PEX U.S. Society

GenEd U.S. Society courses strengthen students’ understanding of the history, society, culture and political systems of the United States.

They are intended to teach students how to:

  • Access and analyze historical, analytical, and cultural materials;
  • Develop observations and conclusions about selected themes in US society and culture;
  • Construct interpretations using evidence and critical analysis;
  • Communicate and defend interpretations; and
  • Analyze the ways difference and heterogeneity have shaped the culture and society of the U.S.


Contemporary American Social Movements

Social movements range from identity-based movements (such as the civil rights movement and the gay and lesbian rights movement) to issue-based movements (such anti-globalization and animal rights) to ideological movements (such as the free software movement and the green movement). The course introduces students to contemporary American social movements and their counter-movements, dominant strategies and tactics movements use to communicate with a larger public, and individual campaigns within the larger framework of social movement from both theoretical and applied perspectives.

Dissent in America – Dissent in America (Honors)

ENGLISH 0849, 0949, HISTORY 0849, 0949, SOCIOLOGY 0849
Throughout American history individuals and groups of people, have marched to the beat of a different drummer, and raised their voices in strident protest. Study the story and development of dissent in America. How has dissent shaped American society? In addition to studying the historical antecedents of dissent students will have first-hand experience visiting and studying a present-day dissent organization in the Philadelphia area to investigate connections between the history of dissent and the process of making dissenting opinion heard today.

Doing Justice

Justice agencies – the juvenile justice system, police, judges and juries in courts, and prisons – are expected to create justice in response to lawbreakers. These agencies, however, often operate under enormous political, cultural, social, organizational and economic pressures. Further, what citizens or local leaders sometimes want from these agencies may create challenges and temptations. Thus, just outcomes are sometimes elusive. Focusing on the period 1925-2025 and largely on Philadelphia data, students will explore conceptual frameworks in the sociology of law, research articles, movies, maps, Census data, historical documents and newspaper archives to help understand these outcomes.

Education in the Global City

We are in the midst of vast global change. How does it impact cities like Philadelphia and the people who live here? In this course we focus mainly on education in the city, but this doesn’t mean we look only at schools. Globalization is creating new possibilities for learning: we have instant access to vast networks of information, migration is bringing rich cultural diversity to our doorsteps, and we learn in many different types of schools and communities. But globalization is also creating new problems that education must address: new kinds of poverty, increasingly separate lives, mounting intolerance, a digital divide. This course explores what education in all its form can do to support the American dream for people in the city, nation, and the world. Our exploration goes beyond the classroom, linking academic and community-based learning. The course has a common core of knowledge and each small section also features a different theme related to this core. Section themes may include (1) school choice, (2) immigrants and diversity, (3) technology and the digital divide, (4) advocacy for excluded groups, and (5) violence and conflict resolution.

First Person America

Examine the private and public lives of a diverse cast of Americans over a long sweep of the nation’s history. Along the way, look at how fundamental conflicts—between the local and the national, freedom and equality, inclusion and exclusion, community and the individual—have driven U.S. history from its very beginnings, how they have shaped these individual lives and how these individuals have molded the debates. Learn to use a range of sources–including autobiographies, biographies, memoirs, personal narratives, profiles, bio-pics, self-portraits, visual and performance pieces—as you investigate these American stories and American tensions.

Higher Education and American Life: Mirror to a Nation

You have decided to go to college. But why? What role will college and in particular Temple University play in your life? Reflect on this important question by looking at the relationship between higher education and American society. What do colleges and universities contribute to our lives? They are, of course, places for teaching and learning. They are also research centers, sports and entertainment venues, sources of community pride and profit, major employers, settings for coming-of-age rituals (parties, wild times, courtship, etc.), and institutions that create lifetime identities and loyalties. Learn how higher education is shaped by the larger society and how, in turn, it has shaped that society. Become better prepared for the world in which you have chosen to live for the next few years.

Justice in America

Engage in an interdisciplinary examination of one of U.S. society’s most enduring conflicts – the struggle to achieve an acceptable balance between state power to prevent and control crime, and the rights of individuals to be free from undue government coercion. Focusing primarily upon the structures and processes of the criminal justice system investigate a variety of criminal justice problems, and ponder questions about the legitimacy of the criminal law method of social control. Key questions include: How well is society doing in its efforts to prevent/control crime? How do those efforts rate in terms of securing a just balance between the rights of individuals and the coercive powers of the government? Are we doing things right? Are we doing the right things? What improvements should be made? How can we know/decide?

Landscape of American Thought

PHILOSOPHY 0824, 0924
America once was envisioned by its colonizers as a new world, as a city upon a hill beckoning to humanity. After centuries of conquest, enslavement, immigration, and political struggle, conditions for sustaining this early vision continue to evolve. Explore the emergence of some of the most distinctive and influential American voices to inform our national debate about freedom, the individual, race, democracy, and oppression, as it has unfolded over the past two centuries. Through consideration of selected works of some of the most renowned figures to shape the landscape of American public discourse, we return to face the question of the promise of America, as it plays out today in the thought of some of the leading public intellectuals of our time.

Making of American Society: Melting Pot or Culture Wars?

Terrorism, illegal immigration, gay marriage, religious conflict, political in-fighting, corporate corruption, racial animosities, civil liberties assaults, media conglomeration, Wal-Mart goes to China and the rich get richer. America in the 21st Century is a contentious society. How did we get to this place in time? Examine what makes American society distinctive from other advanced industrial democracies as we study the philosophical origins of America, the development of social and economic relationships over time, and the political disputes dominating contemporary American life. The course relies heavily on perspectives from History, Sociology and Political Science to explain the challenges facing contemporary American society.

Religion in Philadelphia

HISTORY 0876, 0976, RELIGION 0876, 0976
The argument is sometimes made that religion in dense urban spaces is characteristically very different from religion as it appears elsewhere. A study of religion in Philadelphia provides numerous ways to explore that idea, especially since the city encompasses a variety of ethnic and immigrant groups, encouraging the generation of new and hybrid forms of religious life that are less possible in smaller populations. Learn how ideas of toleration and freedom, the urban environment, and immigration helped to define the role of religion in the life of this city. Study various religious traditions as they are manifested in the greater Philadelphia area and look at the influences religion has had on the fabric of Philadelphia’s history and cultural life including politics, art, education, journalism and popular culture. You will be visit and write about various religious sites and institutions.

Urban Dynamics: Global, Regional, and Local Connections

U.S. cities in the twenty-first century face enormous challenges as globalization shapes flows of people, capital, information, resources, and ideas/culture in an increasingly interconnected, yet geographically dispersed world. The course asks: What is globalization? How are different people’s lives in cities shaped by these flows? How do gender, age, race/ethnicity, class, and citizenship status affect people’s experiences in different urban contexts? How do urban interventions—from public policy to social movements—advance social justice across groups, places, and spaces? Topics include economic and political restructuring, the globalization of ethnic/racial relations, citizenship and public space, the spatial dynamics of uneven development, and urban inequalities.