Teaching

My teaching spans the fields of American Politics and Public Law. At the University of Toronto, my courses are cross-listed between the Department of Political Science and the Centre for the Study of the United States (CSUS). At Trinity College, I teach in the Ethics, Society, & Law program as well as the Policy, Philosophy, & Economics (PPE) stream. Here are the course descriptions and syllabi for classes I have taught or am teaching:

  • Civil Liberties in the United States (Fall 2018, UofT): This course offers a survey of American constitutional law in the area of civil liberties. The general domains of doctrinal development to be covered include: fundamental rights; freedoms of speech, press, and assembly; freedom of (and freedom from) religion; rights to privacy and autonomy; the guarantees of due process and equal protection of the laws; sexual and familial rights; and economic and socio-economic rights (or their absence). To make sense of the jurisprudential developments in each of these areas, the course will also take account of broader trends in legal history, social transformation, and constitutional interpretation.
  • Ethics & Society: Human Dignity (Fall 2018, Trinity College): Human dignity pervades contemporary ethical discourse, serving as a legal and political touchstone in both domestic and international contexts. But despite its prevalence, there is sharp disagreement over the most fundamental questions. What exactly does dignity mean? What does it require of individuals, social institutions, and the law? And how, if at all, should human dignity inform ethical inquiry and public decision-making? This course uses human dignity as an ethical value and frame to illuminate contemporary moral issues. It begins with a brief exploration of dignity’s contested meaning before examining three ethical domains where dignity is frequently deployed: equality and social recognition, bioethics, and human rights. Of particular concern throughout the course will be the role of empirical and quantitative evidence in assessing dignitary claims, forming ethical judgments, and resolving legal and political controversies.
  • Political Economy & Social Inequality (Fall 2018-Winter 2019, Trinity College): What is the relationship between capitalism and democracy? How can studying rational choice theory inform public policy? This course, one of two in Trinity College’s Policy, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE) stream, will introduce students to the methods of studying the interplay between economics and political goals. We will focus on specific topics to guide our quantitative analysis, which may include intergenerational poverty, the transfer of wealth, efficiency, and social stratification. Students will learn how to situate a society’s economic institutions within their broader political context, and study how economic outcomes interact with broader policies relating to, for example, health, equality, social mobility, and well-being. We will analyse empirical results while developing critical skills for interpreting economic data and research.
  • The American Political Tradition (Fall 2016-Spring 2018, UVA): This course will examine the theoretical ideas that informed the creation and development of America’s political system and some of the major contemporary challenges to the maintenance of American democracy. Topics to be treated include the political thought of the American Founders, the place of religion in public life, the nature of written constitutions, and the role of America in the world. The course will take place in a seminar setting limited to no more than twenty students. Emphasis will be placed on the discussion of important texts and documents. The course will be supplemented by occasional lectures by selected experts from inside and outside of the University, which will be held at the Jefferson Society Hall.
  • Constitutional Democracy: The Theory & Design of Modern Government (Spring 2018, UVA): By nearly every metric, constitutional democracy is the predominant form of modern governance and political life. Almost every country in the world has some form of constitution and—by explicit declaration, logic, or pretense—each aspires to some form of popular rule. But this should strike us as puzzling. In many respects, the conjunction of constitutionalism and democracy is a fraught union. At bottom, democracy is predicated on the rule of the people. It is the will of the majority (however defined) that should determine and direct the actions of the state. Constitutionalism, on the other hand, consists in explicit definitions of governmental powers and purposes, which is to say, limitations on what the people can do through their government. For constitutional governance, counter-majoritarianism is frequently a central mechanism and honored principle. As a result, the union of constitutionalism and democracy is beset by tensions—between popular will and minority rights, the rule of the people and the rule of law, the claims of the present and the commitments of the past.
    This course is a survey of the theory and design of constitutional democracy. It proceeds by examining each of the component parts—democracy and constitutionalism—in order to understand the aspirations and tensions occasioned by their combination. These inquiries culminate in two simulations, one oriented towards exploring the central questions of democracy and the other directed towards designing a constitution. A principal goal of the course is to situate one version of constitutional democracy, the American form, within the broader context of constitutional governance, clarifying its distinctive elements and identifying structural or institutional alternatives. To that end, we will engage with a range of primary sources dealing with the structure and theory of American constitutionalism. Along the way, we will canvass the “roads not taken” in American politics—parliamentary governance, proportional representation, a prohibition on judicial review, and much else. These explorations will equip us to engage with the central questions of the course: Is constitutional democracy worth pursuing? If so, how should it be structured?