Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
First-Year Seminar


FYS Section A01. Kooks, Commies, and the KKK: Radical Movements in America

“I’ve got a right to my own opinion” is a phrase known to almost everyone. Do we really have the right to our opinions, even if they are offensive and hateful? How far can we go in expressing—in writing or speech— our beliefs in favor of radical ideas? Taking part in legal demonstrations? Peaceful civil disobedience? Vandalism? Violence against human beings?

In this seminar, we will examine the role of political activism of the radical right and left in the United States. Using case studies from the past 150 years, we will discuss factors influencing the growth of extremist groups and how the moderate majority has responded to them. We will consider the rights of individuals to express their views balanced with the rights of society for order and stability. A long-term class project will include Internet research on a contemporary radical group. Our goal in this course will be to evaluate opposing claims and views critically. Students will learn to formulate cogent arguments through written papers and class discussion.

Anni BakerAnni Baker
Associate Professor of History