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Freedom and Equality, Wealth and Poverty

 

 

The second semester of our symposium will have three thematic foci. The first, in part carrying over from last semester, will be the issues of poverty and racial discrimination in the United States – their causes and their significance for the character of the citizens of this nation. For this we shall read Jonathan Kozol’s book Amazing Grace as well as a few other short essays. The second theme will be the question of what constitutes an appropriate response to problems of poverty, discrimination and injustice when they exist. For this we shall be reading Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Why We Can’t Wait as well as Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. The third theme will consist in your thoughts about what you are able to do to respond to these social issues. Your thinking, in turn, will be developed in relation to a service-learning project that you will pursue over the course of the semester.

Expectations for Class Participation:
  • Service-Learning. Your commitment to a service-learning project will make up one of the pillars of the class this semester. Each of you will be expected to establish a relationship with a community service organization to which you will devote at least three hours a week of your time over the course of the full semester. The nature of the project or work in which you will be engaged will be decided by you in cooperation with the organization to which you have made your commitment. If you do not commit yourself to a service-learning project, or if you do not fulfill the work commitment associated with such a project, you will receive a failing mark for this class.
  • Research. Another pillar of the class this semester will be your final research essay. You will carry out research into a topic that is related (a) to the themes of this class (freedom, equality, wealth, poverty) and (b) to the particular project or tasks that you have engaged in for your service-learning component of the class. You will also give a final oral presentation to the class describing (1) the nature of your service-learning work and (2) the findings from your research.
  • Writing. We will continue to develop your writing skills. You will be writing in and out of class, doing writing exercises, preparing drafts, reading and evaluating your colleagues’ drafts, revising and re-revising drafts. In addition to your research essay, the most important writing that you will be engaging in will be your journals.
  • Discussion. We will continue to develop your discussion skills, again focusing on learning (a) to speak with assurance, (b) to listen carefully and (c) to evaluate discussion skills. These skills will again be practiced through small group discussion, class discussion, debates and formal oral presentations.
  • Active Reading. We will continue to develop your reading skills. To read effectively, you should adhere to these guidelines:
  1. Read things through more than once.
  2. Take notes while you read, making brief summaries of the points that the author makes. You should bring these notes with you to class when you will be discussing the text.
  3. Write down questions about the text. These should be real questions - things that confuse, puzzle or bother you; things that you want to understand but that the text doesn’t tell you about. These questions should also be brought to class along with your notes on the reading.
  4. Make a vocabulary list. Some words on this list will simply be words that are new to you. You should look them up in a dictionary and write down the relevant definition(s). Other words will be key concepts from the readings or words that the author is using in a manner unfamiliar to you. Whenever you come across a word you don’t know, or don’t understand, you should write it down and consult a dictionary. In some cases, the dictionary will not be much help and you will have to rely on the context in which the word appears in the text.
  • Attendance… Is still required.
  • You have a total of three (3) absences for the semester. These are your sick days. You can use them any way you like, but you are advised to use them carefully. More than three absences for the semester may result in course failure. Unused sick days from last semester do not carry over to this semester.
  • Coming late to class is disruptive and disrespectful. Two unexcused late arrivals shall count as one class absence. Coming late to class is defined as entering the classroom after the instructor has finished taking attendance.
Course Requirements
  1. Two essays, ranging from 750-1000 words in length (approximately 3-4 pages). (Each essay is worth 50 points. Total: 100 points.) These must be word-processed or typed, double-spaced, with appropriate margins. Essays that do not meet these formal requirements will be handed back ungraded, to be properly completed, and will be subject to a 5 point penalty. Essays that are handed in late will be subject to a 5 point penalty for every day they are late. (Note: this penalty is assessed for every day late, not for every class session they are late.)
  2. Note: Complete criteria for evaluation of essays are included below in this syllabus.

     

