Topical Course Outline of sessions
Eco-Agrarian Community – A short history of America’s evolution from its founding ideals and governing structure to the 21stcentury that little resembles the America of the 1700’s. Consideration will be given to the usefulness of restoring some of eco-agrarianism of early America in our communities today to enhance the quality of life.
Session 1 – Overview of the American Idea. We will discuss the how the Founding Fathers crafted the form of a new government and what assumptions they made based on the philosophic and cultural realities of the times. We will discuss how enlightenment ideas, and the agrarian society of colonial America combined with Judeo-Christian ethical sensibilities to shape the debate that lead to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitutional outline of American Government in a country made up of 13 previously autonomous colonies. We will explore the ideas of liberty, pursuit of happiness, community the common good and providence that were inherent in the thinking of the early colonists and settlers. Our discussion will set the stage for our journey as we view the dramatic changes in conditions of living in America to the present time.
Session 2a – The changing meaning of Democracy. American democracy, even representative democracy, was never intended to be the rule of a majority faction overthe rest of the nation or worse still, a large minority ruling over multiple smaller minorities that comprised the larger part of the citizenry. The founders hoped that diverse views and beliefs would be a bulwark against tyranny of the majority or of a fanatic minority. Political parties were viewed with a jaundiced eye. The difference of opinion, no matter how fervent, was not to lead to polarization. What happened?
Session 2b – Early American Agricultural Society. We will explore early American civil, church and farm-based community. We will also examine the mercantile and land ownership economic basis of money and wealth in American colonies and view it through the lens of Revolution against the aristocratic ideas of authority, law, and wealth in England and Europe. In particular we will view how the Founding Fathers tried to create a sustainable society that embraces and supported the ideal of the American society.
Session 3 – The second American revolution – How the Industrial revolution almost totally overturned the social/cultural basis of the society that existed at the time of the American constitutional period. Material goods made by machines replaced products of land and value of the individual as a laborer. The assumptions made based on the givens of the agrarian culture were being pushed aside, or replaced. The question unasked, the elephant in the room, “does the constitutional government framed 100 years before, continue to work as the framers intended as agrarian nature of the nation moved inexorably into decline. But the start of the 20thCentury, Industrialists created a new Aristocracy of wealth and workers became beholden on employers. Self-sufficiency and independence no longer remained in reach for many citizens.
Session 4 – Agrarianism as protest movement. The decline of Agrarian life, gave rise to a protest movement of Agrarian philosophy and activism, pushing back against urbanization and industrialization. The Agrarian movement reach one of it’s highpoints in the back to the land movement of the 1960’s. It continues today but is garnering little awareness in spite of the trouble times we are facing.
Session 5 – Ecological Science and world view. Ecology as a science emerged as a somewhat obscure corner of Biology and has steadily grown in importance as global climate issues have brought ecological issues to the point of crisis. And remarkably, the ecological crisis mirrors the crisis in our societal woes. And the good news is that the principles learned in ecology can guide us to possible solutions to many critical issues.
Session 6 – The heart of community and true prosperity. Most of what we suffer in American society can be trace to the failure of close and supportive multi-cultural community. Redefining Democracy, Agrarianism, and Ecological principles to generate a new for of the original American Ideal may offer a guide to how to address societies ills as we move through the new millennium.