Teaching Philosophy and Experience

JOHN STRADER 143b_teachingPhilosophyThe main purpose of a professor, I believe, is to make plain to the students just what is so interesting and compelling about the subject under investigation.  Anybody who has taken the trouble to acquire a degree of expertise in a field must believe that the subject is inherently interesting, and the teacher’s job is to find a way to communicate to the students why that subject deserves their serious attention.  The professor of politics is favorably situated in this regard, for the study of politics asks some of the most crucial questions of human existence.  All political thinkers attempt to answer the question: “What is the best
.         Photo by John Scrader 2010               life for man?”  The various responses that                                                                                      have been given to that question provide the                                                                                  starting point for true political reflection.

As a teacher, I also emphasize the importance of essay-writing as a way to examine a complex subject with a critical eye.  An exam will only reveal what a student has memorized; an essay forces a student to pause and spend time with a challenging subject, to comprehend and evaluate different theories in a meaningful way.  At both Baylor and the University of Virginia, I have offered voluntary writing seminars for every class that I have taught.  These seminars led the students through the steps necessary to analyze and articulate their position.  Most of my students have opted to take advantage of these workshops, and their participation has resulted in essays that were clearer, better organized, and articulated with greater precision.

I have taught in traditional college classes, developed online courses, and provided continuing education for middle-school and high-school teachers within 3-day seminars.  While online formats offer some advantages—namely, the widespread availability at a low cost—I believe that there is no real substitute for the interaction that can take place in a classroom.  Perfecting the art of the classroom lecture and the classroom discussion has been my primary aspiration.

Teaching Experience

♦ Courses taught for James Madison University (through the Center for the Constitution at James Madison’s Montpelier), 2014-2016: “James Madison’s Influence on American Politics,” 2015-2016; “American Political Institutions: The Congress, Presidency, and Judiciary,” 2014-2015; and “Individual Rights: Securing and Expanding Rights throughout America’s History,” 2014-2015.

  • Syllabus for “James Madison’s Influence on American Politics”
  • Syllabus for “American Political Institutions: The Congress, Presidency, and Judiciary”
  • Syllabus for “Individual Rights: Securing and Expanding Rights throughout America’s History”

♦ Taught “The Creation of the Constitution,” a 3-day seminar at Montpelier’s Center for the Constitution that traced how different parts of the Constitution developed during the debates at the federal Convention of 1787.  Taught solo, October 11-13, 2013, and co-taught, with Hugh Liebert, July 22-24, 2015.

  • Agenda for “The Creation of the Constitution”
  • Evaluations for 2013 “The Creation of the Constitution”

♦ Taught, “James Madison and the Bill of Rights,” a 3-day seminar at Montpelier’s Center for the Constitution that explored the intellectual origins, historical creation, and subsequent interpretation of the Bill of Rights.  Taught solo, October 19-21, 2012, and co-taught, with the Honorable Sue Leeson, March 7-9, 2014 and March 13-15, 2015.

  • Agenda for “James Madison and the Bill of Rights”
  • Evaluations for 2015 “James Madison and the Bill of Rights”
  • Evaluations for 2014 “James Madison and the Bill of Rights”
  • Evaluations for 2012 “James Madison and the Bill of Rights”

♦ Co-taught “Slavery and the Constitution,” a 3-day seminar at Montpelier’s Center for the Constitution that examined the myriad ways that the institution of slavery influenced the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution influenced the institution of slavery.  Co-taught, with Holt Merchant, November 14-16, 2014.

  • Agenda for “Slavery and the Constitution”
  • Evaluations for “Slavery and the Constitution”

♦ Co-taught, with Sue Leeson, “Congress: Failed, Fractured, or Muddling Along,” a 3-day seminar for “We the People” teachers in Fairbanks, Alaska, April 10-12, 2014.

  • Agenda for “Congress: Failed, Fractured, or Muddling Along”
  • Evaluations for “Congress: Failed, Fractured, or Muddling Along”

♦ Taught “The Foundational Principles of the American Constitution,” a 3-day seminar at Montpelier’s Center for the Constitution that explored the intellectual foundations of America’s constitutional system of government.  Taught solo March 8-10, 2013 and November 11-13, 2011, and co-taught, with James Ceaser, October 29-31, 2010.

  • Agenda for “The Foundational Principles of the American Constitution”
  • Evaluations for 2013 “The Foundational Principles of the American Constitution”
  • Evaluations for 2011 “The Foundational Principles of the American Constitution”
  • Evaluations for 2010 “The Foundational Principles of the American Constitution”

♦ Course taught at University of Richmond, Spring, 2012: “Leadership and the Humanities,” an exploration of the role of rhetoric and leadership in ancient Greece, primarily focusing on Aristotle’s Rhetoricand Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War.

  • Syllabus for “Leadership and the Humanities”

♦ Courses taught at the University of Virginia, 2008 to 2010: “The American Political Tradition,” a course which explored the principal institutions, ideas, and ideals that have shaped the American regime, as well as “Rhetoric in the Structure of American Politics,” a course that examined classical rhetorical theory and explored how these principles have been adopted, adapted, and employed within America’s constitutional framework.

  • Syllabus for “The American Political Tradition”
  • Evaluation for 2008 “The American Political Tradition”

♦ Courses taught in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core (BIC) at Baylor University, 2001-2002: sections of “Social World I and II“, survey courses in political philosophy, economics, and social science that spanned works from Plato to Max Weber.

  • Syllabus for “Social World I”
  • Evaluations for 2002 “Social World I”
  • Syllabus for “Social World II”
  • Evaluations for 2002 “Social World II” (with students referring to “Professor Geller,” Lynn Uzzell’s maiden name).