110: INTRODUCTION COLLEGE WRITING
Section 014: MW,
10-11:50 a.m., and F 11-11:50 a.m., HHH 321
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
PROFESSOR BOB NOWLAN
Office: HHH 425,
Office Hours: MW
4:20-5:15 p.m., W 10:40-11:30 p.m., R 4:40-5:30 p.m.,
MWF 12 noon to 1
p.m., and By Appointment.
the Statement of Explanation of General Principles
The aim of this section of the course syllabus is to
provide not merely a description but rather an explanation, as well as
a justification, for how I conceive of and approach teaching this
course, and why so.
English 110 is an intensive, demanding, five-credit
introduction to "college writing." Although all sections of
English 110 share a broad set of common objectives, we who teach these
sections interpret meeting these objectives according to a range of
different conceptions of precisely what to teach, how to teach, and why
to teach. I (along with a number of my colleagues) teach English
composition to focus on argumentative writing, writing as critical
citizenship, writing as critical culture studies, and writing as
focused on engaging with and contributing toward the further
development of ongoing social struggles for progressive social change.
What This Means, in
Sum; The Importance of Writing Critically and of
Writing as Social
Engagement and Social Responsibility
What does this mean for what we will do together
this semester? In short, it means that I teach "college writing" as
writing designed to contribute actively, intelligently, and especially
critically toward what I contend constitutes the ultimately most
powerful and significant work carried out from within this social
institution, the higher educational "academy": that is, the production
and dissemination of knowledge that can enable substantial progress in
ongoing struggles for human emancipation, collective equality, social
justice, and ecological sustainability.
Who are “College
Writers”? College Writers, College Writing,
and Social Change
I conceive "college writers" to be men and women
who know and care about what is happening in the world, and who strive
to do what they can to make this world a better place, even when and
where the obstacles you confront in these efforts are great, and when
and where the freedom you enjoy to exercise genuinely democratic rights
in pursuit of these objectives is severely limited. In other words, you
learn to recognize and accept, to paraphrase the famous words of
Frederick Douglass, "that without struggle there can be no progress."
I teach "Introduction to College Writing" to people
whom I approach not merely as "students," but also, much more
importantly, as human beings seeking to learn and understand, and to
act and interact-to intervene-by joining with and contributing to
ongoing struggles for urgently needed social change, change that
extends far beyond the limited confines of the classroom, the course,
or even the university. These are men and women who conceive of
college education as entailing a social responsibility, and who commit
themselves to do what they can, in practice, to meet this
"College writers" are therefore not, as I see it,
simply those men and women who have "mastered the rules," who have
"learned how to play the game," and who can, as such, write in
technically competent and skillful fashion sufficient to enable them to
"get by" in their college courses, and to obtain "good jobs"
afterward. "College writers" do not approach their writing as a
mere means of finding the best way to "fit in," "obey orders," submit
to authority, and conform to the dictates of those in dominant
positions of power. College writers are people who can, and as
necessary who will, fight this power–a power often deployed in the
interest of maintaining and reproducing relations of oppression,
exploitation, alienation, and dehumanization–and they are prepared to
do so with the critical and oppositional power that their own writing
Writing as a
Process of Thinking and a
Mode of Committed,
"College writers" conceive of writing not as a mere
"product" that displays what these women and men have thought, in an
"acceptable form," after the thinking is done, and after these writers
have self-censored anything that might "upset" or "disturb" anyone
else. On the contrary, college writers conceive of writing as a
process of thinking, and as a process, more precisely, of exploring,
inquiring, reflecting, interpreting, evaluating, expressing,
communicating, and of taking up and pushing forward positions to which
the writer can and does commit herself with sincerity, determination,
passion, and enthusiasm. College writers do not hesitate to
represent unpopular positions, and to advocate for these, when and
where they do maintain these positions, because these writers are men
and women who have not given way to the cynical and despairing
conviction that they are entirely powerless and inconsequential
(despite the abundant, often highly sophisticated ways that our
dominant capitalist culture inculcates us with this sense of our own
powerlessness and inconsequentiality). Instead, college writers
believe the issues their positions address are vitally important and
they have a right, as well as a responsibility, to make their voices
heard. These men and women are willing to risk provoking,
challenging, even alienating and offending their readers, when and
where it is right and necessary to do so–when and where, that is, the
issues at stake require it.
Writing with a
Purpose; Writing as Unity of Form and Content,
and of Text and
Context; and What it Means to
Think, Read, and
Writing is always intrinsically connected with
reading, thinking, feeling, speaking, and acting. What's more,
how we write always depends upon what we write, for whom we write, and,
especially, why we write. Writing can be taught as if it involved
merely a set of neutral skills and/or empty forms–and yet, in
actuality, the skills and forms that are so taught are neither neutral
nor empty of content; such formalist approaches in fact teach us to
develop, express, and communicate the kinds of thoughts and feelings in
the kinds of ways which serve to maintain and reproduce the interests
of dominant social groups without us understanding that this is what
they are doing.
It is, therefore, of crucial importance that writing
be taught as a unity both of form and content, and of text and
context. Writing is not merely form; forms never really exist
separate from contents. Neither is writing merely text; texts
never really exist separate from contexts. In this course, you will
learn how to read and write in ways that involve the uniting both of
form and content and of text and context. In particular, you will
learn how to do this by learning how to read and write–and to
think–critically. Learning to read and to write critically means
learning to proceed beyond merely describing the ways in which texts
work, toward explaining how and especially why–in particular, for
what–they work as they do. "Composition," in sum, is not
manipulation: it is construction, design, and creation. To learn
how to compose in written language is to learn how to express,
communicate, develop, and refine ideas, beliefs, thoughts, and feelings
of significance and urgency.
