David Spadafora Civics and the American Founding Program

Lake Forest College is pleased to offer a series of graduate credit courses for high school teachers oriented around civics and the American constitutional experience.

All courses carry 4 semester hours of credit and are fully accredited through Lake Forest College’s Master of Liberal Studies program. Courses may be taken in any order, and none has prerequisites. Each course includes both in-person and asynchronous components. 

Tuition is $500 per course.  Limited scholarship aid and/or tuition assistance is available.

If you are interested and want to learn more,  please contact:

Professor Evan Oxman (oxman@lakeforest.edu) or
Professor Carol Gayle (gayle@lakeforest.edu) or  
Click here to add your name to our contact list

Ready to apply?  Click here to apply to the David Spadafora Civics and the American Founding Program.

Current and Future Class Offerings

Summer 2023

MLS 586 The American Constitutional Experience

In person meetings: 8:30am-1pm on June 16 & 30, July 14 & 28, 2023
Online, asynchronous meetings: June 23, July 7 & 21, 2023
In person presentations: 8:30am-1pm on August 4, 2023

While many Americans note with some satisfaction that our Constitution is the oldest written governing national charter still in operation, there are a rising number of scholars and citizens of diverse political persuasions who argue and worry that our constitutional order is dangerously close to rupture. In this course, we seek to examine the American constitutional experience from as broad a lens as possible (including via film and literature) in order to assess its legitimacy. By examining previous historical moments of crisis and rupture, we will seek to glean lessons and/or gain context from the past. We will also try to assess the efficacy of our current constitutional arrangements by considering what reforms, if any, are necessary to solve our most pressing problems. Given that high-quality civics education is often put forward as one such solution, we will consider what our role as educators should be in transmitting and communicating our constitutional traditions and cultures to future generations.

Taught by Evan Oxman, Associate Professor of Politics, Lake Forest College

The MLS 586 syllabus can be found here

Spring 2024 

MLS 587 The Civil Rights Movement

Dates and Times TBD

This course is focused on the origins, development, accomplishments and legacy of the Black civil rights movement from World War I to the present.  Students will explore the structure and manifestations of racial inequality in the United States; the movement’s various organizations, ideologies,demands and tactics; the grassroots leadership roles of women, students and local southern activists; major legislative victories; and the movement’s limits and failures. Particular attention will be paid to the nation’s unfinished civil rights agenda and how it intersects with the Black Lives Matter movement, the controversy over Confederate monuments, current conflicts over voting rights and the contention over teaching critical race theory.

Course readings are designed to illuminate the central question: What is the “official” narrative of the civil rights movement and who or what has been left out or overlooked? Students will be assigned a mix of primary and secondary source readings and documentary film clips to answer this question and inform their own teaching.

Taught by Catherine Weidner, Senior Lecturer in Politics, Lake Forest College

Summer 2024 

MLS 588 American Foreign Policy

Dates and Times TBD

Students in this course explore major events, themes, ideologies, and processes that have shaped American foreign policy since the founding of the Republic. Particular attention is given to Federalist and anti-Federalist views on the Constitutional powers of the executive and legislative branches, especially on war and trade, as well as the doctrines and strategies that assert vital national interests and articulate how they should be advanced on the world stage.  The course also investigates the modern foreign policy making processes, focusing on major institutional actors - the White House, the foreign policy bureaucracy, Congress, the courts, and civil society (e.g., lobbying organizations, the media, and public opinion) - and models of foreign policy decision-making.  Special emphasis is given to major foreign policy controversies in the post- 9/11 era that is characterized by entrenched presidential supremacy, divided government and hyper-partisanship, and declining U.S. relative power and rising great power competition.

Taught by James Marquardt, Professor of Politics, Lake Forest College

Previous Classes

Fall 2022

MLS 585 Rights: The History of an Idea

In-person meetings 10AM – 12PM on 9/10, 9/24, 10/1, 10/15, 10/29, 11/5, 12/3

The idea that humans have rights, as we understand them today, is a relatively new one in the world.  Rights that protect liberties are central to the theory of liberalism, the dominant political idea in the West.  We will trace the roots of the idea, beginning with the Magna Carta, examine the classic liberal theorists, like Locke and Smith, whose philosophies have been so influential worldwide but particularly in the United States.  We will end with 20 th century American theorists who wrestle with the challenges of a rights-based society. 

Claims of individual liberty have political, economic, cultural and social implications.  Throughout the semester we will juxtapose theoretical explorations of rights and liberties with concrete and specific examples of how ideas of liberty have expanded, contracted and brought conflict in American history.  Public policy, law, and Supreme Court decisions reflect our constantly changing views on what it means to be free to speak, to consent, to participate in economic markets, to control one’s own body.  In emphasizing the theoretical foundations of rights and liberties, we prepare for further study on American politics, civil liberties, and American foreign policy. 

Taught by Siobhan Moroney, Professor of Politics, Lake Forest College