Soon you’ll be seeing a set of posts from undergraduates at the University of Chicago—written not just by our Metcalf interns but also students enrolled in this spring’s Democratic Erosion course. Susan Stokes, professor of comparative politics and director of the Chicago Center on Democracy, led UChicago’s iteration of the class, as part of a cross-campus curriculum that’s now at over forty universities. The syllabus, which focuses on global debates concerning the health of democracy, was taught in classrooms as far afield as Berkeley, Budapest, and a prison in Washington, D.C. Part of the course entailed a cross-university blog, where students discussed their course readings with an eye toward current events.
Tocqueville 21 worked with UChicago students as they crafted their posts, and we’re delighted to feature a selection of them on the site. Blogging can’t take the place of the traditional academic paper (don’t worry, Professor Stokes’ students wrote several of those as well), but our hunch is that blogging represents an especially democratic genre, well-suited for the course’s set of questions. To that end, we encouraged students to practice condensing their thoughts in a short format aimed at a wider audience. Together, we debated definitions of populism and whether or not democratic norms are “backsliding.” We also discussed fact-checking in the age of Twitter and the merits of pithy writing. We are pleased to showcase some of the most thoughtful examples here.