The Rhetoric and
Politics of Reading and Writing;
Writing to Persuade
In the process of learning to read and write
critically, it is necessary to focus particular attention upon both the
rhetoric and the politics of reading and writing. "Rhetoric"
refers to the art of using words effectively to express and communicate
thoughts and feelings in speaking and writing. In particular, you
will learn how to produce arguments capable either 1. of persuading
others to accept and/or identify with a particular position with which
they are not already previously in agreement, or 2. of compelling these
others to reformulate and rearticulate previously maintained positions
in response to the pressure your arguments have exerted upon their
previously maintained positions. "Politics" does not refer merely
to that which it is conventionally understood to refer–campaigning and
voting for election to legislative and executive positions in
government–but rather to the entire sphere of conflict and struggle, as
well as the regulation and adjudication of this conflict and struggle,
among individuals and social groups over right of access to, and
opportunity for the exercise of, natural and cultural resources,
powers, and capacities. The "politics of reading and writing"
refers to the ways in which the activities of reading and writing–and
the texts we read and write in the process of pursuing these
activities–are both affected by and in turn affect this conflict and
struggle over access to and exercise of resources, powers, and
capacities. Rhetoric focuses upon how writing is done: how to
make it as effective as possible so as to persuade or compel its
audience. Politics focuses upon what writing is designed to
persuade or compel its audience to do and why this writing is designed
to enable such ends and serve such interests.
Writing and Critical Citizenship
The ultimate goal of learning to write critically is
to enhance your ability to engage as a critical citizen. Critical
citizens are empowered agents able effectively to question, challenge,
and contribute toward the progressive transformation of the prevailing
status quo within the communities, societies, and cultures of which
they are a part. Argument is the most fundamental and indeed
indispensable means of discourse (i.e., social use of human language)
for all kinds of serious intellectual work and especially for all forms
of effectively critical citizenship. Argument is essential to
practices of inquiring and investigating, convincing and compelling,
persuading and moving, contesting and cooperating, and negotiating and
resolving. Therefore, this section of English 110 will focus on
education in argumentative writing. This does not mean we will
neglect "other kinds of writing," as effective argumentative writing
necessarily draws upon and incorporates all of the following subsidiary
writing practices: paraphrasing, summarizing, citing and quoting,
comparing and contrasting, analyzing and synthesizing, reporting and
informing, researching and investigating, reflecting and commenting,
imagining and inventing, describing and explaining, revising and
editing, and demonstrating and presenting. Moreover, we will also
continually address questions of grammar, usage, punctuation, and
mechanics over the course of the semester, but in this course you will
develop and improve your mastery of the rules and conventions of
Standard Written English by learning how and why mastery of these rules
and conventions will facilitate and strengthen the effectivity of your
arguments on issues of substantial social interest and concern.
And, beyond all of this, you should note well, in reviewing the
schedule below, that we will begin the semester with three weeks
focused on issues of style, before turning directly toward
consideration of critical and argumentative reading and writing.
Teaching Against Fascism
In conclusion, I teach "college writing" as I do
because I do not want you, as my students, to leave this course
equipped simply, passively, to follow others' instructions in solving
others' problems without being able to question, challenge, and
critique the ways in which these others have conceived and articulated
these instructions, and these problems; I do not want you merely to
"fit in" and "take orders" as dupes of the rich, the strong, the elite,
and the powerful–I teach instead in direct opposition to education
which is designed to make you into good fascist subjects.
The following required texts may be purchased at the
UWEC Bookstore in Davies Center:
1. Crusius, Timothy W. and Carolyn E. Channell.
The Aims of Argument: a Brief Guide.
4th Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.
2. Trimble, John R. Writing with Style: Conversations on the
Art of Writing. 2nd Edition. Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2000.
3. Griffith, Kevin, ed. The Common Courage Reader: Essays for an
Informed Democracy. Monroe, ME: Common Courage
4. Glassner, Barry. The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are
Afraid of the Wrong Things: Crime, Drugs, Minorities, Teen Moms, Killer
Kids, Mutant Microbes, Plane Crashes, Road Rage, & So Much More.
New York: Basic Books, 1999.
5. Orwell, George. 1984. 1949.
New York: Plume, 2003.
6. Everest, Larry. Oil, Power, and Empire: Iraq and the U.S.
Global Agenda. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2004.
I expect every member of the class to obtain access
to a copy of each of these books. If you can find copies from
sources other than the UWEC Bookstore, at lower prices, fine, but, if
not, you should know I do not accept any excuses for not expeditiously
obtaining access to these books. The cost of knowledge in a
capitalist society can be quite expensive, and different groups of
people maintain different access to it according to their relative
socio-economic position; there is ultimately no way around this fact
other than to transform this society as a whole into something
fundamentally different. Until then, however, you can expect that
most institutions of higher education, at least in the United States,
will continue to require students themselves to pay for textbooks, and
not to include this cost as part of what students pay in tuition.
The relative cost of textbooks at UWEC is considerably less than it was
where I went to school as an undergraduate, so I am not
sympathetic with complaints about this matter. If you cannot
afford to pay for your books, you need to take time off from
college, or before coming to college, to work to earn the amount of
money it takes to cover this expense.
I will supply copies of other required texts used in
the course in the form of photocopied handouts, weblinks, documents
posted on our Desire2Learn electronic classroom (which I will explain
in class before you first need to use it), and in other diverse forms,
such as through the faculty-student shared drive on the UWEC campus
network. I will supply copies of audio-visual texts we will use
Students will be required to bring texts, especially
copies of your own writing, to class, from time to time, and will need
to take note of and respond to each others’ writings on our
Desire2Learn electronic classroom website.
