Heritage of Western Culture 55

The Individual and Society in the Modern World

Shelley Reid, Austin College

Special Focus Theme: Communities and Outsiders

**Here's the link to the 9/14 lecture outline: Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

Sign up for an Expert Testimony date or two! See below for Special Focus Syllabus to find out who's the Expert for any given topic, and which topics are filled already. See also:

Basic Information Grading System In-Class Participation Web-Board Participation
Expert Testimony Response Paper Peer Review Quizzes

The Course Announcement Page has information about upcoming QUIZZES, as well as some general announcements and some riffing on that lovely writing by Perry & Co.

Basic Information

Special Focus Texts: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Jacobs/Brent) and The House on Mango Street (Cisneros)

Focus Groups have been designed to help you more thoroughly understand the concepts described in readings and lectures, more actively participate in the learning process, and more intensively relate the information to your own life and interests. The group meetings and the grading system have both been designed to support those three goals.

Group Meetings: Your attendance and participation is particularly required at the focus group meetings; absences may be penalized (see Space-Time Continuum sheet), while exceptional presence and participation will be rewarded (see Grading System). You will get out of group meetings what you put into them, of course; please take what actions are necessary to make them interesting and useful for you.

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Grading System:

Grading for HWC 55 is based on 3 exams (100 points each), one essay (100 points; see About the HWC Essay), and active participation (100 points). The participation point system for this may seem complex; it has been designed to allow individuals to participate in a variety of ways so that no single learning style, personality, or educational approach is overemphasized. Some flexibility is built in, to allow you to participate in ways that are comfortable to you and to allow you to improve if your early efforts are not to your satisfaction. This system is designed to give you control over your Focus Group grade. Please keep track of your own point accumulation, and ask questions early if you need further clarification.

The 100 points for Participation may be earned as follows:

You will of course see that 115 points are available to be earned; however, no final score above 100 points will be recorded for this part of the grade.

You must complete assignments in each of the first four categories to avoid a grade penalty.

In some sections, as the explanations below note, there are opportunities to earn more than the maximum number of points; however, no sub-total score will exceed the points listed above.

Some sections have specific due dates, and some require advance planning in order to earn points. Please read the additional explanations carefully, and plan ahead when possible.

If you are taking the course S/U, you must earn at least 70 points, with passing scores in each of the first four categories, to earn an "S."

No end-of-semester make-ups will be allowed; you will need to accumulate points throughout the term.

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Focus Group Participation: In-Class and On the Web Board; maximum 35 points.

In-class participation will be the easiest way for many of you to demonstrate your involvement with the course material. Contributions need not be earth-shattering, but should be regular and of interest to the group. Web-Board Participation will be a required supplement for most people, and may be a primary participation venue for quieter or less spontaneous students. You should plan to participate in both ways.

In-Class Participation: Possible 2 points per discussion; maximum 26 points.

To earn a single point during any one of the 15 main focus group meetings, you simply need to open your mouth and contribute: ask a question, answer a question, offer your view in such a way that I'll know you've said it. To earn two points, you should speak more than once: contribute an argument or analysis, provide a question or comment in relation to a peer's discussion questions, or help explore a topic in a way that other class members will benefit from.

I will keep a running tally of points; if you wish to see what your current total is, submit a request in writing, hard-copy or e-mail. Please don't stop me after each class to check!

Web Board Participation:

1. Major Posting: Five points possible (one or more posts) per course unit (maximum 10)

A major post, one at least 100 words of original writing, must demonstrate thoughtful reading and listening to course-related texts, lectures, and discussions. The strongest posts will refer specifically to page numbers, lecture points, direct quotations, and/or posts by other students. You may use your posting to

2. Response Postings: Two points per post; eight points max per unit; 24 points maximum

Miscellaneous postings, while still needing to demonstrate thoughtful consideration, need follow no particular format or reach a certain length. Responses earning full points will of course go further than just saying "me, too!" or "Good point!" or "That's ridiculous," into explanations and additional information original to the student doing the posting. See also "In-class Participation."

Note: Posts created during the last week of each Course Unit, particularly those by first-time participants, will be expected to demonstrate familiarity with a wide range of earlier posts; any post which knowingly or unknowingly repeats an earlier post or duplicates work from another course assignment may not receive full credit.

