WHY I TEACH
My teaching aims to educate students for the liberal, democratic, constitutional order that is the American heritage. I strive to connect American political institutions to the deeper ideas of liberty and equality that animate democratic political life. To that end, I endeavor to introduce my students to great political thinkers so they can grasp the nature of modern liberal democracy as well as the major alternatives to it. I want them to see that every political regime makes a comprehensive statement about the good life (either quietly or openly!), that these accounts often disagree with one another, and that such views have real consequences for human flourishing. My students walk away from class with the conviction that understanding who and what we are – the goal of political study – is an inherently difficult but worthwhile endeavor.
As a corollary to this overarching aim, I want my students to gain the skills necessary for self-government. First, I prod my students to abandon their easygoing relativism and so to obtain a certain measure of intellectual grit. Relativism as an intellectual posture, by contrast, generally demands no effort, no wrestling, and no real thinking about the most important concerns of political life. I teach my students that their happiness depends, in no small degree, on their ability to recognize this and devote themselves to the difficult but wonderful business of figuring life out. Second, by learning to read original texts with care, my students emerge with an appreciation for our political traditions. Coming face-to-face with Xenophon, Augustine, Locke, Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King exposes students to beauty and nobility that both transcend our own time and deepen our understanding of it. Third, as a teacher I aim to help produce good writers. My students are encouraged to focus relentlessly on the essentials of proving a thesis and assessing evidence. I am proud of the fact that every student essay receives words of praise and suggestions for improvement.
Classical, Medieval, and Modern Political Thought, Religion and Politics, Political Economy, American Political Thought.
Working with undergraduates and graduate students on their own intellectual and career interests is one of the best aspects of academia! I have written several letters of recommendation, provided mock interviews, successfully nominated students for summer programs like the Hudson/Hertog Political Studies Fellowship, and tutored students alongside regular teaching duties. With my students, I freely share my story of overcoming disabilities en route to academic success.