  3. Journal. (Worth 100 points.)
  • We’re going to try journals again this semester, and this time, we will make sure that it works.
  • There will be three foci for your journal writing: (1) your experiences with your service-learning project, (2) issues and topics from the class readings and discussions, and (3) anything else that you wish. I wish to emphasize again that a journal is not just a diary. Part of the purpose of a journal is indeed to make a record of what happened to you on a given day, or during a given week. But another, more important function of your journal is to encourage you to think about things, to review them, to inquire into the significance or meaning of experiences, ideas, encounters or events.
  • You will be expected to keep a journal for this class and to make entries at least twice a week. Each entry should be dated. Everything you write does not have to be related to what we are learning in class – you can use the journal to write about anything you like. But at least once a week you will be given questions for reflection and writing in your journal. You should be sure to write about these questions within a day or so of receiving them.
  • Journals will be collected and reviewed every two weeks.
  1. One research essay. (Worth 250 points.) This research project represents another pillar of the class this semester. A detailed description and timetable for this assignment is included in the syllabus below.
  2. Class Participation. (Worth 100 points.) Your contributions to discussion, debate, and oral presentations will be subject to periodic evaluation. An important component of participation is consistent class attendance and adequate preparation. Criteria for evaluating class participation included below in this syllabus.
  3. Commentaries on Public Lectures. (Worth 25 points each. Total: 50 points.) You will write brief (approximately two page) commentaries on two public lectures or other presentations that address the topics of poverty, discrimination, and justice this Spring Semester. Below is a schedule of events that you may wish to attend. You may also choose to attend other lectures not included in this list. If you do, you must make sure (a) that the event or lecture addresses issues of poverty, discrimination or social justice and (b) that you check with me (your instructor) ahead of time. If you do not get my approval for a particular event, you risk having to do another one.
  1. March 2, 2000, 7:30 P.M., Benedicta Arts Center Auditorium, CSB: Angela Davis speaking on "Women in Prison".
  2. April 1, 2000, 9:00 A.M. – 12:00 Noon, Stephen B. Humphrey Theater Auditorium: Educator Workshop, "Sing to Freedom: Music and Stories of the Underground Railroad".
  3. April 4, 2000, 4:30 P.M., O’Connells, HCC, CSB: Sister Patricia Schnapp and Mary Whitaker speaking on "Restorative Justice".
  4. April 7, 2000, 9:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M., Quad 264, SJU: Conference on Hispanic Liturgy and Inculturation, lead by the Rev. Arturo Perez-Rodriquez. Participants are required to register for this conference in advance. (This event will count for two lectures. Your commentary for this conference should be four pages long.)

Final Grades will be awarded according to the following scale.

564 – 600 points (94 – 100%) = A
528 – 563 points (88 – 93.99%) = AB
498 – 527 points (83 – 87.99%) = B
468 – 497 points (78 – 82.99%) = BC
438 – 467 points (73 – 77.99%) = C
408 – 437 points (68 – 72.99%) = CD
378 – 407 points (63 – 67.99%) = D
Less than 378 points (< 63%) = F

 

Required Texts:

Jonathan Kozol, Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation

Martin Luther King, Jr., Why We Can’t Wait

Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto (Monthly Review Press edition)

Additional photocopied handouts. These materials will be billed to your college accounts.

Evaluation Criteria for Class Participation

Below is a list of what students are expected to do when participating in class:

  1. Build on the comments of others
  2. Help to keep others focussed or on task (especially in small groups)
  3. Incorporate concepts and ideas from the readings into class discussion. This can be done in a variety of different ways:
  1. Ask questions about specific concepts or passages and request clarifications. (It is important that you ask about specific concepts or passages. Global declarations of confusion are not helpful.)
  2. Explain specific passages from the reading in response to other students’ questions
  3. Apply ideas or concepts from the reading to specific situations in your life or in our society today
  4. Answer questions (the instructor’s or other students’) by referring to relevant passages in the reading
  5. Offer an interpretation of a passage in the reading that differs from or disagrees with interpretations offered by others.
  6. Raise critical questions about or objections against concepts, ideas, or arguments presented in the readings. (Such questions or objections should be carefully thought out. General statements of disagreement or dislike are neither helpful nor particularly interesting.)
  1. Introduce relevant ideas, information or research that you learned outside the class and use these to establish a point, illustrate an idea, or bring about greater understanding or insight into the topic under discussion.
  2. Seek to clarify the meaning of other people’s comments.
  3. Tactfully challenge other participants’ contributions, when it is appropriate to do so, by presenting examples or arguments that seem to weaken their position.
  4. Summarize the status of the discussion on order to provide clarification, direction, or context for comments.
  5. Bring others into the discussion by eliciting their thoughts or ideas.

The following is a list of what students ought not to do in class:

1. interrupt others 7. behave in a way that distracts others
2. display impatience with others 8. consistently fail to engage in the discussion
3. behave inattentively 9. habitually engage in sidebar conversations
4. monopolize the discussion 10. wander off topic or off task
5. make demeaning or dismissive comments 11. come to class inadequately prepared
6. arrive late to class 12. make rambling comments

 

