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Princeton University

Constitutional Interpretation

Princeton University via edX

Overview

Though the Constitution is widely credited for the success of the United States’ republican democracy, people often disagree about how it should be interpreted. What does the Constitution mean? What does it require, and what does it forbid? In this course, we will examine competing theories of, and approaches to, constitutional interpretation.
 
More specifically, we ask:
  • Should the provisions of the U.S. Constitution be read to give effect to the intent of their framers and ratifiers? If so, what counts as their “intent,” and how is it to be discerned?
  • If “original intent” is not the touchstone of interpretation, how is the constitutional interpreter to avoid simply reading his or her own moral beliefs or political ideology into the Constitution?
  • Who, by the Constitution’s own terms, has the power of judicial review, that is, to authoritatively interpret the Constitution and give effect to its principles and norms?
  • If we accept the principle of judicial review, does that mean that judges always have the final say in disputed questions of what the Constitution means and requires?

Through lectures, Supreme Court cases, readings, quizzes and discussions, this course will give you a better understanding of the most critical questions related to the American Constitution (including the Bill of Rights).

Taught by

Robert P. George

Reviews

4.9 rating, based on 25 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Constitutional Interpretation

  • Anonymous
    I had a real pleasure listening to this course from Professor R. P. George.
    This is the second course (with Civil Liberties) I followed.
    These two courses should be for every US citizen as they are full of history, explanations about Supreme Courts decisions, Fouding Fathers goals. Moreover, it is mind opening.
    As a foreigner, it allows me to better understand what's happening in the US with SCOTUS decisions and how it works. And I did not have any trouble following it in english.
    I really hope there will be a third course from the same Professor on EDX one of these days.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    The reason I didn't give this course a five star rating is that I came away from it a bit frustrated in that many questions are left unresolved. This really is not the fault of the course, however; it is the fault of our democratic process. As good...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I highly recommend this course. Professor George is an excellent speaker. He uses anecdotes to illustrate his court cases. He does a wonderful job of getting the students to interact with his questions. I thought the class was thorough. I read all the...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I learned a great deal and enjoyed Constitutional Interpretation taught by Professor George. He has an incredible lecture style, holding your attention with much description and history. He also leads you into thinking about different issues. At times he shares his opinion, but wants you to form your own opinion from the lectures, readings and discussions. If I find another class taught by Professor George I will certainly sign up.
    I thank the organizations which allowed me to take this class on-line, during the pandemic of Covid 19. I have always had an interest in the Constitution and now I have some knowledge.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This course is extremely well done and presented. Prof. George is an outstanding scholar and superb lecturer. Those of his students who go on to law school will have a huge leg up in Con Law and are unlikely to find a teacher there of his caliber. His...
  • Marilyn
    Prof. George is **extremely** engaging and explains things in a way that a non-law student can easily understand.

    Unfortunately, as with so many courses, the material doesn't continue to the present day; in this case it takes us through 2018. Also, as is now the general norm, there doesn't seem to be any staff in the forums. I can't dock my five star rating for either of these as most courses along the various platforms are now running in this manner.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Dr. Robert George brilliantly elucidates the requirements of principled constitutional interpretation, as distinct from approaches that effectively empower the Supreme Court to impose the justice's preferred political policies from the bench. He introduces a wide range of landmark cases, critically considering whether they were decided rightly or wrongly in the light of principled interpretation, but carefully refrains from imposing his views on students in favor of developing the ability to make principled constitutional interpretations in students. Dr. George provides an excellent model for the kind of civil discourse largely disappearing from our political landscape.
  • Anonymous
    Excellent content and great delivery. Only issue is that some questions do not follow the course sequentially.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Thanks so much for offering this course to such a wide audience. The history and analysis provided has enriched my understanding of the constitution and has made me better equipped to read both news and editorial analysis of current controversies. Professor George kept my interest throughout each lecture. The readings were well-selected and I appreciated the opportunity to read about each case exhaustively or in an abridged manner. I recommend this course highly.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This is the first college course that I have taken since the early 70's. The course was very thoughtful and informative. It also let me know how much I don't know. I would recommend this for anyone interested in our Constitution and Courts. If you have been away as long as me, might want to start with something more basic and come to this with a better foundation. Thank you Prof. George and Princeton
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Okay, so I took this course as a Princeton student for credit, rather than as a MOOC, but the lectures were amazing, and this was a life-changing class for me in forcing me to think critically and also more carefully analyze my own thought process in different contexts.
  • Steven Stone

    Steven Stone completed this course.

    I've taken and completed over 100 MOOC courses. Prof. George Constitutional Interpretation was just about the best I have completed on Ed Ex. The lectures were entertaining, engaging and seemed to go so fast. It was taken from the classes themselves at Princeton. Only course that came close was "Justice" by Professor Sandel at Harvard. I couldn't give this class or Prof. George a higher review.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Professor George has some very good questions that make you want to think in depth about how the Constitution is interpreted by justices. The cases that he discusses or has you reading shows the depth of the political or public opinion that still goes on to this day. This is a course, if you want to understand how cases are decided, right or wrong.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Professor George makes the coarse exciting as he let's you in on some secrets...… It opened my eyes to the Constitution, the branches of government, and the founding fathers conflicting views in writing the Constitution. As a Constitutional scholar Professor George presents his case to the class as if the Constitution was on trial.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This was an excellent course. I found the lectures riveting and I learned so much about the Supreme Court decisions as well as the Constitution. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in American History.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Thank you so much for bringing edX classes to people like me. I am a retired public high school librarian and live in what I lovingly call the back-of-beyond. It is fifty miles to a town of more than ten thousand (and fast food), and we do not have a stoplight in our entire county. That said, I love to learn and Edx is a wonderful way to spend the long Montana winters--and beat cabin fever. I am more than thrilled with the teaching staff in the courses I have taken and the courses from which I can choose is amazing. I love edX!
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I sit firmly on the very liberal end of the political spectrum, and found this course so helpful in understanding how conservative people think.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous is taking this course right now.

    I am nearing completion of Constitutional Interpretation. The course has been most informative, and quite relevant to many of today's issues. Professor George, as always, delivers interesting lectures that are worth listening to. This course is time well spent.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This is the second time I have taken an online course with Professor George and it was great! I learned so much. He is knowledgeable and fair, and keeps you interested even in topics you wouldn't normally find interesting.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Professor George is a fabulous instructor and engaging lecturer. I read all the readings and was glad I did. And the course is one which every citizen will find at least beneficial and most likely enjoyable.

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