HNUH238A: Deliberative Democracy

I assisted Dr. Shawn Parry-Giles with the development of the UMD Honors College course Deliberative Democracy. This is an I-series course, which means it is guided by a central question: Can the political issues that most divide us also unite us?

To explore this question, the course is inspired by theories of deliberative democracy and the practice of facilitating community deliberations. Each week, students read about controversial issues and then gather to deliberate about them in mini-public groups. Then, the class selects a controversial issue and facilitates a deliberation among ~150 participants. 

We began prepping the course in Summer 2019 and first taught it online in Fall 2020 due to COVID-19. In 2021-22, the course is being offered in person. Below is a truncated version of the Fall 2021 Syllabus.

Course description

A study in deliberation theory and practice with a focus on historical and contemporary political conflicts. This course will integrate recorded lectures, readings, videos, mini-public deliberations, teamwork, and research.  

In the Deliberative Democracy I-Series course, we will address the question: Can the political issues that most divide us also unite us? In addressing this question, we will study the theories and practices of deliberative principles most aligned with democratic ideals. We will turn to past and present political controversies as examples of deliberations that reinforce and/or repudiate these democratic ideals. The classroom will serve as a deliberative space where we will put such deliberative theories and skills into practice by participating in mini-public deliberations where you will grapple with controversial debates that have divided the nation in the past and present. You will hone your ability to analyse and make arguments, find common ground across differences, facilitate public deliberations, and write cogent research analyses and reports. 

Course Goals:

  • To advance understanding of deliberative democracy in theory and practice.
  • To examine deliberative arguments and practices in political speeches and debates.
  • To trace political theories across historical and contemporary political debates.
  • To strengthen writing skills by writing deliberative analyses.          
  • To bolster commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • To build skills in producing reasoned arguments.
  • To enhance skills in public deliberation facilitation and participation.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of basic terms, concepts, and approaches to theories of deliberative democracy.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the political, social, legal, and ethical dimensions involved in deliberating controversial political issues. 
  • Communicate major ideas and issues raised by the course through effective communication skills (e.g., participating in and facilitating public deliberations and      writing deliberative analyses) with a focus on developing reasoned and evidenced-based arguments and participating in ethically-based public deliberations.
  • Enhance an ability to think in new ways about public life and public deliberation over controversial political issues dividing us locally, nationally, and globally.


Asterisks mark weeks where I am responsible for the instruction of the course.

Week 1: Introduction to Deliberation and Demagoguery

Week 2: Facilitation and Deliberative Democracy

Week 3: Political Theories and the Social Contract

Week 4: Demagoguery, Racism, and Classism

Week 5: The Toulmin Model

Week 6: Building Public Deliberation Skills

Week 7: Deliberating About Privilege*

Week 8: Gun Violence and The Second Amendment

Week 9: Introducing Terps Deliberate

Week 10: Anti-Slavery and Anti-Abortion Arguments

Week 11: Movement(s) for LGBTQ Rights*

Week 12: Science and Debates about Truth

Week 13: Immigration and Citizenship

Week 14: Climate Change and Deliberation

Week 15: Terps Deliberate Event

Week 16: The Limits of Deliberation

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