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"Expert Testimony": 15 points each; may submit twice, max. 30 points.

Who's the expert for a given topic? Is the one you want still free? Check out the syllabus to see.

Nothing's better than having a couple of experts in the room (usually, the more the merrier), and there's no better way to learn something than to try to explain it to someone else. Although you will not be required to swear-in and give a formal presentation, this assignment asks you to come to class especially well prepared to help your peers navigate the complex trails of HWC, and to give them some guidance in doing so.

Complete Parts 1-5; be prepared to respond to peer questions during SFG class. Parts 1-4 will be for the instructor only; design Part 5 to be shared with the class.

Supply one copy, written or e-mail, to the instructor by 9:00 a.m. the day of the nearest Special Focus Group class meeting.

1. Describe two basic but fundamental points of the lecture or SFG text under your expertise: explain each concept in your own language, and explain briefly why each topic is important in the context of this class.

2. Note down one particularly complex, paradoxical, controversial, or confusing point of the lecture or text, and make its implications as clear as possible (imagine one of your peers rolling his eyes and saying "Huhh?!").

3. Draw one connection between material in the lecture or text and a topic we have covered (or will cover) elsewhere in the course.

4. Note one key point that was in the reading assignment but not in the lecture (in the case of an SFG text, do a quick bit of research to bring us a fact, example, comparison, or story that's relevant but not in the text), and explain how it might provide important context for the topic.

5. Create two provocative "discussion starters": these may be questions about theories, what-if's, causes or effects, links to other ideas, or meanings; they may be arguments or hypotheses about causes or effects, utility or goodness, implications, meanings, or connections. They may stay close to the original theories or texts, or may move toward personal responses or current-day events. Try to design questions or arguments that will generate your peers' interest and a variety of responses; if you go with the mundane or obvious, no discussion will get started. Take a risk or two if you'd like; say something you don't entirely agree with, if you think it'll get a good discussion going.

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Response Paper: 20 points maximum.

You will be writing a full essay (see About the HWC Essay) on one of the special focus texts--Jacobs' autobiography or Cisneros' novel. This essay will be allowed to be slightly shorter than the standard assignment: 4-6 pages rather than 5-7. You will write the other page in a slightly less-formal response to the other special focus text. For instance, if you write your full essay on Jacobs, you will complete a response paper on Cisneros, or vice-versa. See the Special Focus Syllabus for due dates.

Topic: As we start each Special Focus unit, you will be given a list of discussion and writing questions about the text and the issues at hand. You may use any of these as a topic for your Response Paper. You may also use ideas from any Discussion Starters presented in class, by you or by your peers.

Scope: Your Response Paper may build on ideas we have mentioned in class, but it must do more than summarize ideas already presented. To earn full credit, your response must also demonstrate that you have thoughtfully completed the reading assignment. You must have a general thesis--a claim about the writer's ideas, about her relationship to other figures we have studied, about a specific technique or style she uses, about the values she incorporates, about your reactions to the readings, or about connections to the special focus theme--and provide specific examples. At least two of your specific examples must be direct quotations with analysis of the words you quote and their significance. You need not have a fancy introduction; instead, get right to your point, and spend your time focusing how the text meets up with your ideas. Do not attempt to solve large problems or discuss hundreds of pages; try to narrow down to one or two points that you were impressed by.

Style: While clarity and thoughtfulness will be important, you need not worry overly much about technique and style. Be straightforward; you may be informal, but don't be sloppy.

Length: 250-400 words. Please type/computer print this assignment. Lateness rules apply.

Quizzes: 3-5 points each; 15 points maximum.

At unspecified times, short quizzes on the reading material will be given. These will be closed-book but open-note, and should be straightforward for those who have thoughtfully completed the reading assignments, including those from Perry.

Quizzes will normally be given at the beginning of class. Unless disaster has struck, latecomers will not be given extra time. Quizzes may not be made up, even in the case of excused, "UND" absences (see Space/Time Continuum).

Attendance Bonus: 5 points

Any student with 2 or fewer absences overall during the semester and no more than one special focus group absence will receive this point bonus.

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Peer Review: optional. 5 points each, up to twice for 10 points maximum.

