Professor Bob Nowlan

    Section 413, MW 10-11:50 and F 11-11:50 a.m., HHH 321
    Fall 2003, UWEC

    Office: HHH 425, Office Hours: MWF 12 noon to 1 p.m. and By Appointment
    Contact: (715) 836-4369, ranowlan@uwec.edu

    Chris Duerkop, Kelly Ford, Shane O’Gorman, and Joe Peeples,
    Senior Student Mentors

    Contact:duerkocd@uwec.edu; fordkt@uwec.edu; ogormask@uwec.edu; and peeplejp@uwec.edu



    Introduction to 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, writing as ideology critique, writing as the cultivation of critical literacy in relation to visual and audio-visual as well as verbal texts, 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 advanced forms 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,
    Social Struggle, and Social Change

    As I teach it, this course presents an opportunity for you to learn how you can join the most serious and important intellectual work of this institution, not simply as mere subordinates, or as people only "passing through" on the way toward taking up your real lives' work elsewhere, but rather as the potential co-equals of university faculty.  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 responsibility.

    "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 helps provide.

    Writing as a Process of Thinking and a
    Mode of Committed, Activist Practice

    "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 Write Critically

    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 and Compel

    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.

    Argumentative 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 two weeks focused on issues of style, before turning directly toward consideration of critical and argumentative reading and writing.

    Conclusion: 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 Press, 2000.

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.   

    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 very 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.

    You should also note well that I am asking you to purchase a specific–new– edition of George Orwell’s 1984; this is the edition with which we will be working.  In addition, you should know that Larry Everest’s Oil, Power, and Empire has not yet been released in print by the publisher, but will be in time for us to make use of this book at the end of the semester.  I will let you know when it is available.

    I will supply copies of other required texts used in the course in the form of photocopied handouts, weblinks, documents posted on our Blackboard electronic classroom (which I will explain in class before you first need to use it), and in other diverse forms, such as electronic reserve.  I will supply copies of films and other audio-visual texts we will use this semester.

    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, and mentors’ comments/critiques, on our Blackboard electronic classroom website.



Unit One

F 8/29     Introduction and Orientation, Part 1.
W 9/3        Introduction and Orientation, Part 2.

F 9/5        Discussion, Writing with Style: Chapters 1-2 (Thinking Well, Getting Launched), pp. 3-24.

    Unit 1 Paper Assigned (Autobiographical Essay)

M 9/8        Discussion, Writing with Style: Chapters 3-7 (Openers, Middles, Closers, Diction, Readability), pp. 25-81.

W 9/10    Discussion, Writing with Style, Chapters 8-11 (Superstitions, How to Write a Research-Based Analysis, Revising, and Proofreading), pp. 82-101, and The Aims of Argument, Appendix (A Short Guide to Editing and Proofreading), pp. A1-A18.

F 9/12 an M 9/15   Discussion, Writing with Style, Chapter 12 (Punctuation), pp. 105-132.

M 9/15  and W 9/17  Discussion, Writing with Style, Chapters 13-15 (Quoting, Abbreviations, Tips on Usage) and Writers Talking Shop, pp. 133-159, 165-189.  

Unit Two

W 9/17 and F 9/19    Discussion, The Aims of Argument, Chapters 1-2 (Understanding an Argument, Reading an Argument), pp. 3-52.

    Unit 1 Paper Due (Autobiographical Essay)

M 9/22    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”), pp. 22-50 and 61-82.

W 9/24    Discussion, The Aims of Argument, Chapters 3-4 (Analyzing an Argument: a Simplified Toulmin Method, Reading Visual Arguments), pp. 53-107.

F 9/26    Discussion, Readings from The Common Courage Reader, (“The Invisible Threat,”  and “Are You the One in Eight?”), pp.  190-200 and 224-228.

M 9/29    Discussion, Readings from The Aims of Argument, Chapters 6-7 (Writing to Inquire, Writing to Convince), pp. 161-249.

W 10/1     Discussion,  Readings from The Common Courage Reader (“Microsoft ‘Outcells’ Competition,” “‘Rent to Own’: the Slick Cousin of Paying on Time,” and “The Ideology of Competitiveness: Pitting Worker Against Worker”), pp.  137-143 and pp. 176-189.

