concept of reckoning is a process, as opposed to a set of beliefs that has three parts.

  • First, telling the truth about the past and present, and realizing that incomplete, false or misleading history is not typically an accident.
  • Second, learning how to talk (and listen) about difficult topics honestly and respectfully; this takes practice, and everyone can get better at it.
  • Finally, deciding what we discover about our past and present means for us today. What will we do about what we learn?