*** Please note
well: all reading assignments indicated in the schedule below are due
ahead of the class meetings in which we will discuss these
readings. You are responsible for bringing the course book or
books to class on the days in which we will be discussing readings from
this book or these books. Failure to do so will negatively affect
your learning and contribution grade; students who consistently fail to
bring their books to class, or who fail to come prepared to discuss the
assigned readings, will suffer the loss of one full letter grade per
1/26-M: Introduction and Orientation
1/28-W: Writing with Style:
Chapters 1-2 (“Thinking Well” and “Getting Launched”), 3-24.
1/30-F: Writing with Style:
Chapter 3 (“Openers”), 25-31.
2/2-M: Writing with Style:
Chapters 4-5 (“Middles” and “Closers”), 32-52.
Essay Assigned. *
2/4-W: Writing with Style:
Chapters 6-7 (“Diction” and “Readability”), 53-81.
2/6-F: Writing with Style:
Chapter 8 (“Superstitions”), 82-93.
2/9-M: Writing with Style:
Chapters 9-11 (“How to Write a Critical Analysis,” “Revising,” and
“Proofreading”), 94-101. The
Aims of Argument: Appendix (“A Short
Guide to Editing and Proofreading”), A1-A18.
2/11-W: Writing with Style:
Chapter 12 (“Punctuation”), 105-132.
2/13-F: Writing with Style:
Chapter 13 (“Quoting”), 133-148.
2/16-M: Writing with Style:
Chapters 14-15 (“Abbreviations” and “Tips on Usage”) and Writers
Talking Shop, 149-159 and 165-189.
Essay Due. *
2/18-W: The Aims of Argument:
Chapters 1-2 (“Understanding Argument” and “Reading Arguments”), 3-51.
2/20-F: The Aims of Argument:
Chapter 3 (“Analyzing Arguments: a Simplified Toulmin Method), 53-68.
2/23-M: Discussion, Readings from The
Common Courage Reader (“Myth: Today’s Youth are the Worst
Generation Ever” and “Born to be ‘Disruptive’: Diagnosing and Drugging
America’s Children and Youth”), 22-50 and 61-82.
2/25-W: The Aims of Argument:
Chapter 4 (“Reading and Writing about Visual Arguments”), 69-105.
2/27-F: Discussion, Readings from The
Common Courage Reader, (“”The Invisible Threat,” and “Are
You the One in Eight?”), 190-200 and 224-228.
3/1-M: The Aims of Argument:
Chapter 6-7 (“Looking for Some Truth: Arguing to Inquire” and “Making
Your Case: Arguing to Convince”), 161-249.
* Argument and
Research Paper Assigned. *
3/3-W: Discussion, Readings from The Common Courage Reader
(“Microsoft ‘Outcells’ Competition,” “‘Rent to Own’: the Slick Cousin
of Paying on Time,””A Tale of Two Inner Cities” and “The Ideology of
Competitiveness: Pitting Worker Against Worker”), 143-160, 137-160,
* First Learning
and Contribution Reflection Paper Assigned. *
3/5-F No Class.
3/8-M: Discussion, The Aims of
Argument: Chapters 8-9 (“Motivating Action: Arguing to Persuade”
and “Resolving Conflict: Arguing to Negotiate and Mediate”),
3/10-W: Discussion, Readings from The
Common Courage Reader (“Of ‘Faggots’ and ‘Butch Dykes’ and Other
‘Unfit’ Children,” “From Tiny Tim to Jerry Lewis: Charity and Economic
Rights,” “School Days, Rule Days” and “The Devil in the Details: How
the Christian Right’s Vision of Political and Religious Opponents May
Lead to Religious Warfare”), 51-60, 166-175, and 248-265.
3/12-F: Discussion, Readings from The Common Courage Reader
(“Guatemala 1962 to 1980: a Less Publicized ‘Final Solution’,” and
Selections from Bridge of Courage:
Life Stories of the Guatemalan Compañeros and Compañeras),
* First Learning
and Contribution Reflection Paper Due. *
3/15-M: The Aims of Argument:
Chapter 5 (“Writing Research-Based Arguments”), 107-158.
* Argument and
Research Paper Topic, Issue, Stance,
and Working Thesis
Statement Due. *
3/17-W and 3/19-F: Discussion, Readings from The Culture of Fear, Introduction
and Chapters 1-3, xi-xxviii and 1-84.
3/29-M: Discussion, Readings from The
Culture of Fear, Chapters 4-6, 85-150.
3/31-W and 4/2-F: Discussion, Readings from The Culture of Fear, Chapters 7-9,
4/5-M and 4/7-W: Screening and Discussion, Bowling for Columbine.
* M 4/5: Annotated
Bibliography for Argument and Research Paper Due. *
4/14-W and 4/16-F: Discussion, 1984,
Foreword and Part One, vii-xxvi and 1-106.
4/19-M: Discussion, 1984,
Part Two, 107-230.
* M 4/19: Argument
and Research Paper Due. *
4/21-W and F 4/23: Discussion, 1984,
Part Three and Afterword, 231-337.
* W 4/21: Debate
and Debate Paper Assigned. *
4/26-M: Screening and Discussion, 1984.
4/28-W and F: Debate Preparation.
5/5-W: Discussion, Oil, Power, and
Empire: Chapters 1-2 (“‘Go
Massive. Sweep It All Up’” and “Iraqis–Not Present at the
* Second Learning
and Contribution Reflection Paper Assigned. *
5/7-F: Discussion, Oil, Power, and
Empire: Chapters 3-4 (“Saddam Hussein’s American Train” and
“Arming Iraq: Double-Dealing Death in the Gulf”), 55-117.