F 10/3    Discussion, Readings from The Common Courage Reader (“A Tale of Two Inner Cities”), pp.  143-160.    

M 10/6    Discussion, The Aims of Argument, Chapters 8-9  (Writing to Persuade, Writing to Negotiate), pp. 250-339.

    First Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Assigned

W 10/8    Discussion, Readings from The Common Courage Reader (“Of ‘Faggots’ and ‘Butch Dykes’ and Other ‘Unfit’ Children” and “From Tiny Tim to Jerry Lewis: Charity and Economic Rights”), pp.  51-60 and 166-175.

F 10/10    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), pp.  296-318.   

M 10/13    Discussion, The Aims of Argument, Chapter 5 ("Writing Research-Based Arguments"), pp. 107-158.

    First Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Due;  Unit 2 Paper Assigned (Argument and Research Paper)

Unit Three

W 10/15  Discussion, Readings from The Culture of Fear, Introduction and Chapters 1-3, pp. xi-xxviii and 1-84.  

    Unit 3 Paper Assigned (Argument and Critique Paper)

F 10/17    Discussion, Readings from The Culture of Fear, Introduction and Chapters 4-5, pp. 85-128.        

M 10/20   Discussion, Readings from The Culture of Fear, Introduction and Chapters 6-8, pp. 129-202.

W 10/22   Screening, Bowling for Columbine.
M 10/27   Discussion, Bowling for Columbine and Readings from The Culture of Fear, Chapter 9, pp. 203-210.
W 10/29, F 10/31, and M 11/3   Presentation and Discussion, Student Argument and Critique Papers  (Unit 3 Paper)

Unit Four

W 11/5   Discussion, Readings from The Common Courage Reader (“Media, Knowledge, and Objectivity”; Selections from The Habits of a Highly Deceptive Media: Decoding Spin and Lies in Mainstream News; and “Burning Books Before They’re Printed”), pp.  92-105 and 115-124.

F 11/7    Discussion,  Readings from The Common Courage Reader (“Women ARE the News: Super Bowl Success Sparks Good Ol’ Boys’ Backlash,” and “It’s Just a Cartoon”), pp.  106-114 and 129-136.  

M 11/10    Discussion,  Readings from The Common Courage Reader (“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”), pp.  248-265.

W 11/12     Discussion, 1984, Foreword and Part One, pp. vii-xxvi and 1-106.

   Debate Topic and Unit 4 Paper (Debate Paper) Assigned

F 11/14 and M 11/17   Discussion, 1984, Part Two, pp. 107-230.

W 11/19    Discussion, 1984, Part Three and Afterword, pp. 231-337.    

F 11/21,  M 11/24, and W 11/26  Screening and Discussion, Film Versions of 1984.

W 11/26 
Unit 2 Paper (Argument and Research Paper) Due

M 12/1 and  W 12/3   Screening and Discussion,  Film Versions of 1984.

F  12/5 and M 12/8    Planning and Preparation, Class Debate.

F 12/5  
Second Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Assigned

W 12/10   Class Debate

F   12/12   Conclusion.

M 12/15    Second Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Due

W 12/17    Unit 4 Paper (Debate Paper) Due

*** Due Dates for Revisions of First and Third Unit Papers will be Announced in Class. ***


    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 10-11.   

    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.

    One of the means UWEC has of assessing how effective the students and faculty have been in meeting these goals is the Baccalaureate Portfolio.  I will supply more information about the Portfolio as the semester proceeds, but you should know now that you should save copies of papers you write, including in this class, to include in this Portfolio.  Before graduation you will submit this portfolio of papers (or other kinds of research projects) to assessors, who will use them to see how effective the university has been in achieving the goals of the Baccalaureate.  Keep in mind that when the committee reads the papers, your name will be removed; your anonymity will be preserved throughout the evaluation process.  The university is measuring its own effectiveness, not yours.  At the same time, however, many departments also mandate that majors (and sometimes minors as well) turn in portfolios as required parts of their final work in fulfilling the requirements of that major (or minor), so it is advisable to start keeping copies of your papers.  Not only this, but employers and graduate schools often find  portfolios useful in evaluating your qualifications for employment or admission.   So, in sum, somewhere along the line people will expect you to show that you are making progress here not only by obtaining credits and passing grades, but also by doing competent and effective work, as well as by drawing connections among the many courses you take as part of the development of a coherent overall liberal arts program of study.  


