R101 | "We The People?": Democracy on Trial


9:30 - 11:00 am


1/20, 1/27, 2/3, 2/10, 2/17, 2/24, 3/3 & 3/10

Eight Sessions



This course is offered online via the easy-to-use Zoom program.


Please email us if you would like to be added to the wait-list for the course.

The 2020 election cycle was among the most contested in US history.  This course offers a chance to reflect on just what form of government we have, how it has performed over time, and how it is holding up against current challenges.  Behind the swirl of events lie fundamental questions: What is the nature and value of democratic government?  What role has democracy played in political history?  From the ancient Greeks, to the U.S., South Africa and contemporary Asia, we will explore democracy at its best, how and why democracies fail, and how the essential elements of democracy can be protected and promoted. This course requires intensive reading and participation.

Session I : Beginnings
● Introduction/Deep History/Concepts/Central Questions, Issues, Concerns
● Homework for Session II: Engaged Reading of On Democracy, Chapters 1-7

Session II : Democracy in Ancient Athens
● Review Reading
● Case Study: Socrates, Plato and Democracy in Ancient Athens
● Homework for Session III: Engaged Reading of Chapters 1-4 of The Quartet and
Chapter 4 of On Democracy

Session III: The American Experiment, Part 1
● Review Reading/In Class Exercises
● Homework for Session IV: Engaged Reading of Chapters 5-7 of The Quartet

Session IV: The American Experiment, Part 2
● Review Reading/In Class Exercises
● Homework for Session V: Engaged Reading of Chapters 8-11 of On Democracy

Session V: Democracy in Africa
● Review Reading
● Case Study: The Birth of the New South Africa
● Democracy across the African Continent
● Homework of Session VI: Engaged Reading of Chapters 12-14 of On Democracy

Session VI: Democracy in Asia
● Review Reading
● Case Study: Hong Kong, China and the USA
● Homework for Session VII: Engaged Reading of Chapters 15-17 of On Democracy

Session VII: Democracy in the USA: Domestic and International Issues
● Review Reading
● Recommendations for Achievable improvements
● Homework: TBD

Session VIII: The Futures of Democracy: Prospects and Possibilities
● Review Readings
● Recommendations and Further Inquiries


Required Reading:

The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, Joseph Ellis. [Vintage, 2016]

On Democracy, Robert A. Dahl. [Yale University Press, 2000]

Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy, Suzanne Mettler and Robert C. Lieberman. [Griffin, 2021]

Katherine Kidd earned her PhD in international relations at the University of Pennsylvania.  She directed the programs and taught in international studies at Sacred Heart and Fairfield Universities.  Political theory, comparative politics and how democracies interact in the international arena are fields which she had taught.

Tom Hodgson is a graduate of Williams College and holds an M.A. in Philosophy from Yale University. He is currently an Instructor Emeritus at Phillips Academy (1976-2017) where he taught courses in ethics, logic, political philosophy, existentialism, metaphysics and theory of knowledge to students in the US and China.

Tom and Katherine are both experienced OLLI instructors.

Previous | Next

Click here to sign up for our free email newsletter, and don't miss out on our great programs!

Click here to support lifelong learning in the Berkshires

OLLI: the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College
Partners in education with Williams College, Bard College at Simon's Rock and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

1350 West Street | Pittsfield, MA 01201 | 413.236.2190 | olli@berkshirecc.edu

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software