5/10-M: Discussion, Oil, Power, and
Empire: Chapter 5-7 (“‘We Have to Have a War’,” “Germ Warfare:
America’s Weapon of Mass Destruction,” and “The Great WMD Flim Flam”),
* Debate Paper
5/12-W:Discussion, Oil, Power, and
Empire: Chapters 8-10 (“A Growing Clamor for Regime Change,”
“Operation Iraqi Colonization,” and “Oil, Power & Empire”), 205-276.
5/14-F: Discussion, Oil, Power, and
Empire: Chapter 11 and Appendix (“The Bitter Fruits of an Unjust
War” and “Dissecting U.S. Pretexts for War”), 277-329.
5/17-M: Final Examination Essay,
8 to 10 a.m., Room to be Announced.
5/19-W: Second Learning and
Contribution Reflection Paper Due.
SCHEDULE IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE *****
THE GOALS OF THE
This university is a liberal arts institution;
education in the liberal arts (and sciences) represents the historic
and central commitment of what we do together on this UW campus-not
vocational training and pre-professional development. Our
university administration and faculty support this commitment so
strongly that they have asked that all syllabi elaborate the official
goals of the baccalaureate, as well as identify which ones the course
in question will help you achieve. According to the UWEC
administration, the baccalaureate degree shall work to develop the
following for UWEC students:
1.) an understanding of a liberal education.
2.) an appreciation of the University as a learning community.
3.) an ability to inquire, think, analyze.
4.) an ability to write, read, speak, listen.
5.) an understanding of numerical data.
6.) a historical consciousness.
7.) international and intercultural experience.
8.) an understanding of science and scientific methods.
9.) an appreciation of the arts.
10.) an understanding of values.
11.) an understanding of human behavior and human institutions.
UWEC strives to help
you meet these objectives in the course of the higher education you
pursue here. Please note that in making these our foremost aims,
we at UWEC clearly distinguish ourselves from technical colleges as
well as from all other UW schools, especially places like Stout, River
Falls, and Stevens Point. English 110, Introduction to College
Writing aims to help contribute to you meeting goals 1-4 and
These goals cannot be met passively by the student:
each requires your striving
toward it to be met. Striving means learning actively, completing
assignments in a thorough and timely fashion, participating in class
discussion, and making connections (above and beyond those emphasized
by us in the classroom) between what we do while meeting in class and
what you do when engaged outside of the classroom.
CHALLENGES, ACADEMIC FREEDOM,
The English Department would like to call your
attention right away to one key difference between high school and
college. In short, at this institutional level we will
consistently address and treat you as adults, not children. Our
aim as such is to provide you with an intellectually challenging
education. This means we will often include texts and introduce
topics in our courses that may well run sharply counter to your
preconceived understanding, based upon high school experience, of what
is and is not “appropriate” for direct engagement in class. We
will, in short, candidly explore adult texts and topics, including ones
offering representations that may, on occasion, prove unsettling,
disturbing, and even offensive to some of you.
The higher educational academy is not a “safe space”
separate from the rest of the “real world” where you can expect to be
sheltered from encountering anything you might find disagreeable or
objectionable. On the contrary, we expect you to take up the
challenge to confront these kinds of texts and topics in a mature,
responsible way, and that means bringing directly to bear your negative
reactions-including your reactions of shock, dismay, and discontent-in
class discussions and in your writings and presentations for
class. If you find a position or practice represented by a text
or topic included in the assigned readings or screenings for class to
be objectionable, it is therefore of crucial importance that you raise
your objections openly and honestly, not simply claim personal
exemption from having to see, hear, or talk, read, and write about
these kinds of matters. After all, disturbing positions and
practices exist extensively outside of the classroom as well as in what
we read, see, hear, and otherwise confront in and for class; what we
confront in class exists in this institutional space as symptomatic of
positions and practices that operate beyond the confines of the
classroom, the course, and the university. If and when you find
any text or topic genuinely appalling, you maintain the
ethical responsibility, as a mature adult and as a responsible citizen,
not simply to try to hide from these positions and practices but rather
to work to critique and change them.
Students should expect therefore that you may well
on occasion encounter representations that you will find troubling, in
this UWEC course and in many others as well; within this Department you
will receive no right of exemption from engaging with these and no
welcome for simply complaining (especially to a higher administrative
authority) about their inclusion. Instead you should bring your
objections forthrightly to bear in your contributions to class
discussion. Finally, to conclude this particular point of
discussion, a professor differs from a high school teacher in many
respects, but one key difference is that we maintain a principal
professional, ethical responsibility forthrightly to represent the most
advanced knowledges in our fields of expertise and to proceed from
there to work toward their further development and
dissemination. In short, we must create, advocate for, and
profess these knowledges; you should expect that your professors may
from time to time take strong and indeed controversial positions on
difficult and challenging issues, eschewing the pretense of
disinterested neutrality. To do anything less than assume this
responsibility, and to do so with alacrity, would be to shirk our
professorial responsibility and to render ourselves unworthy of
maintaining our professorial positions.
MY STAKE IN
TEACHING AS I DO
As I see it, college is not, in actuality, a
separate world unto itself: college is not "an ivory tower." On
the contrary, college is an integral part of a larger society–even when
this does not readily appear to be the case. College always
serves specific interests and needs of this larger society. Every
college should always strive to be a vital part of the local, regional,
national, and international communities in which it is situated, and
the college teacher should always teach with this is mind. The
knowledge concentrated within the higher educational academy does not
exist in a vacuum, and it should not be taught as if it did so
exist. Knowledge therefore should always be taught and learned in
terms of how and for what it can be socially useful.
