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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Rebecca U Thorpe
LSJ 490
Seattle Campus

Special Topics in Comparative Legal Institutions

Focused, comparative examination of legal institutions.

Class description

The purpose of this course is to think critically about how and why political institutions fail to achieve their goals or operate in a manner that they were originally intended to, and whom they fail in doing so. Students will evaluate various US policy programs—including the war on drugs, mass incarceration, the war on poverty, education reform and national security establishment operations—on the basis of 1) policymakers' expressed aims, 2) the goals the institutions in question were meant to serve; and 3) the costs and benefits for different political constituencies. We will also consider the human costs of failure, particularly for disproportionately disadvantaged members of society.

Student learning goals

students will develop an understanding of why democratic citizens (in the US) consent to mechanisms of state violence, including the most powerful military in history and the largest prison apparatus in the world

students will learn about the operations, goals and interactions of members of Congress, presidents, executive agencies and courts as well as police officers, public school educators, local politicians and citizens

students will gain new perspective on the strengths and limitations of American democracy

students will conduct independent research projects (with guidance from the instructor throughout the course)

General method of instruction

Discussion-based course with some (limited) lecturing Use of multi-media sources, including fiction lit, television and documentaries, in addition to academic scholarship

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

in-class exam will consist of 1-2 essays students will write a 10-12 page research paper on a subject related to course material

Participation & short presentations Essay exam Research paper


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Rebecca U Thorpe
Date: 07/26/2013