This is What Democracy Looks Like

a Discovery Core Experience

BCORE 107 (Social Sciences)

About This Course

Putting aside all of its complexity for a second, democracy is the name we have for the processes by which communities decide for themselves how they want to live and work together with each other, with all members of the community getting a voice and vote in those processes. Bringing together demos, which means “the people,” and kratia, which means for “power” or “rule,” democracy is “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” as President Abraham Lincoln famously put it.

Okay, great, but what about all of the serious social and political problems we face? Bigotry and systemic oppression, climate change-related disasters and a failed coup attempt by former President Donald Trump, stagnant wages and poor economic prospects for working and middle class folks, gerrymandering and voter suppression — the list goes on and on. From one angle, these problems are unrelated and must be dealt with separately. But from another angle, these problems all stem from undemocratic processes. Let’s talk about that.

In this course, we explore democracy and democratic citizenship by looking at representations of democracy and citizenship in popular culture texts, documentary films, history books, and in the daily news, but also by actually practicing democratic deliberation and decision-making.

In addition to the theme of democracy, students will learn crucial academic skills, including critical reading strategies, analytical writing strategies, and oral presentation strategies. You will have an opportunity to research something of interest to you regarding democracy and communicate it to the class. And, you will have an opportunity to be creative in your final project, which will ask you to represent democracy by creating an artifact or performing an action. Along the way, we will learn about important student resources on campus that can guide you toward success in achieving your academic, professional, and personal goals.

Why Should I Take This Course?

If you care about the many contemporary social and political challenges we face — locally, nationally, and globally — then this course will help you understand those challenges through the lens of democracy as a set of ethical and political ideals that each generation must put into practice in response to the problems and issues they face.

What Will I Study?

This is not a civics and government class in the traditional sense. We will explore how democratic ideals (liberty, equality, justice, fairness, etc.) get translated and negotiated in the institutions we build (voting, branches of government executive, the electoral college, etc.) and the actions we take as citizens to participate in our democracy (voting, speaking in public forums, political organizing, creating public art, etc.). But, our class will allow you to explore current events by providing historical context and conceptual tools for analyzing issues like racism, police brutality, sexism/misogyny, xenophobia, economic and social inequality, climate change, and environmental justice.

Selected Texts & Films

Possible films:

  • Inequality for All
  • What is Democracy?
  • Whose Streets?

Possible readings:

  • Davis, Freedom is a Constant Struggle
  • Roberts-Miller, Democracy and Demagoguery
  • Anderson, One Person, No Vote
  • Taylor, Democracy May Not Exist, But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone

Professor Ian Porter (he/him/his)

School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences

About Professor Porter

Ian Porter is a teacher and librarian whose courses focus on the intersection of communication, information, culture, and democracy. In his free time, he loves hanging out with his wife and daughters, eating good food, and listening to good music on Seattle’s amazing local radio station KEXP.



Democracy is not just a system of government; it is a way of life.

Professor Porter