I believe that the knowledges and skills students
gain from college study should serve as more than merely means to the
acquisition of a degree and to the increase in wealth, status, and
power that this degree can help obtain. Students do hear and read
and talk about major social and political problems quite often, yet
they also frequently tend to think of these as problems which are
beyond their capability significantly to influence. I aim to show
my students that they do not need to accept this sense of their own
insignificance and powerlessness. I believe, on the contrary,
that you can begin to make a difference in the positions you take up
and in the practices you pursue, every day, within even the most
immediate of the local communities in which you participate.
As I see it, any serious intellectual, working as a
professor at the university level, should be open with her students
about her stance on the issues she addresses in teaching the texts and
topics that she does. In other words, he should have ideas of his
own which he represents to his students and he should be accountable to
his students for where he is coming from, how, and why. In making
my positions clear and being open about them, trusting and respecting
you as capable of dealing with these for what they are, I am inviting
contestation and I am making it all the less likely that I might in any
way "deviously" "manipulate" your own thinking. Teachers who
pretend to maintain a position of "disinterested neutrality" in
relation to the texts and topics they teach are, in contrast, those who
are far more likely to be deviously manipulative, because it is in fact
impossible to be genuinely disinterested about social issues that shape
and determine who and what we are all about, and it is also likewise
impossible to remain effectively neutral in relation to ongoing social
struggles over how to conceive and engage with these issues.
All education is political, and this includes
education that claims to be apolitical–that is, to be above and beyond,
or indifferent to and unconcerned about politics. The supposedly
apolitical classroom in fact supports the maintenance and reproduction
of the status quo because it does nothing to question, challenge,
critique, and work to change this status quo. If I were to teach
this way, I would teach in direct opposition to my own foremost
principled convictions. In effect I would be doing either one of
two things that I simply cannot and will not, in good conscience,
do. Either I would pretend to be a mainstream conservative who is
satisfied that "the way things are is the way they should be," or I
would accept the despairing conclusion that nothing can be done to
change any of this, that I am essentially powerless and
inconsequential, and that I should cynically simply "do what I have to
do to take care of myself" by merely "going along" with mainstream
conservative commonsense in order to "get along" with those who
exercise dominant positions of institutional and social power. I
refuse to do either of these things; I must stand up for what I believe
At the same time, I always seek to do justice to
positions different from, and opposing, my own–to my mind no other
stance is intellectually, ethically, or politically responsible–and I
welcome, in fact encourage, my students always to feel free to disagree
with, argue against, and critique the positions I maintain. I do not
seek to "persuade" my students to accept and identify with "my"
positions so much as to "compel" you to rethink, reformulate, and
rearticulate your previously maintained positions in response to the
pressure my arguments, those of your classmates, and those advanced in
the texts we will read and the films we will screen exert upon those
previously maintained positions. If you agree with me, or find yourself
"persuaded" to agree with me, so be it, but that is not my principal
objective in openly representing "my own" positions in my pedagogical
interaction with you. In short, I want you to think, rigorously and
critically, for yourself, and to question all authorities, including
me. In the courses I teach no position is ever simply unwelcome and
excluded out of hand. I maintain a commitment at all times to free and
open inquiry and to critical–including self-critical–examination,
reflection, and exchange. Students are judged not on what positions
they hold and support but rather on how well they argue and account for
these and how well they do so by engaging seriously with other
positions represented by myself, by other students, and by the writers
and film makers we meet.
Likewise, I encourage you to speak and write
forthrightly in relation to every position, issue, and text we address
this semester; you certainly should never simply pretend to agree with
anything unless you truly do so. I want, in this light, here to
emphasize what Kevin Griffith, editor of The Common Courage Reader (one of
our required textbooks this semester), writes in his “Introduction for
All of the
readings here are written by people passionately committed to improving
our society. What you are about to read is truly writing with a
purpose–whether that purpose is to expose the dark side of capitalism,
the way power and wealth control the media, or the way our own
government terrorizes its own citizens and the citizens of neighboring
nations. The purpose of The Common Courage Reader is not to
indoctrinate you into any particular way of thinking, but to provide an
antidote to the culture we are all a part of, a culture that promotes
political passivity and apathy. We live in a society where others
who have more wealth and power will gladly do our thinking for
us–unless we choose to think critically for ourselves. (3)
I insist upon maintaining a certain amount of
discipline and order in how I organize and conduct my classes, and I
think this is in fact necessary for students to be "free" to learn
effectively from me, from the texts we read in and for class, and from
each other. This also means that I do not pretend that I as
teacher–and especially as a doctor and a tenured professor–occupy the
same institutional or cultural position as my students. I do not
try to hide or deny the fact that I am called upon to exercise
authority in the course and in the classroom. I do not seek to protect
myself from student contestation and therefore am upfront about the
fact that I am the teacher and am called upon to exercise
authority. I account for my authority in terms of how–and
especially for what–I use it. I likewise believe that the
classroom in which the teacher denies and disowns her authority is more
likely to be the classroom in which the teacher abuses her authority
since this latter kind of classroom allows the teacher to conceal the
fact that she does exercise authority and thereby protects her use of
this authority from being questioned and challenged.
