American Nations/American Character–Osher Lifelong Learning Institute–University of California, Riverside

Wow–Starting this Wednesday, there are 55 students signed up for my American Nations course and another 22 scheduled for the Friday section of this first of two series. 

American Nations—American Character

This two part series is primarily based upon the scholarship of Colin Woodard . There will be other sources that will be presented throughout the course.

The first part, American Nations—A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, lays down the geographical boundaries and historical roots for each of what Woodard defines as American Nations. Distinct in their own cultures, the vestiges of each are reflective in everything from our regional perspectives on governance, contemporary political debate, and in even in reference to our more localized consumer preferences. 

The second part, American Character—A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good, outlines the challenges in maintaining a liberal democracy with such disparate regional cultures that have historically clashed over what constitutes a proper balance between individual liberty and a more communitarian approach to commerce and governance. 

Collectively, these texts, and other sources, will provide an added level of clarity as to why the nation has such differing views of its history, its present condition, and to the varying opinions as to where it is going. The reasons for the resurgence of populism and tribalism will be discussed. 

Winter 2019: American Nations—A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America
Wednesday, January 9 – February 13 from 10 – Noon

According to Colin Woodard, North America is generally comprised of eleven rival regional cultures. Geographically, they don’t smartly fit within our general understanding of what constitutes the north, south, east or west. They straddle the international boundaries between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Their boundaries do not coincide with the legal borders of states or provinces. Each has its own distinct historical roots with regional identities steeped in traditions and characteristics that have been passed on from generation to generation. Starting with the late 16th century, this relook at the nation provides a foundational understanding as to why we have such a fractured understanding as to our past, present and future. 

Spring 2019: American Character—A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good
Wednesday, April 3- May 8 from 10 – Noon.

“How do we best reconcile individual liberty with the maintenance of a free society?” As outlined by Colin Woodard and other authors, this class will explore our evolving history to find solutions to our polarized viewpoints regarding society, governance and the very survival of our liberal democracy. How did we get here? How do we overcome our natural tendencies towards tribalism and a return to populism? How do we find that middle ground that preserves the very notion of a free society? These and other questions will be the basis for this the second course in the series, American Nations—American Character.

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