I taught the American Government Primer course over eight weeks (two four-part lectures) in winter/spring 2017 at my local libraries. Going into it, I expected a few bored individuals to wander into one or two of the classes. Happily, both course attendance and participation far exceeded my expectations. For each of the lectures, 20-30 people showed up and peppered me with questions about the course materials and things that they heard on the news.
After the course, I asked attendees to take a survey so I could gauge how much they learned in the course. Here are the results:
· 100% indicated that they strongly or somewhat agreed that they increased their understanding of the relationship between the state and federal government;
· 92% indicated that they strongly or somewhat agreed that they increased their understanding of the structure and function of the judicial branch;
· 92% indicated that they strongly or somewhat agreed that they increased their understanding of the powers and limitations of the President;
· 77% indicated that they strongly or somewhat agreed that they increased their understanding of the powers and limitations of administrative agencies and how regulations are passed;
· 92% indicated that they strongly or somewhat agreed that they increased their understanding of procedural due process;
· 76% indicated that they strongly or somewhat agreed that they increased their understanding of the Bill of Rights and fundamental rights;
· 92% indicated that they strongly or somewhat agreed that they increased their understanding of equal protection;
· 100% indicated that they learned quite a bit or that most of the material was new to them;
· 92% indicated that they strongly or somewhat agreed that they felt more confident in engaging with their government;
· 100% would recommend the course to a friend.
Course participants provided the following comments:
· “I enjoyed reference to, and discussion of, current events the most.”
· “I really loved and appreciated this opportunity and feel its offering through the public library is essential.”
· “I would encourage everyone interested in understanding and being more participatory in their governmental process to make the time to take this free class. It is empowering.”
· “Great course, thank you! I really can’t recall having a class in govt/civics ever—maybe in elementary school. My grasp on govt function/judicial function has been very thin and this class helped immensely.”
· “Well done class. I learned a lot and it has made me more interested in even more classes. Top notch.”
· “THANK YOU! I think EVERYONE should take this class.”
· “This class was timely and relevant to what is going on in our government now and I am so pleased that Sarah took the time to educate all of us and open our eyes and minds to the what is and the process.”
· “I thought it was great.”
· “I’m just so glad you offered this—it demystified a lot of government process for me.”
· “I was a Political Science major undergrad, have a Masters in Public Administration, and worked for legislative and executive branches for a total of 35 years. I thought I knew all there was to know about government but I learned a lot in each session. This class is a terrific public service.”
· “This was a fantastic and engaging course. Sarah’s knowledge and expertise was evident while the class remained (for the most part) on a level I was interested in and could understand.”
Community members are hungry for this information and grateful to those who teach it. A few hours of a lawyer’s time can truly educate and empower citizens.
In the next post, I will discuss my thoughts on the next steps.