I encourage you to meet with me in conference during
office hours or at another mutually convenient time to discuss any
issue of interest or concern related to what we are doing in this
course. Learning that takes place in conferences can at times be
equally as important, and in fact occasionally even more important,
than what takes place in class. Please do not hesitate to meet
with me during office hours or to ask for an appointment at any time
you think this might be helpful; I regard making myself available for
conferences with you outside of class to be an indispensable part of my
responsibility as your teacher. Moreover, I always
sincerely do welcome getting to know and work with my students outside
as well as inside of class. I am ready to do whatever I can
to help you in your understanding of issues addressed in discussions,
readings, and screenings, as well as to help you in your writing for
and participation in this course. I want to make sure that I do
all that I can to help you succeed in this course and I want to help
you, as far as I can, to gain as much out of it as possible through
your participation in and work for it. You may also feel
free to write me via e-mail, and to call me–or leave a message for me
on the answering machine–at my office. I enjoy meeting and
working with students outside as well as inside of class; I really
do. I would rather talk with you during my office hours than do
anything else, so please do not worry about “disturbing” me in coming
to talk with me; my office hours are time that I have set aside to
meet, talk, and work with you. PLEASE DO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS
Any student who
has a disability and is in need of classroom accommodations, please
contact the instructor and the Services for Students with Disabilities
THE WRITING CENTER
The Writing Center, located in HHH 385, provides
free tutoring for students enrolled in English 099, 110, and 112.
The Center is open from 9:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday,
and 9:00 a.m.- Noon on Friday. You should contact English
Department Program Assistant Jude Agema (836-2644) to arrange to work
with a tutor on an ongoing basis or to find out about the Center's
available walk-in hours.
Do not hesitate to consult a tutor about even a
relatively "minor" question, concern, or difficulty, and go to the
Center to start working with a tutor, should you decide that you need
this extra help, as early in the semester as possible–the earlier you
go, the sooner you will be able to work with a tutor and the sooner you
will be able to make progress. Please note well, however, that a
tutor will never do your work for you. An effective tutor
will facilitate your work by providing careful guidance without being
directive. For more information about tutoring and related
assistance, see the Writing Center webpage:
CONDUCT OF CLASS SESSIONS
Class will proceed according to a variety of
discussion formats. I will, from time to time, make short,
relatively informal presentations (and even perhaps somewhat longer and
less informal ones on rare occasion, as need be). Yet, for the
overwhelmingly majority of class time, I plan directly to involve you
in actively participating as part of the work of educating both
yourself and the rest of the class through what you have to say as well
as share with us in written form. I want you to work with me in
learning; I always find people tend to learn better, at least in this
kind of class, this way rather than by remaining quiet and taking notes
during the course of long lectures. Many times you will be
working in groups in class, and many times you will be sharing your
writing with the rest of the class, either prepared before class meets,
or during class time itself. At other points, you will be asked
to do some relatively simple research and bring the results of this
research to class to share with the rest of us. You will also be
working outside of class in groups–to prepare for the class debate,
and, most likely, on other occasions as well. In addition, we
will from time to time refer to your postings on our Desire2Learn
electronic classroom while meeting and talking together in class.
Throughout this process, and in all of these projects and discussion
formats, I will help you in every way I possibly can. I
want you to succeed.
I will maintain ultimate responsibility, authority,
and control for the direction of our class discussions, yet I aim to
insure that we hear extensively from everyone else. I recognize
and respect that the students enrolled in this class represent
considerable differences in prior knowledge, experience, training,
work, or other preparation versus the diverse subjects we will engage,
as well as versus the kinds of skills that the course will
require. Likewise I well know, and understand, that students
differ considerably in terms of how more versus less inclined as well
as more versus less comfortable they feel in speaking as part of class
discussions. Yet I expect that these differences, along with
differences in social, cultural, economic, political, and ideological
ascriptions, affiliations, and commitments, all will be brought to the
fore so that each member of the class can contribute to its success
from both where she is at and toward where he aspires to be.
EXPECTATIONS OF STUDENTS
While I am providing you an elaborate framework to
direct our work together, I firmly believe that the success of any
course I teach depends as much–if not often in fact much more–on what
my students bring and give to the process of learning as what I
do. I see college teaching and learning as a collective project
and this means its success–or failure–depends upon the degree and kind
of commitment and the quantity and quality of contribution of everyone
involved. Some of the best teachers with whom I have ever worked
have insisted that they do not teach their students as much as they
teach their students how to teach themselves. Even if this
overstates the case, I do think that it is impossible to teach someone
who does not sincerely want and who does not assiduously strive to
learn. I will always work equally hard and equally seriously to
help students who demonstrate this kind of effort succeed, both within
my courses and beyond.
I expect you to approach this course as a course
that you sincerely want to take, and in which you sincerely want to
learn. I expect you to work hard in this course and to approach
this course with both diligence and enthusiasm. I expect you to become,
and to remain, interested in the subject matter of the course as an end
in itself and not merely as a means to achieve a grade and five credits.
I expect you to be actively engaged in class
discussion, in an intellectually serious manner. Some students
prefer courses in which teachers simply tell them what is right, what
is true, and everything that these students are supposed to do, so that
the students need merely repeat all of this back to their teachers to
obtain a good grade while not expending much of any intellectual energy
or demonstrating virtually any genuine intellectual growth. This
is definitely not that kind of course, and if you approach your work in
and for this section of English 110 as a passive learner you will do
If you experience problems at any point over the
course of the semester I expect you to contact me right away and
discuss these forthrightly with me; I am ready to do whatever I can to
help you if and when you experience problems in this course, or
elsewhere, as long as you are candid and sincere, but I can't help if
you are not upfront about what's going on and if you don't level with
me. I am a compassionate as well as a passionate person, so don't
hesitate to talk with me about problems if and when you experience
them; we can work past many of these, if you contact me in time and if
we work together.
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE COURSE GRADE
In evaluating all work done for this course, I will
take account of how carefully, seriously, intelligently,
enthusiastically, and imaginatively students engage with the concepts,
issues, positions, and arguments addressed in the course and
represented by the texts we read, the films we screen, by me, and
by each other.
