AP Government

Constitutional Law and Public Policy


sym·po·si·um  (sm-pz-m)

n. pl. sym·po·si·ums or sym·po·si·a (-z-)
1. A meeting or conference for discussion of a topic, especially one in which the participants form an audience and make presentations.
2. A collection of writings on a particular topic, as in a magazine.
3. A convivial meeting for drinking, music, and intellectual discussion among the ancient Greeks.

In the de Tocqueville Symposia, we will make like the ancient Greeks! On each day we have symposia, there will be a group of you (3) who will present lectures on one of the 6 topics that Alexis believed American democracy and form of government help to elucidate. Each symposium will be comprised of written material to be prepared in advance for our consumption that both explains de Toqueville's thoughts on the topic as well as your own philosophical theorization of the topic (in other words which , 3 oral presentations of unique aspects of the general topic (here I think you should scour the media for examples of a current event/legislation/issue that elucidates the topic), and finally a set of suggestions for reforms necessary in order to best advance your ideal manifestation of the de Tocquevilleian value for which you are responsible. For each symposia, those who are not in charge of the symposium will be responsible for providing the conviviality (namely food and drink and good conversation).

Topics and Groups (for due dates for presentations and brown bags, see Course Schedule):

Symposia Topic 1: an individual’s obligations to others and to the state and the role of individual/self interest vs. commitment to the common good in a capitalist democracy

David, Tobi, Arturo

Symposia: Nov 8 (or Nov 13th)

Meeting and Brown Bag: Nov 13th OR Nov 15th


Symposia Topic 2: the relationships between the rule of law and liberty

Clayton, Georges, Mia

Symposia: Nov. 15th (Friday)

Meeting and Brown Bag: Monday, Nov 25th

Symposia Topic 3: the values of democratic society vs despotism and tyranny

Jafe, Rachel, Sephanie

Symposia: Tuesday, Nov 19

Mtg and Brown Bag: Wed., Nov 20

Symposia Topic 4: the proper role of the state in making individuals virtuous

Tess, Jake, Grant

Symposia: Thursday, Nov 21

Mtg and Brown Bag: Friday, Nov 22


NOVEMBER 25: Debrief first 4 symposia


Symposia Topic 5: the basis of civil liberties and its connection to the effects of a majority rule

Hannah, Peter, Michael

Symposia: Monday, Dec 2

Meeting and Brown Bag: Wed., Dec 4


Symposia Topic 6: the relationships between democracy, and equality, and the role of the state sin ensuring both

Natassja, Michelle, Alexandria

Symposia: Dec. 4

Mtg and Brown Bag: Friday, Dec 6



Questions EACH of you should address in your Symposia (both individually and collectively):

What is the history of the topic in the US?

What, generally, is the current public policy of the US (you can think about both federal and state/local or you can just focus on federal...it will depend on your topic)?

How can we make the topic relatable to the STG US students (9-12) -- think Barry Schwarz's lecture style here?

Is there a social theory or a political philosophy that could help us understand the topic better?

What is the one most pressing public policy issue regarding your topic (think Hudsonian approach here) and how should the government approach/solve it? On this question -- you should come up with Legislative and Executive policies to the issue.



As a group, you will brainstorm a research agenda on the topic and how you will answer the 5 questions. Each group member will be responsible for their own appraoch to the topic, but you will also ultimately educate and pontificate on a single area of public policy that must be addressed in order to ensure the continuance of democractic governance in the US.

When you conduct symposia, you must accomplish 5 things:

1) You must blog about the subject in advance so that others may read about it. This should be informal writing (blog format) that could even be editorial in nature as long as it is also informative.

2) You must write your own research paper (8-12 pages) that incorporates DT's thinking on the topic as well as research and analysis on each of the questions above. This is individual work and does not need to (and should not) be coordinated with the group.

3) You must present at morning meeting -- a 10 minute presenation of the topic and why STG students should care about it. These presentations will earn higher marks if they are completed via video in a creative manner (just a verbal presentation will earn low marks, verbal with some visual, ie PowerPoint/Prezi will earn a bit higher, but verbal with video will earn highest marks).

4) You will present in class as a practice brown bag. These presentations will require you each to present your OWN research and ideas and ask the audience for feedback and questions.You will be responsible for bringing food and creating a festivity this class. On this day, your colleagues will give earnest criticism on where your research and thinking is at the moment.

5) You will prepare a Brown Bag luncheon (open to our school community) wherein you each present your OWN research and ideas and ask the audience for feedback and questions.

6) Feedback on papers and presentations will be required. Forms/rubrics for this feedback will be forthcoming.





Democracy in America


Etruscan Art


Etruscan depiction of a symposium (in Roman times known as a convivium) Tomb of the Leopards