To encourage you to hone your thinking about these issues and help others clarify theirs, you may earn points by reviewing and commenting thoughtfully on any essay or response paper submitted as an assignment for either of our "Communities and Outsiders" special focus groups. You may earn review points only once for critiquing a response paper; other points must come from a full-essay review.

Arrangements: For highest benefit, it is recommended that you exchange essays with a peer; however, you need not have someone read your essay to complete this assignment. Common courtesy suggests that you return an essay and your comments to the author at least 24 hours before the due date. You must submit a photocopy or additional printout to the instructor to receive credit; you need not duplicate short comments made on the essay itself. Essays may be read by more than one person.

Length and scope: You should answer each of the questions listed below, in addition to answering any specific questions the author has for you. Your responses should demonstrate careful reading and refer to specific points in the author's essay. Answers to some questions may be only a few words; answers to others will necessitate several sentences. You should aim for a minimum of 150 words total in response to the questions below; many responses will be longer. Responses may be handwritten or typed/word-processed.

A Note on Courtesy: You are expected to read your peers' writing with respect and courtesy. You should also try to provide the kind of comments that would be most helpful to you if it were your paper. This means aiming somewhere between "Everything was very nice" (which is pleasant but not very helpful) and "The whole thing is stupid." Focusing on specific parts of the essay, and framing your comments with "I-statements" like "I think that..." or "I didn't quite understand..." may help you contribute constructive criticism.

Questions: Read all questions before starting the essay. Answer on a separate sheet.

1. Read the opening paragraph or two (sentence or two if a response paper) and stop. What seems to be the main idea/argument of the essay? do you think you will agree or disagree with it, and why? If the main idea/argument is not clear, write a note to the author suggesting change.

2. Write down three questions about this idea that you think the author will answer for you.

3. Finish reading the essay. If you wish, you may mark errors that you see. Then, without looking back at it, briefly describe what point or points were most memorable or interesting, and why.

4. Look back over the essay. Describe any point where you were confused, unconvinced, or uncertain of the connections or ideas being explained.

5. Find two places where the author could add more specific information, explanation, analysis of quotations, or evidence. Suggest specifically what kind of additions could be made.

6. If any of your questions weren't answered by the essay, repeat them here.

7. Is there any place where the author could/should draw connections to broader themes or other texts included in this special focus or HWC 55 in general? Explain and make suggestions.

8. If the author only had an hour to make changes, what top two things should s/he do?

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About the HWC Essay

See below for Essay Check List

You will write one formal essay for this class, 4-6 pages, worth 100 points. Your essay will examine connections between larger class issues and one of the Special Focus texts. You will receive a formal assignment sheet at the beginning of each special focus unit, though you will have options in designing your own assignment. You may have a peer, a skills center tutor, and/or a professor read and comment on a draft of your essay at any point.

All essays will be due on the dates given on the Special Focus Syllabus. Late essays will be downgraded (see Space-Time Continuum).

Although this is not "an English class," you will be expected to write a paper that is clear, well supported, and logically organized. I often use the following criteria as I grade essays; you might use them as a checklist for writing and drafting your own essay. An optional workshop discussing these and other writing strategies has been scheduled.

Thesis/Focus: have you chosen and developed a strong, arguable (not merely descriptive) point? does your essay maintain its focus on this and/or other very closely related ideas? have you responded to the issues raised by the assignment question? do you incorporate connections to other class issues? have you answered your audience's crucial question, "so what?" by explaining the importance of these issues for other participants in Western Cultures?

Evidence: do you provide specific evidence from the text(s) at hand or from your personal experience for each facet of your argument? do you balance quotations with summary (not too much of either one), and work the evidence smoothly into your own sentences and arguments? do you clarify how each piece of evidence directly supports your argument(s)?

Structures & Presentation: have you organized your thoughts into a logical sequence, and made that sequence clear to your audience/reader? do the intro and conclusion connect smoothly with your reader? do you subdivide complex arguments into manageable pieces that lead a reader along your thought-paths step by step? do you move smoothly from point to point? have you eliminated distracting mechanical errors and rewritten troublesome sentences?

Insight: does your essay reveal something--large or small--about the text(s) that increases a reader's understanding (of the story, of himself/herself, of cultural/historical issues)? do your analyses draw connections, reveal patterns, or highlight motives that weren't immediately visible to a casual reader? do you apply your own personal experience appropriately where necessary, and anticipate your readers' responses to your arguments?

