... the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, e.g. men become builders by building and lyre-players by playing the lyre; so too we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, II. i.
Honors Seminar: Social Justice and Community Service
(HSem 3080) Winter Quarter 1989
Time and place: Tuesdays, 2:15-4:00 PM, in 303 Lind Hall
Faculty: This seminar will be taught by a team whose members
bring diverse backgrounds and perspectives to the topic. The faculty includes recent college graduates with extensive experience in planning and implementing community service programs. Faculty responsibilities will fall into three categories.
Overall responsibility for the course:
John Wallace 384 Ford Hall 625-8802 or 827-6372
Coaches who will work with the working groups or "teams" into which the seminar will be divided:
Keith Morton University YMCA 625-3800
Kathleen Rice 340 Coffinart Union 624-5101
Jane Robinson Ward 381 McNeal Hall 624-3018
Special resource persons:
Rebecca Breuer 381 McNeal Hall 624-3018 Bill Hoogterp 381 McNeal Hall 634-3018 Mark Langseth 386 McNeal Hall 631-3672 Louisa Meacham 381 McNeal Hall 624-3018 Wayne Meisel 381 McNeal Hall 624-3018
Lora Pollari 424 Walter Library 626-2044 Julia Scatliff 381 McNeal Hall 624-3018
John Wallace's office hours are 1-2 PM on Tuesday (beginning January 10). Coaches and their teams will work out mechanisms for regular interaction.
Course Goals and Means
Participants in this seminar will explore social justice and community service in three ways: (i) through serving;
(ii) through study and discussion of biographical and philosophical texts that illuminate values, such as justice, equality, and
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community, involved in service; and (iii) through team projects that explore, from the perspective of justice and other values, the experience of disadvantaged groups in our society. Participants in the seminar are required to be involved in community service.
An additional important goal of the course springs from its experimental character in seeking to connect three areas or sources of learning: philosophy, biography, and community service. It will be important for all participants to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of this approach and to suggest improvements.
What should students expect to learn as a result of taking the course? Let us assume that the purpose of an undergraduate education is for the student to undertake challenges which will make him or her at home with the intellectual, artistic, and spiritual inheritance offered by the society and prepare him or her to contribute to the renewal of this inheritance, in all its aspects, in civic, economic, and personal life. At the same time, the student should build a portfolio of challenges met and results achieved which will demonstrate the student's capacity to contribute.
The basic challenge of the course is posed by the following question: How should we characterize, and how should we respond to, discrepancies between our society's professed values and its actual performance? What is broken? Can it, and how can it, be fixed? Probably in every society, and certainly in ours, many thoughtful citizens feel that what the society delivers falls short of what it promises. We will be exploring ways of thinking about, and ways of acting to reduce, the shortfall. How should the shortfall be characterized? Can it be characterized in ways that win the agreement of others, outside my small circle? What should be done to reduce or eliminate it? Can agreement be reached, beyond my small circle, about what is to be done?
In particular, the course will challenge you (i) to understand a book by a distinguished contemporary philosopher and to do some philosophy on your own; (ii) to read and reflect on two biographical works; (iii) to connect the philosophical understanding and the reflection on other lives with your experience in serving others; and (iv) to work as a team with three of your classmates to draw on this learning and reflection, and also on the insights that members of the team will bring as a result of all of their past experience, to explore in depth the society's treatment of some group for which the society's promise falls short its performance. Your response to these challenges will be recorded in a journal about your experiences in reading, thinking, and serving during the course and in a substantial paper by you and your teammates. These writings can be added to
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your undergraduate portfolio of challenges met.
Reading for the course
The common reading for the course includes the following books:
Michael Waizer, Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality (New York, Basic Books, 1983). Michael Walzer is a permanent member of the faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.
Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness (New York, Harper and Brothers, 1952). Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was an American writer, social activist, and spiritual leader. She was one of the founders of the Catholic Worker Movement.
John T. Hough, Jr., A Peck of Salt (Boston, Little, Brown, 1970). John Hough, Jr., (1946- ) is an American novelist. His fine novel, The Conduct of the Game, was the best baseball novel of 1986.