This course cannot contribute effectively to
students' learning if students do not attend class. What
happens in class is an indispensable part of this course. Therefore,
the following attendance policy will apply for students enrolled in
this section of English 110:
1.) Students who exceed a maximum of three unexcused absences
will suffer a penalty of a loss of one full letter grade for each
additional unexcused absence.
2.) Students should provide me with written
confirmation of a debilitating injury or illness, or of any other
serious individual or family emergency, for the acceptance of any
further absences beyond the maximum of three unexcused absences.
3.) In addition to the maximum of three unexcused
absences, students may miss a maximum of three excused absences without
suffering a grade penalty. Seven total absences will result in a
loss of two full letter grades. Students who miss more than
seven classes total should withdraw from the course and enroll again in
a subsequent semester; otherwise they will receive a grade of F.
Contribution/Learning and Contribution Reflection Papers
This is and Why it is Important
My foremost aim in teaching this course is to help
you to learn something of significance and value. I will judge
you to a significant degree on what you learn, how- and how hard-you
strive to learn, and on how-along with how well-you contribute to the
learning for the rest of the class.
You cannot learn or help others learn if you do not
contribute. If you don't contribute to the work of this class not only
will you fail to derive as much gain from it as would be the case if
you did contribute, but also you will deprive everyone else of the
benefit of your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, knowledge, and
experience. In fact, to remain passively silent in class exploits the
work of others who actively engage.
Class participation represents an important
opportunity to learn, not just a place in which to demonstrate what you
have learned. By raising questions, testing and trying out ideas,
taking risks and making mistakes, you learn a great deal-and help
others learn a great deal as well. You learn through talking, not
just talk to show what you have learned. Don't hesitate to speak
forth in class if you have anything at all to throw into the mix.
At the same time, just talking a great deal does not
necessarily mean that you are making a quality contribution to the
class by aiding the learning that we aim to accomplish. Quality of
participation is much more important than quantity, although a
sufficient quantity is indispensable to insure quality. Still, I want
to emphasize here that I perceive talking which pulls us off on
far-fetched tangents, which remains disconnected from and disengaged
with the reading and the rest of the class, or which effectively
silences others, to be negative participation.
Quality class participation does not, moreover,
involve merely asking questions of me and responding to my questions;
quality class participation requires you to work as assiduously as you
can to advance a serious and substantial discussion with your peers
about the texts and topics subject to discussion. Students should,
therefore, be prepared to engage with and respond to each other in
class discussion, and I will take particular note of how well you do so.
I would like you to come to class with strong
opinions on the topics of discussion, to be ready to share your
opinions with the class, and to be open-minded enough to debate your
own and others’ thoughts and to push them as far as they will go.
In evaluating class participation, I find the
following modification of a system designed by my colleague, Professor
Mary Ellen Alea, useful: A = Nearly daily response, and with
consistently useful, insightful comments and questions; B= Daily
response, with regular, relevant comments and questions; C = Less
frequent, occasional questions and comments; D = Almost always entirely
quiet; F= Engaging in behavior that disrupts the learning processes of
you and your fellow students, such as talking while others are
speaking, not paying attention in class, or doing other work or
attending to other interests during the time class is meeting.
Forms of Contribution
Contribution to the class certainly can extend far
beyond mere speaking in class: it may include a variety of ways in
which you can bring to bear your insights to help yourself as well as
the rest of us gain from the experience of this course.
Excellent writings for and in response to class (on Desire2Learn,
see below) and as part of your learning and contribution reflection
papers (see below as well) can help make up for limitations as far as
participation in class goes. At the same time, listening
carefully, respectfully, and thoughtfully in class discussions is yet
another important means of contribution.
Learning and Contribution Reflection Papers/
Learning and Contribution Reflection Grades
Learning and contribution will constitute a
significant proportion of your overall course grade. As
part of this grade, you will write two learning and contribution
reflection papers. For these papers I will ask you questions that
will require you to sum up what, most significantly, you have been
learning as a student enrolled in this course, and to assess how, along
with how well, you have been contributing to your own learning, and to
that of others in the class.
As I see it, these papers provide you a useful
opportunity to communicate with me how you believe you are doing with
the course, as well as why so, and to demonstrate your critical
self-reflexivity, the hallmark of a liberal arts education. As
you are assessing your own learning and contribution, you may include
thoughts in reaction to issues raised in class discussion that you did
not have the opportunity or did not feel comfortable enough to share in
class; these additional reflections will help me get a better sense of
what you have been thinking about and how you have been responding to
class discussions, as well as to the readings. I will take into
account what you write in determining your learning and contribution
grade for the preceding semester period; performance on these papers
represents a vital component of your learning and contribution grade.
I will provide you specific directions in the
assignments I give you for each of these papers; please note well that
the questions you address will change from the first to the second
reflection paper. These papers should be typed, double-space, on
single sides of standard white letter-sized (8" X 11")
typewriter, computer printer, or photographic paper. All pages
should be numbered, and you should place your name at the top of each
page. You may use any standard font you wish, yet you should keep
your point size between 10 and 12 points. Papers must be stapled,
and you are responsible for doing so, not me. You should follow
all rules and conventions of Standard Written English and MLA
format for citation and documentation of sources.
I recommend an
approximate target range of between 1250 and 1750 words (roughly 5-7
first learning and contribution grade (including the first learning and
contribution reflection paper) will be worth 12.5% of the overall
course grade. The second learning and contribution grade
(including the second learning and contribution reflection paper) will
be worth 17.5% of the overall course grade.
Near the beginning of unit one students will be
assigned to write an autobiographical essay. The specific details
of this assignment will be announced and explained in class.
initial finished version of this assignment will be ungraded.
