MLS Civics Program for Teachers: David Spadafora Civics and the American Founding Program

The David Spadafora Civics and the American Founding Program consists of a series of graduate courses for high school teachers oriented around civics and the American constitutional experience. These courses are offered through the Master of Liberal Studies Program of Lake Forest College. 

The Civics program brings together small groups of high school teachers in special graduate seminars, led by members of the faculty of Lake Forest College’s Master of Liberal Studies program. These seminars focus on key issues and documents of political thought that have shaped our nation’s history. Support for this program is provided by a grant from the Jack Miller Center through its Founding Civics Initiative. The program is open to working high school teachers who teach about American society and is ideal for those who teach American history, government, social studies or American studies. 

All civics 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. Starting in the summer of 2024, the classes will meet fully online and include synchronous and asynchronous components. Tuition is $500 per course.  Need based tuition assistance is avaiable.

Our next civics offering,  MLS 588: American Foreign Policy: The Currents of Isolationism, starts on June 21, 2024. 

For more information about the program, please contact:

Evan Oxman
Associate Professor of Politics

Cynthia Hahn
Director, Graduate Program in Liberal Studies
Professor of French

If you have previously taken a Jack Miller Scholar civics course and would like to enroll in the MLS 588 Summer class, you do not need to reapply.  Simply email Joy Markee at and you will be added to our student class list.  

Teaching about the role of America in today's world

Upcoming Civics Classes
Summer 2024 

MLS 588 American Foreign Policy: The Currents of Isolationism

Class will be fully remote, with synchronous and asynchronous components: 

Synchronous online meeting dates are 8:30am-1:00pm: June 21, July 5, July 19, August 2, and August 16 (presentation date)

Asynchronous weeks:  June 28, July 12, July 26, and August 9

Isolationism is the notion that the United States ought to refrain from getting involved in European and Asian great power conflicts and pursue a policy of non-entanglement in international politics more generally.  Often misunderstood and routinely maligned, it posits that the national interest is best served when the United States acts with restraint on the world stage and otherwise follows President George Washington’s admonition that the country ought to “Observe good faith and justice toward all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all…."  This course studies the history of isolationism as an idea, an ideology, and an ideal since the founding of the republic in 1787. It also considers and examines some of the dominant criticisms of isolationism, historical and contemporary. It does so by using several complementary methods. It examines the writings of politicians, statesmen, and civil society actors. It conducts in-depth case studies of isolationism, either in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, such as the inter-war period of the early 20 th  century, or when advocacy on behalf of an isolationist policy surged during times of social tumult. It also explores how the theory and practice of isolationism informs contemporary debates about America’s role in the world today – when there is an on-going diffusion of political power globally away from the U.S. and toward rival states and other actors. 

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

Previous Classes

MLS 585 Rights: The History of an Idea

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

MLS 586 The American Constitutional Experience

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