    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.


    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 is right.

     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 Students”:

    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.


        This section of English 110 is one of a large number of first-year experience program courses taught across the University of  Wisconsin-Eau Claire.  The goals of these courses are as follows:

1.) To introduce students to liberal education and to awaken intellectual curiosity.

2.) To enhance skills needed for academic success: reading, writing, speaking, listening, thinking, inquiry, analysis, use of information technology, library skills, and time management.

3.) To strengthen students’ connection to the University.

4.) To engage students in meaningful academic and non-academic out-of-class activities.

5.) To enhance students’ accountability for their education.

    In order to assist us in meeting these goals, first-year experience program courses are limited in enrollment to a relatively much lower maximum number of students than you will encounter in most, if not all, of the other courses in which you will enroll over the course of your first year at this university.  This relatively smaller class size will enable more extensive and inclusive discussion in class as well as greater opportunity for me to work with you individually and in small groups outside of class.  

    At the same time as maximum enrollment is limited to a relatively low number of students, all first-year experience program courses also have senior student mentors who work with course instructors to help you make a successful transition to the life of a student at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.  In this section of English 110, your senior student mentors are Chris Duerkop, Kelly Ford, Shane O’Gorman, and Joe Peeples.  These people will help evaluate your contribution to the course, especially in the form of your Blackboard papers, and other postings.  They will work together with me as well to help you on diverse matters of curricular and extracurricular interest and concern, and they will be responsible, in consultation with me, for organizing a series of extracurricular class outings and workshops for us to participate in as a class.  Further details concerning these activities will be forthcoming as the semester proceeds.  Chris, Kelly, Shane, and Joe will also each hold regular weekly office hours at  times and places where it will prove convenient to meet with you; these will be determined after surveying your schedules early this semester.  You are required to attend as many of these extracurricular activities and events as possible.  You will be given credit for doing so.


    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 OPPORTUNITY!  And, remember, once again, taking the time to meet and talk with me periodically in conference is a great way to contribute to the class.   Likewise, please keep in mind that Chris Duerkop, Kelly Ford, Shane O’Gorman, and Joe Peeples are joining this class as senior student mentors to help you; seek them out and take advantage of their assistance.   These people will all hold regular weekly office hours, at times and places to be announced, and can meet with you at other times and places as well, by appointment.


    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 (from September to May).   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" area of 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:



    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 and discussions on our Blackboard electronic classroom while meeting and talking together in class.  Throughout this process, and in all of these projects and discussion formats, your mentors and I will help you in every way we possibly can.   We want you to succeed.

    I will maintain ultimate responsibility, authority, and control for the direction of our class discussions, and the mentors will also maintain considerable secondary responsibility, authority, and control (as de facto teaching assistants), yet we will all do our best to make sure 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.


    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 very poorly.

    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.



    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, by the mentors, 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 two unexcused absences will suffer a penalty of a loss of one full letter grade for each additional unexcused absence.

2.)    Students should provide the instructor 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 two unexcused absences.

3.)        In addition to the maximum of two unexcused absences, students may miss a maximum of three excused absences without suffering a grade penalty.  Six total absences will result in a loss of  two full letter grades.  Students who miss more than six classes total should withdraw from the course and enroll again in a subsequent semester; otherwise they will receive a grade of F.

    Learning and Contribution/Learning and Contribution Reflection Papers

        What 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

    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 for talking’s sake–especially 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 as well as with the mentors and me 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.

        Alternative 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 Blackboard, 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 an important contribution to class as well.  

        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 double-space pages).   

    The 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.  

    Unit Papers

    Near the beginning of unit one students will be assigned to write an autobiographical paper.   

    During the course of unit two students will be assigned to write an argument and research paper.  

    For unit three students will prepare copies of their papers (an argument and critique paper) based upon the reading for that unit to present to their fellow classmates for critique. 

    Each of these first three unit papers will ask students to demonstrate proficiency in working with concepts and practices discussed during the preceding unit, and in the case of the third of these papers to engage directly with specific arguments advanced in the reading carried out as part of this unit.  

