Dr. Glen Browder’s Gift to American Students
By Sherry Kughn
JSU News Bureau
06 October 2004— Thanks to the Internet and former Congressman Glen Browder’s continuing interest in American democracy, teachers and students throughout the world can access a new, free study guide analyzing important changes taking place in contemporary America.
Dr. Browder’s gift to high school and college level readers, Study Guide for “The Future of American Democracy,” is available at no cost to educators and interested individuals and may be downloaded at www.futureofamericandemocracy.org.
Dr. Browder, who is Jacksonville State University’s Eminent Scholar in
American Democracy and a professor in the political science department, worked with several high school teachers from Calhoun County to develop the 41-page guide (released in September 2004). They are Stephanie Matthews and Jason Cox of White Plains High School, Veronia Hill of Pleasant Valley High School, and Carolyn Serviss of Saks High School. Together with Dr. Browder, they drew the guide’s main concepts and format from his book, The Future of American Democracy: A Former Congressman’s Unconventional Analysis. Both the book and the guide encourage Americans to take an active role in understanding the complex political developments that will shape their lives.
The major concept of Dr. Browder’s work is that the course of America’s history over the past two centuries has been moving toward centralized and nationalized governance, mainly toward the federal government in Washington, D.C. Now, a countervailing process that Browder calls “centrifugal democracy” is pulling power, influence, and energy away from "Big Government," creating competing ideas and structures of a more federational nature. At the same time, “Emerging America” is challenging “Traditional America” with important cultural ramifications. Consequently, he says, “Americans must be aware of what is happening so they can help shape the future of our democratic Great Experiment.”
Dr. Browder is unsure whether these changes will prove positive or negative, but he maintains that, eventually, they will make things very different in this country, not only for government but for all aspects of our lives. As an example, he cites the Internet as one of the prominent forces pulling power away from the huge media conglomerates that have dominated public debate and discussion for many decades. More specifically, he points to the Dan Rather controversy concerning President Bush’s national guard records. Activist individuals and smaller news sources on the Internet (called bloggers) discovered the documents were false, challenged CBS’s use of the documents, and brought about an admission from Rather and CBS that the documents had not been authenticated. "During the years before the Internet,” said Browder, “this type thing would have gone unchallenged.”
The Study Guide asks numerous questions extending Browder’s thesis toward more speculative but constructive thinking by students. Most importantly, will the United States of the future become “The American Federation,” functioning as a loose conglomeration of regional subcultures, each democratically pursuing its own ideals and destiny? Other questions posed by the guide ask: “Can we deal with the political realities of our changing world?” “Could we survive a serious streak of economic-military-civil disorder in the next few decades?” “Will we address the philosophical challenges of the twenty-first century?” “And what can/will you do to help strengthen our Great Experiment?”
Dr. Browder has presented his thesis in numerous forums throughout the country and abroad, most recently as the keynote address at the 2004 Arts and Lectures Program at Sonoma State University in California. His message there was that America is changing in ways that are important and unsettling for the future of American democracy; therefore, young people should take personal interest and responsibility in shaping that future.
Dr. David McCuan, SSU professor of political science, implemented Browder’s course of study in one of his classes to draw students to the key elements of the unconventional thesis. McCuan's honors class read Dr. Browder’s book, then used the study guide “as a road map that they laid on top of the broader issues in the prevailing condition of American political life.” The students, he said, were able to use the proposed questions in the guide as catalysts for conversation about critical issues. “We picked Dr. Browder’s book because it is compelling, interesting, and fosters civic engagement beyond just passively sitting in a routine lecture class,” McCuan said.
Dr. Browder served as Alabama’s third district congressman from 1989-1997. He also is a former secretary of state and state legislator for Alabama. In addition to his duties at JSU, he is Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. He calls himself "an American Dreamer,” which reflects his background and enjoyment of reflecting on America’s challenges and blessings.
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