Description of Essay Evaluation Criteria
  1. Clear Thesis: A clearly defined idea, point or position that the writer is going to explain, justify, or defend in the essay. Most simply put, with a thesis statement the writer indicates to the reader her goal or purpose in the essay. A thesis statement answers the question: "What do I (the writer) intend to accomplish in this piece of writing?"
  2. Clear and Accurate Explanation of Ideas: Are the ideas, concepts, arguments, or theories of the readings under consideration clearly and accurately explained and presented in the body of the essay?
  3. Balanced Evaluation of Readings: When evaluating the coherence, plausibility, and usefulness of the ideas, concepts, arguments, or theories contained in the readings, is the essay writer fair and even handed? Or does she present a one-sided, unbalanced, uncharitable, or overly simple assessment of the text’s ideas?
  4. The Essay Fulfills the Assignment: When specific essay topics have been assigned, the writer is expected to address the topic in its entirety and not to overlook or ignore questions, issues, or problems specified in the topic.
  5. Discussion Adequately Developed:
  1. Ideas, arguments, examples, illustrations are all explained in adequate detail. The reader is not left to guess at the writer’s intended meaning, or to figure out how or why an example or illustration fits the case, or to fill in steps that the writer leaves out of an argument.
  2. The writer does not raise key questions or objections without also attempting to show how the author or text under consideration might answer or respond to them.

  1. Depth & Engagement of Discussion: Does the essay show that the writer made a sustained attempt to address the problem(s), question(s) or issue(s) at hand, or does it indicate that he made only minimal effort?
  1. A superficial or unengaged essay will have some or all of the following characteristics: (a) only very basic points of the topic will be considered; (b) the readings will not be examined in detail; (c) the complexity of the issues or readings under consideration will be left unexplored; (d) the essay will simply repeat ideas and explanations from class.
  2. An in-depth and engaged discussion will have some or all of the following characteristics: (a) the complexity of the ideas or issues under consideration will be discussed in detail; (b) helpful or interesting examples and illustrations will be used to explain the ideas or issues under consideration; (c) ideas or information learned in other settings that are relevant for the problem, question or issue at hand will be incorporated; (d) unexamined or problematic assumptions found in the readings will be examined and questioned.
  1. Extent of Creative or Critical Thought: Does the writer use the essay topic and the readings under consideration as an opportunity to develop her own thoughts, or does she present a report on what others have said? Put differently, does the writer use the class readings as materials for her own thinking, or does she limit the scope of her thinking to the explanation of the thoughts and ideas of others. (By analogy: an artist might use the materials of paint, canvas and brushes to create her own work, or to make reproductions of another artist’s work.)
  2. Appropriate Use of Textual Passages in the Body of the Essay:
  1. The writer should seek to use passages from the texts to establish or illustrate important points, or to provide evidence in support of specific claims, arguments or criticisms. There are two common problems that the writer should seek to avoid. (a) An essay that consists of a string of quotations and paraphrases connected by a few of the writer’s words – that is, relying too much on the words of the author(s) or text(s) discussed in the essay. (b) The opposite extreme – an essay discussing someone’s ideas, concepts, arguments or theories without quoting the author’s words at all.
  2. In addition to quoting from text(s), the writer of an essay needs to explain what the passage quoted means and why this passage is relevant to the point under discussion. It is undesirable to quote the words of an author without making clear why they are being quoted and how the quotation is relevant. Passages that are quoted without any kind of introduction and without any discussion are much less effective in helping to establish the point the writer wants to make. Quoting passages that are not relevant to the point at hand will also weaken an essay.
  1. Sources Properly Documented: Using an established procedure (MLA, APA, Chicago), all quotations, paraphrases, or significant pieces of information that are not common knowledge should be documented. That is: (1) references to the source of the quotes, paraphrases, or information should be provided; (2) full bibliographic information of all sources referenced in the essay should be included in a works cited page. (When only one or two texts are cited, it is acceptable to locate the bibliographic information on the bottom part of the last page of the essay, when space allows.)
  2. Internal Thematic Coherence of Paragraphs: A coherent paragraph addresses a clear topic, theme, issue, claim or point and should be focussed on that specific topic, theme, etc. This topic, theme, etc. is frequently (though not necessarily) introduced in a topic sentence which indicates what the paragraph will be about. Each sentence in a paragraph bears a clear relation to the topic, theme, etc. of the paragraph – explaining or elaborating the topic, presenting arguments, observations, stories, textual passages or other evidence relevant to the topic. Sentences unrelated to the specific topic, theme, etc. of the paragraph weaken the coherence of the paragraph.
  3. Overall Organization of Essay: The essay follows a clearly defined path of development as the reader proceeds from one paragraph to the next. Each paragraph will make a clear contribution to the overall thesis of the essay. In other words, when the reader finishes one paragraph and moves to the next it should be clear what the following paragraph has to do with the preceding one. Each paragraph should clearly continue the argument, story or presentation of the paragraph before it. It is undesirable for one paragraph to have no clear relation with the next, to "come out of nowhere".
  4. Clarity of Written Expression:
  1. Clear and coherent phrasing, with sentences that flow easily from one to the next.
  2. No ambiguous, muddy, unclear, incoherent or garbled sentences.
  3. No unnecessary wordiness.
  4. Clear, precise word choice (as opposed to just grabbing at the nearest word without taking the time to think of the exact word needed) and proper use of vocabulary.
  1. Effective Conclusion: the conclusion should effectively reinforce or emphasize the author’s thesis without simply repeating what has been said already. It should leave the reader with a sense of closure – that is, the feeling that nothing has been forgotten or left out; no ideas, thoughts or discussions have been dropped without being finished; that there are no "loose threads".
  2. Grammar, spelling & punctuation:
  1. Sentences should be grammatically well formed. Common areas of difficulty are: subject-verb agreement, pronoun antecedent agreement, correct use of subordinating conjunctions.
  2. Has the writer taken time to make sure not only that spelling is correct, but that the correctly spelled words are also the right words? That is, does the writer make sure that spell check doesn’t replace an incorrectly spelled but correct word with a correctly spelled but wrong word? (E.g. – "Bad spellers of the world untie." Correctly spelled, wrong word.)
  3. Proper use of periods, commas, apostrophes, quotation marks, colons, semi-colons, etc.