The books by Walzer and Day are available in the Williamson Bookstore. Xerox copies of the book by Hough are available at Kinko's, 612 Washington Avenue. Course's Kinko number: 71.
Further common reading will be selected from plans and proposals developed by students and recent graduates in the community service movement. Examples of such works are: Martien A. Taylor, Student Homeless Action Campaign: The National TeachIn on Homelessness, October 28th-30th, 1987 (New Haven, Dwight Hall, 1987); Louisa B. Meacham, Literacy Action: A Resource Book for Colleqes and Universities (Washington, D.C., COOL Press, 1987); Wayne Meisel and Julia Scatliff, On Your Mark, Go! Get Set (Saint Paul, COOL Press, 1988).
In addition, each team is likely to find that it needs to do additional reading to carry out its project.
Writinq for the course
The following writing is required for the course:
Team Project Each student team will write a report which explores in depth the society's treatment of some group for which the society's promise falls short its performance. The group a team studies might be children in poverty, or senior citizens, or persons with disabilities, or prisoners. The team's task will be, first, to describe the experience of the group in our society in sufficient detail so that value-laden criticisms, such as "The society's treatment of this group is unjust," can assessed; second, to take a stand on some key value-laden criticisms and to defend the stand
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against objections; and third, to discuss what might be done, at the levels of individual action and public policy, to remedy the situation.
Journal Each student will keep a journal of his or her experience in service to others, in reading the works assigned in the seminar, in working with his or her team on
the planning proposal, and in the discussions and presentations in the seminar. Some components of the journal are required:
Each week each student will write one page on the chapter or chapters from Walzer to be discussed the following Tuesday in the seminar (that is, the onepagers on readings from Walzer are to be written before the discussion of the reading).
Students should be reading Day and Hough throughout the course. Journals will contain, either scattered or in one chunk, at least five pages of writing tied to each of these books.
Further writing in the journal will reflect the interests and imagination of the individual student.
The journal should be kept in a loose-leaf binder. It is expected that work on the journal will be steady and continuous throughout the course and that you will add roughly five pages per week. Selected parts of journals, including the one-pagers on Walzer and including a portion that will share with others the "feel" of your service experience, will be shared with the seminar. Coaches will review and comment on journals of their teams every two weeks.
Student performance will be evaluated on the basis of participation in the teams, in the seminar discussions, and on the written work described above.
Because of the relatively small size of the seminar and the large number of faculty, students will receive regular feedback on their journals and the planning teams will receive quick and detailed feedback on their evolving plans. It is expected that students will to respond to this feedback with revisions that will make each student's journal and each team's plan--the documents that you will add to your undergraduate portfolio as a result of the seminar--either very good (B) or excellent (A).
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Seminar schedule and aqendas of meetings
Week 1 Introductions
Jan. 3 Seminar aims and approach: walk through syllabus
Short reports from faculty and students about their service activities Initial discussion of Walzer, chapters 1 & 2
Week 2 Walzer chapters 1, 2, & 3
Jan. 10 Faculty reports on past community service plans
Formation of four-person teams Give journal section to coach Week 3 Walzer chapters 4 & 5
Jan. 17 Teams report on how they will approach their projects
Week 4 Walzer chapter 6
Jan. 24 Dorothy Day, The Lonq Loneliness
Give journal section to coach
Week 5 Walzer chapter 7
Jan. 31 Teams I and II interim reports
Week 6 Walzer chapter 8
Feb. 7 Teams III and IV interim reports
Give journal section to coach
Week 7 Walzer chapters 9 & 10
Feb. 14 John Hough, Jr., A Peck of Salt
Week 8 Walzer chapter 11
Feb. 21 To be decided, in week vi or vii, on the basis of our
experience to this point Give journal section to coach Week 9 Walzer chapter 12
Feb. 28 Teams I and II final reports
Week 10 Walzer chapter 13
March 7 Teams III and IV final reports
Give journal section to coach
Week 11 Wrap-up, evaluation, and celebration March 14