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Learning Opportunities

Democracy & Debate Theme Semester

Democracy Café series

By providing opportunities for learning across multiple platforms, the Democracy & Debate Theme Semester seeks to engage all voices and model inclusive dialogue. Learning opportunities include courses from across the Ann Arbor campus as well as the Democracy Café Initiative, which offers resources to the campus community and the general public during and after the theme semester. Democracy Cafés celebrate the ability of people to meet in public spaces to exchange ideas, engaging each other both socially and intellectually. Café culture played a role in the historical development of democratic societies in both western and non-western contexts and enshrined ideals of equality, inclusion, self-expression and self-governance – even when they fell short of these ideals in practice. Our Democracy Café series seeks to honor and extend this tradition by providing resources to members of our community to organize virtual conversations around topics related to this year’s presidential election season, as well as around themes of democracy more broadly. Housed on a special Canvas site, each cafe provides overviews of the topic and materials (with videos, podcasts, readings, and guided questions) for deeper understanding of a topic area to help direct discussions for groups hosting a “café,” enabling our community to participate in the activity and practice, the dialogue and exchange that occurs outside of the confines of the traditional classroom. Democracy Café topics aim collectively to encompass all aspects of the political climate with thought-provoking and engaging material that will last beyond the 2020 election season.

Presidential Walking Tour

This virtual campus walking tour was created by students in LSA’s Department of History to document the visits of 13 U.S. presidents to the Ann Arbor campus, either before, during, or after their terms. They came for different reasons—to campaign, advocate, or commemorate—but they were trying to reach the same audience: students. Wolverines took presidential visits as an opportunity to fight for the beliefs that they had formed through lived experiences and classroom debates. Although records of presidential stops tend to focus on the men themselves, the energy of the students who flooded State Street and the Big House when presidents arrived must not be forgotten. This tour explores the words and deeds of both presidents and students, and includes a substantial bibliography for further reading and research.

Democracy & Debate Collection

The Democracy & Debate Collection also seeks to generate and preserve educational resources associated with the theme semester. Curated by the Center for Academic Innovation, it offers a compilation of online learning modules, educational materials and digital assets. These will be made available during and after the fall semester through Michigan Online for the campus and alumni communities, as well as for the broader public.

Dialogues in Democracy

A similar education initiative has been launched by the University of Michigan Press and Michigan Publishing in their Dialogues in Democracy series.

An interdisciplinary collection of 25 books that explore core tensions in American political culture, Dialogues in Democracy is designed to be a companion to the Democracy and Debate theme semester, and is geared toward anyone who wishes to better understand the context for the United States’ democratic institutions and conflicts. The Press’s 2020 presidential election reading list offers an opportunity to experience some of the richest, most comprehensive scholarship available today. This collection is free to read through December 31, 2020 as part of the University of Michigan Press Ebook Collection on the Fulcrum platform. The initiative also includes the “In Conversation” limited podcast series with authors and a special “Read The Election” reading list. View Michigan Publishing’s booklet to learn more about the collection.