I will however respond to what you write by offering extensive
comments, critiques, and suggestions and recommendations for
revision. You then will take all of these into account in
revising this paper. The first revision of
the autobiographical essay will be due one week after I return the
initial finished version of this paper to you, and will be worth 10% of
the overall course grade. I will then once again
offer comments, critiques, and further suggestions and recommendations
for yet further revision. The second revision of
your autobiographical essay will take what I wrote in response to your
first revision into account, and this second revision will, once again,
be due a week after I return the first revision to you, and worth
another 10% of the overall course grade.
I strongly advise you to take time carefully to plan
out each version of your autobiographical essay before writing it, and
to write, and then revise and edit, at least one rough draft before
preparing the version you turn in to me. Be prepared for me
to ask that you give me copies of your pre-writing notes and/or
outlines, as well as your edited rough drafts in relation to any and/or
all version these papers. Failure to produce all of these
materials when asked will result in the loss of one full-letter grade
for the course.
Argument and Research Paper
During the course of unit two students will be
assigned to write an argument and research paper. The specific
details of this assignment will be announced and explained in class.
For this assignment you will be required to write an
argumentative paper drawing upon independent research in response to a
topic raised and addressed in The
Common Courage Reader.
As indicated in the course schedule above, I will
ask you to submit the following to me prior to the time in which this
paper will be due:
1.) first, a clear, precise, concrete statement of
your chosen topic, the specific issue in relation to this topic you
choose to address, your particular stance on this issue, and your
2.) second, an annotated bibliography of the
sources you are drawing upon in writing your paper.
argument and research paper will be worth 15% of the overall course
Debate and Debate Paper
Toward the end of unit three you will be given an
assignment to participate in a class debate organized in relation to a
proposition that relates to our reading and discussion of The Culture of Fear, Bowling for Columbine, and 1984. As part of this
assignment you will also be required to write a paper describing your
work in preparing for and participating in the debate, assessing how
well the debate went, and arguing a position of your own in relation to
the proposition subject to debate. Specific details of this
assignment will be announced and explained in class. The debate and the
debate paper will together be worth 15% of the overall course grade.
Final Examination Essay
The final exam for this course will require you to
write an essay in response to issues raised, and arguments advanced in Oil, Power, and Empire: Iraq and the U.S.
Global Agenda. Specific details of this assignment will be
announced and explained in class. The final examination
essay will be worth 10% of the overall course grade.
General Formatting Requirements: Papers and
All papers should be typed, double-space, on single
sides of standard white letter-sized (8" X 11") typewriter, computer
printer, or photographic paper. You may use any standard font you wish
but your print size must remain between 10 and 12 points. Pages should
be numbered, and your name should be at the top of the first page. The
pages of your paper must be stapled together and you are responsible
for doing so; I do not bring staplers to class.
You are also responsible for proofreading your paper
before you turn it in; if you catch any typographical errors, you
should neatly cross these out and write your corrections on top of
these with a pen (but not a pencil).
I will expect you, furthermore, to observe all the
rules and conventions of Standard Written English to the very best of
your ability in writing each of these papers, including MLA format for
citation and documentation of sources.
Desire2Learn Postings (Reflections,
Students will be asked to post short reflections,
comments, and/or critiques approximately every two weeks on a Desire2Learn
electronic classroom website that I have prepared for this class.
I will explain how to access this site and where to post, as well as
retrieve, your responses, comments, and critiques (as well as other
information and documents I post to this site).
All students must
do this eight times during the semester, four times for the fist half
of the course (through spring break), and four times for the second
half of the course (after spring break).
Each time you
will respond, first, to a specific question or problem, and then, second, to what your classmates have
posted in response to this same question or problem. The
assignment will always relate to course content and/or issues of
These posts are semi-formal, meaning that I will not
be a stickler for stylistic perfection, yet you should try always to
express yourself and communicate to the rest of your classmates as
clearly and cogently as possible.
These papers will give you a chance to test out and
explore ideas, as well as to raise questions and engage in extended,
serious conversations outside of class time, especially in relation to
your peers in the class. For those who are relatively quiet in
class this is a great opportunity to show me that you are n fact paying
careful attention and are well-prepared and seriously involved.
You should aim for
approximately 500 to 750 words in length, as a very rough
average, with each of your Desire2Learn posts.
Desire2Learn posts for the first half of the semester (through spring
break) will be worth 7.5% of the overall course grade, while your
Desire2Learn papers for the second half of the course (after spring
break) will be worth an additional 7.5% of the overall course grade.
Late learning and contribution reflection papers, as
well as late unit papers, will lose
1/3 of a letter grade per day late unless you have made
arrangements ahead of the time with me to turn in these papers late due
to a serious personal or family problem. Consistently late
Desire2Learn postings will lead to lower evaluations as well.
A Word on Plagiarism and Academic
Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic
dishonesty are serious offenses. They not only undermine the goal
of learning but also are exploitative of the work of others.
Dishonesty in written work as part of this course will result in a
failing grade. In addition, dishonesty may result in further
disciplinary action on the part of the University administration;
dishonesty can ultimately lead to expulsion from the
University. It will be very difficult to buy a paper for
this course from another source, given the nature of the assignments
you will be asked to address, yet if you try to do so, please keep in
mind we in the English Department know all of the sites, and we will
catch you. Also, If you directly echo someone else’s thoughts as
articulated in the course of class discussion you should add the last
name, followed by the letters CD (for class discussion), followed by
the date, in a parenthetical citation right after the end of the
sentence, viz: (Nowlan, CD, 10/8/03).
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Professor Bob Nowlan
Last Updated: January 19, 2004