 

Schedule for the Research Paper and Final Presentations
Monday, Feb. 14

Topic for research paper due (to be discussed in individual conferences).

Your statement of research topic should include
  • a paragraph describing the topic you plan to research,
  • a description of different ways you think you can approach the topic and
  • what you think your focus on the topic will be.
Tuesday, Feb. 22 Preliminary bibliography – bibliography cards for five (5) possible sources due.
You should have as wide a variety of sources as possible.
  • The information on your cards should follow the MLA form for ‘Works Cited’ as described by Hacker in the Bedford Handbook.
  • At this point, none of your sources should be taken from the web. Please take this requirement very seriously. If even one of your sources here is from the web, you will receive a score of 0 for this step in the process.

 

 

Tuesday, March 7 Research Proposal (2-3 pages) and annotated bibliography due.
Your Research Proposal should include:
  1. A preliminary statement of the thesis of your paper and a statement explaining the significance of your topic.
  2. A description of your search so far that answers the following questions:
  • How did you find your sources?
  • Where did you start?
  • What bibliographies/indexes did you use?
  • What kinds of sources have proven to be most valuable?
  1. A description of what you’ve learned about your topic so far:
  • Has your research so far supported or challenged your initial ideas about this topic? Describe how.
  • Have your findings helped you to focus on your topic? Or have you had difficulty maintaining focus?
Your annotated bibliography should consist of at least ten entries.
  • The annotated bibliography does not necessarily have to include every source listed in your preliminary bibliography.
  • For each source listed in the annotated bibliography you should provide a brief paragraph describing the content and the potential usefulness of each source for your project.
  • For each source listed in the annotated bibliography, you should provide a photocopy of one of the following:
  • the title page, if the source is a book;
  • the table of contents, if the source is a journal or magazine;
  • the article itself if the source is a newspaper or any other source without a title page or a table of contents.
  • Note: the annotated bibliography should be on a separate sheet of paper, not on note cards.
Friday, March 17 Working introduction and outline of paper due.
  • The introduction should give the reader a clear understanding of the topic of the research, the significance of the topic, and the position you will be advancing in the writing.
  • The outline should clearly indicate the specific issues and information that you will be discussing and how these contribute to the overall point of your essay. Your outline should be at least two pages in length.

 

Monday, April 3 Complete draft of research paper due.

NOTE: For every source that you quote or cite in your essay, you should provide a photocopy of one of the following:

  • The title page, if the source is a book;
  • The table of contents, if the source is a journal or magazine;
  • The article itself if the source is a newspaper or any other source without a title page or a table of contents.

A mark will not be assigned to your draft, and I will not discuss it with you, until you have submitted these photocopies. This ALSO applies to your final drafts.

April 13 & 17 Individual Conferences to discuss draft.
May 17 Final Draft Due by 1:00 P.M.
May 5, 9, 11, 15 Formal In-Class Presentations

 

The process of writing your research essay will be evaluated and will count for one fourth of the research essay score (50 points). Each step has been assigned a possible point value (see table). Scores for each step will be assigned on the basis of punctuality and completeness. One point will be deducted for each day a given assignment is handed in late.

Point Value for Steps in the Research Essay
Statement of research topic 10 pts.
Preliminary bibliography 10 pts.
Research proposal 10 pts.
Working introduction and outline 20 pts.
Complete draft + 50 pts.
Total for writing process: 100 pts.
Final draft + 150 pts.
Total for research essay 250 pts.

 

Final score for research essay = total points out of 250 possible points.