Essay Check List: Your essay folder should contain all early notes & drafts, your final copy, your post-script (below), and any peer comments you've received.

Post-Script: After you complete the final draft, answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper (typing not required):

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HWC Special Focus Syllabus

This is a supplement to your overall HWC 55 syllabus. SFG meetings and key dates are listed in bold.

Lectures are grouped just above the SFG date where they will be discussed: Expert Testimony assignments are due at 9:00 a.m. on the relevant SFG day.

Expert Testimony participants are listed in italics below the relevant topic or discussion day.

Up to three sets of Expert Testimonies from each section will be assigned to any lecture or up to three for any special focus text-day; please select dates in advance and notify me in writing. You can e-mail your Discussion Starter Request .

Wed., Sept. 2: Lecture: Exploration
Friday, Sept. 4: Introductory Discussion

Monday, Sept. 7: Lecture: Social Contract : Barrett Kirk(11)
Wed., Sept. 9: Discussion: Exploration, Contracts, & Special Focus themes

Friday, Sept. 11: Lecture: Revolution
Monday, Sept 14: Lecture: Ordinary People ("Back at the Ranch")

Wed., Sept. 16: Discussion: Franklin and Woolf, Rebels & Masses

Friday, Sept. 18: Optional review session, 10:00-10-50: Writing HWC essays & exams

Friday, Sept. 18: Enlightenment & Religion

Monday, Sept. 21: Special Focus, Individual rights in a slave economy
Assignment: Jacobs, Intro 2, Preface, Chapters 1-8

Wed., Sept. 23: Special Focus, The power of community
Assignment: Jacobs, Chapters 13-14, 17-18, 21, 23, 25

Friday, Sept. 25: Special Focus, Negotiations and rebellions
Assignment: Jacobs, Chapters 29, 31-32, 34-35, 37, 40-41

Monday, Sept. 28: EXAM for Unit 1

Wed., Sept. 30: Lecture: Romanticism

Friday, Oct. 2: Lecture: Mill

Monday, Oct. 5: Discussion: Changing perceptions

Wed., Oct. 7: SPECIAL FOCUS DUE DATE: Essays or Response Papers due at the start of class.

Wed., Oct. 7: Lecture: Industrial Revolution

Monday, Oct. 12: Lecture: Marx

Wed., Oct. 14: Discussion: More revolutions

Friday, Oct 16: Lecture: Nationalism

Monday, Oct. 19: Lecture: Imperialism

Wed., Oct. 21: Lecture: Freud

Friday, Oct. 23: Discussion: Power & Identity, Heart of Darkness

Monday, Oct. 26: Lecture: World War I

Wed., Oct. 28: Special Focus, Systems & people
Assignment: Cisneros, pp. 1-32

Friday, Oct. 30: Special Focus, Groups within groups
Assignment: Cisneros, pp. 33-66

Monday, Nov. 2: Special Focus, Breaking in, breaking out, reconstructing
Assignment: Cisneros, pp. 67-110

Wed., Nov. 4: EXAM for Unit 2

Friday, Nov. 6: Lecture: Modernism

Monday, Nov. 9: Lecture: Revolution & Totalitarianism

Wed., Nov. 11: Lecture: Religion & Existentialism

Friday, Nov. 13: CLASS CANCELED: MAKE-UP TIMES BELOW (Essay drafts? see Note above)

Mon., Nov. 16 11:00 Lecture: Post-Colonialism

Wed., Nov. 18: SPECIAL FOCUS DUE DATE: Essays or Response Papers due at the start of class.
Wed., Nov. 18: Lecture: Modern Culture

Friday, Nov. 20: Discussion: Material World

Monday, Nov. 23: Lecture: Civil Rights

Wed., Nov. 25: Lecture: Feminism

Monday, Nov. 30: Discussion: Rights and freedoms

Wed., Dec. 2: Balkanization and Multiculturalism

Friday, Dec. 5: Discussion: E pluribus unum, and course evaluations

Monday, Dec. 7: OPTIONAL: Exam 3 review, odds & ends

Wed., Dec. 9: EXAM for Unit 3, 12:00 noon

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This page last modified 8/98