The Politics of Morality in America (Freshman Seminar; SSP90)

This course examines the way in which social and moral debates  have become politically divisive in the United States.  From pornography, sex education and gay rights, to capital punishment, abortion, and gambling, we will examine the social origins of moral politics, the emergence and growth of social movements around these issues, and the ways in which battles over morality continue to shape our society. 

The seminar is different than most courses at Lehigh in that the readings, discussion, and assignments are not all set in advance by the professor.  Instead, the seminar will develop according to the interests of all the participants.  I have established the readings for the first half of the semester; the second half will be up to all of you! 

The readings and discussions seminar participants choose will serve as the backdrop for the most important part of the course: original research papers based on data from a new survey entitled The Panel Study of American Religion and Ethnicity.  Seminar participants will each formulate a research question around one or more politicized moral issues, draw on data from this survey that speaks to their research question, and write an original research paper based on the results.  As the semester progresses, we will devote increasing amounts of class time to discussions of how to understand and work with survey data, as well as how to write a rigorous and original research paper in the social sciences. 

Learning in this seminar is based not on lectures, but on the active participation of everyone in the class.  You will leave the seminar with hands-on experience with every step in the process of social research—something even many seniors at Lehigh never have the opportunity to do.  You will also leave with a better understanding of how the politics of morality operate and affect all of us in the United States.

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