Teaching Students About America

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Teaching Students About America

James MadisonPrinceton University’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions teaches undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral candidates about America. It is named after the Prince­­ton student who became the principal architect of the Constitution and the fourth President of the United States.

Some of the concepts central to the James Madison Program are:

  • the nature of free political institutions and the cultural conditions for their establishment and maintenance;
  • judicial independence and the scope and limits of judicial power;
  • the place of religion and religiously informed moral judgment in American public life.

In order to understand these principles, students explore the writings of America’s founders and leading statesmen, including Madison, Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Lincoln, and King.

Students study the thinkers who shaped the Founding Fathers, like Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Locke, Luther, and Adam Smith. They also examine outsiders’ commentary on American ideals, from people such as Tocqueville, Churchill, and Solzhenitsyn.

Some of the questions addressed in the Mission Statement and during a course of study in the James Madison Program are:

What is the proper relationship between government and civil society?

What structures of government are most conducive to promoting the ideals embodied in the Declaration of Independence?

Is there a relationship between economic freedom and civil liberty?

The program sponsors visiting professors and promotes various scholarly collaborations.

Program Director Robert P. George and an advisory board from “the worlds of law, business, philanthropy and the academy” make sure that future generations of leaders understand the ideals and the principles upon which the nation was founded so that it will continue to flourish.