    For unit four students will be asked to write a paper reflecting upon their own, as well as their classmates’, preparation for and participation in the class debate.  This paper will also allow students to flesh out and develop their own individual thoughts, as well as arguments, in relation to the topic of the debate.

    Specific details of each of these assignments will be announced and explained in class.

    In addition to the above papers, students will be asked to revise their unit one paper (the autobiographical papers) twice in response to my comments and critiques.   Students will also revise the third unit paper once in response to their classmates’ comments and critiques.

    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.

    I strongly advise you to take time to plan out your paper 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 for a grade.  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 of these papers.  Failure to produce all of these materials when asked will result in the loss of one full-letter grade.

    Your mentors and I, as well as tutors in the Writing Center are all available to help you as you work on these papers.

    The initial finished version of your first unit paper, the autobiographical essay, will be worth 0% of the overall course grade.  You should aim to turn in a paper covering an approximate target average of 1250 to 1750 words (roughly 5-7 double-space pages).  The first revision, taking into account and responding to my recommendations for revision, will be worth 10% of the overall course grade.  The second revision will be worth an additional 5% of the overall course grade.   Note well that your revision assignments may require you to expand the length of this paper.

    Your second unit paper, the argument and research paper, will be worth 15% of the overall course grade.  You should aim to turn in a paper covering an approximate target average of 2000 to 3000 words (roughly 8-10 double-space pages).   

    Your third unit paper (the first argument and critique paper), will be worth 5% of the overall course grade, and again should aim for approximately 1250 to 1750 words.   The revision of your third unit paper will also be worth 5% of the overall course grade.

    Your grade for your participation in the unit four debate will be 7.5% of the overall course grade.  Your debate paper will be worth an additional 7.5% of the overall course grade, and here you should aim again for a paper of approximately 1250 to 1750 words.    

    Blackboard Papers

    Students will be asked to post short papers every two weeks on a Blackboard 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, papers (and other information and documents).   

    All students must do this eight times during the semester, four times for units one and two of the course, and four times for units three through five of the course.  

    Students will post two papers each time (*** so in fact you will write a total of eight papers in the first half of the semester, and eight in the second half of the semester, even though you will only receive four paper assignments in each half of the semester ***).   The first paper will address a question or set of questions related to the course as well as your transition to college life and life.  Some weeks I will prepare this assignment; some weeks the mentors will do so.  The second paper will respond to or critique at least one fellow student’s initial paper (it may respond to or critique aspects of a number of classmates’ initial papers).  

    The mentors will enter into dialogue with you in relation to what you write in these papers.   I will take account of the mentors’ recommendations in grading you on your performance for these assignments, where I will be looking for seriousness of effort and initiative as well as careful thought and active engagement.

    The papers here are semi-formal, meaning that we will not be sticklers for stylistic perfection, yet you should try always to express yourself and communicate to the rest of us 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 the mentors and your peers in the class.  For those who are relatively quiet in class this is a great opportunity to show me, and the mentors, 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 rough average, with each and every one of your Blackboard papers.   

    Your Blackboard papers for units one to two will be worth a total of 7.5% of the overall course grade, while your Blackboard papers for units three through five will be worth a total of 7.5% of the overall course grade.  

    Extra Credit

    You will receive extra credit for participating in first-year experience program outings and workshops that the mentors and I will arrange for this course.  The mentors and I will likely also recommend that you attend various extra-curricular events on campus, and ask that you prepare a short reflection paper in response to what you experienced in attending each event.  You may earn up to 10% extra credit for participating in the workshops and outings, and up to 10% additional extra credit for attending and writing satisfactory reflections on extra-curricular events.  This is not just extra credit, however:  if you do not participate regularly in workshops, outings, and extra-curricular events I will actually reduce your overall course grade, by one full letter grade.  It is important, and the University expects it, that you will take full advantage of the opportunities enrollment in a first-year experience program class provides.  I do not ask you to participate in a definite quantity of these first-year experience program activities, as I am much more interested in quality than quantity, and I do not want students approaching this as simply a task that you should seek to accomplish by merely going through the motions such that you merely seek to reach a total of number of occasions where you put your body in a place the mentors and I recommend.  The spirit of engagement is the key here.

    Late papers

    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 Blackboard papers will lead to lower evaluations as well, both from mentors and myself.

    A Word on Plagiarism and Academic Honesty

    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).