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Five questions with Jack Fruchtman Jr.

We recently sat down with Jack Fruchtman Jr., a political science professor and distinguished constitutional law scholar who has both taught and advised thousands of students at Towson during his career. He strives to make the U.S. Constitution and its history accessible to students through his coursework and the Prelaw Society, a group open to all Towson students. He has served as adviser to the Prelaw Society since 1985.

What’s your latest project?

“I’m revising a book, The Supreme Court: Rulings on American Government and Society, that I wrote for my honors Supreme Court course. It’s essentially a casebook that shows students how the court functions as a policy-making institution. The book is unusual in that it’s under 300 pages—most casebooks run to 1,000 or more—and it works really well for a lower-division undergraduate class.”

Fruchtman class

Professor Jack Fruchtman teaches a class.

But the Supreme Court is always issuing new opinions, right?

“That’s why these kinds of books have to be updated every few years. I originally published it in 2006; I hope to have the revised edition ready by 2013.”

Is there any way you’d change the way the U.S. Constitution and its history are taught to students?

“Constitutional history hasn’t fared that well on most campuses over the last 30 or 40 years, and that’s troubling. It has gone from being taught as a separate subject to being incorporated into American history courses. Fortunately, it’s still an individual course at Towson. To help stimulate more interest, I’m preparing an introduction to American constitutional history, my next book project.”

What does your role as pre-law adviser entail?

“I advise more than 100 students each year—from all majors, disciplines and colleges. My advisees also include alumni, graduate students and even high school recruits. This is not academic advising, although that subject comes up. This is, rather, career counseling for students contemplating law school.”

You’re also the author of several books about some celebrated 18th-century Americans and Europeans.

“I wrote Atlantic Cousins: Benjamin Franklin and His Visionary Friends about Franklin’s larger circle of friends and associates, both in American and Europe. I’ve written extensively about Thomas Paine, the political activist and theorist, including the book The Political Philosophy of Thomas Paine. I’ve also contributed chapters and introductions to books about Paine, Joseph Priestley, Richard Price and other 18th-century figures.”

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