School and Society in the Novel
Syllabus: Fall 2012
MWF: 10:30-11:20, Chambers 3196
· The Water is Wide, Pat Conroy (1972). Dial Press (2009).
· The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1962). HarperPrennial (2009).
· Season of Migration to the North, Taleb Salih (1969). NYRB Classics (2009).
· The Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992). Vintage
At the conclusion of this course, the student should be able to:
Your grade will be determined by the following factors:
will write four formal papers of 750-1000 words. Please observe the minimum and the
maximum—these are firm. You are required
to use Times New Roman 12-Point Font, double-spaced, one-inch margins,
according to MLA or
Late Formal Essays will be penalized one full grade per calendar day (for example, “A” to a “B,” “A-“ to a “B-,” etc.). I will not accept papers turned in more than five days late. All research paper deadlines are firm (prospectus, annotated bibliography, outline, final version). Please note that all written assignments must be completed in order to receive credit for this course.
Attendance in this class is essential; however, you will be permitted to miss a total of three classes, excused or unexcused, without penalty. Miss a fourth, and your final grade will be reduced by one full letter grade (e.g., “A” to a “B,” “A-“ to a “B-,” etc.). Miss a fifth and your final grade will be reduced by two full letter grades. Miss a sixth, and you will receive an “F” for the course. (Those of you who represent the college at events, athletic or otherwise, should keep this policy in mind. Those of you who hope to get away early for breaks should also plan carefully.) Failure to show up on peer review days is frowned upon and will be reflected in your participation grade.
Tardiness is a major pet peeve for me; it is distracting and shows a lack of respect for your colleagues. Every tardy after two counts as an absence. If you’re tardy, check with me after class to ensure I haven’t counted you as absent.
All work must be pledged.
The Research Paper: Topics
Each student will write a research paper that corresponds to one of our thematic units. We will divide the class so that all units will be represented. You will work individually, although 3-4 of you will research the same topic: The Re-segregation of Public Schools, The Progressive Movement in Education, Colonial Educational Practices, or Classical Education. The descriptions of each topic are found below. You will be able to request a particular topic; however, I will use random selection if more than four people request the same one.
The Re-segregation of Public Schools. I am sure that most of you are familiar with the 1954 Supreme Court Decision known as Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. In this landmark case the Court decided unanimously that de jure segregation of public school students was illegal; as a result, the justices threw out the concept that had been practiced in many Southern states known as “separate but equal” schools. Although the decision was indeed historic, it took many years for integration to actually be practiced, as we will learn in class and by reading The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy. After some years of integration, however, public schools in many parts of the country have re-segregated. For example, in the fall of 2008, roughly three-fourths of African American and Latino students attend schools in which children of color are the majority. In fourteen of the largest 100 school districts in the country, more than 90% of the students are from racial/ethnic minority groups; in 35 of these districts, students of color comprise more than 75% of the enrollment. Students researching this topic will discover the history and reasons behind this phenomenon.
The Progressive Movement in Education. This educational movement began in the early twentieth century and is most often associated with the philosopher and theorist John Dewey. Dewey developed his pedagogical philosophy, though, based on a long line of educational thinkers who came before him such Jean Jacques Rousseau (French, 1712-1778), Jean Heinrich Pestalozzi (Swiss, 1746-1827), Friedrich Froebel (German, 1782-1852), and Francis Wayland Parker (American, 1837-1902). Progressive education is known for its focus on child-centered education and experiential learning that follows a hands-on or project-oriented methodology, as opposed to a teacher-centered approach that sees the instructor as one who is primarily interested in delivering instruction. This movement has been applauded by many, especially those who are professional educators, and can still be found in its most extreme form in open schools such as the Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts. On the other hand, progressivism has been attacked at various times throughout history by other movements such as the back-to-basics movement, or those who favor the No Child Left Behind Act and high-stakes testing. Our novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie will give us an example of progressivism in action, although the title character claims she is not a progressive. Students researching progressivism will examine this movement throughout educational history and examine how it is viewed today.
Colonial Education Practices. For our third thematic unit we will read a novel titled Season of Migration to the North by the Sudanese writer Tayeb Salih. Much of the novel takes place in retrospect during the time of British colonialism in the Sudan. We will meet one Sudanese character who earns a Ph.D. in economics while studying in England during this colonial period and ends up in a small village in the Nile; the other character is of a later generation from the same village, who is also educated in England where he earns a Ph.D. in English literature, this time during the post-colonial period. The narrator ends up working for the Ministry of Education and continues to struggle with the colonial past. [Many of you will be familiar with recent Sudanese history, especially the problems in Darfur and the recent establishment of South Sudan as an independent country in July of 2011.] Students researching this topic will research how education was used as a tool of colonial repression as effectively as economic or military repression in many countries around the world. On the other hand, there are many defenders of colonialism who usually argue along the lines that many former colonies are better off now than they would have been if they never would have had the opportunity for such education—India, for instance. An examination of the intricacies involved in these questions should lead to an interesting paper.
Classical Education. By classical education, I mean a theory of education that focuses on the study of what most people consider the classics. It is often referred to as the “Great Books” approach to learning where everyone studies the same material. In the twentieth century, proponents of this approach were often known as “essentialists,” who argued (and many still argue) that students should master traditional subjects and texts, which include anything essential to learning. The most famous recent proponent of this model was Mortimer J. Adler, who argued in his Paideia Proposal that all students, regardless of their plans for graduation after high school, should study the exact same curriculum; the only elective should be the particular foreign language that each studies. At Davidson College, the current Western Humanities program reflects this tradition. An extreme example of the Great Books program in higher education is found at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, where students can only major in one subject: Liberal Arts. The final novel we will read this semester is titled The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which follows the adventures of a group of students who take the study of Latin and Greek very seriously. Too seriously, in fact. Students researching this topic will want to study the history of this approach, which goes actually back to Aristotle, and then examine how it is still influential in many ways today.
The Research Paper: Mechanics, Requirements and Deadlines
Research papers should be 12-15 pages long (not including Works Cited page or References list). Use Times New Roman, 12-point font, double-spaced, one-inch margins. You are welcome to use either MLA or APA style of documentation; you must let me know which you are using and remain consistent throughout. The majority of your sources should be academic/scholarly in nature; however, some topics will lend themselves to more informal sources, such as op-ed pieces, blogs, think-tank web sites, or columns in popular journals and newspapers. Also, you might want to mine educational data bases for statistics, such as the National Center for Educational Statistics (http://nces.ed.gov), or other such sources. Think about maybe 10-15 sources with three-quarters of them being scholarly.
Here are some key dates:
August 31: Library session
September 17: Research Proposal/Prospectus Due
October 12: Annotated Bibliographies Due
October 29: Working Outline Due
November 11: Rough Draft Due
December 3 and 5: Oral Presentations
December 7: Final Draft due
The following list includes reading assignments from our four novels, other assigned readings, and various due dates.
Course Introduction and Preliminaries
August 27: Course Introduction
August 29: For class read and consider, Charles Dickens: Hard Times, Chapters 1& 2
August 31: Library Visit
Thematic Unit I: The Water is Wide
Racial Politics and the Schools:
Should Teachers Function as Instruments of Social Change?
September 3: Read The Water is Wide, Chapters 1-3, for Class Discussion
September 5: Read The Water is Wide, Chapters 4-6, for Class Discussion
September 7: Read The Water is Wide, Chapters 7-9, for Class Discussion
September 10: Read The Water is Wide, Chapters 10-12, for Class Discussion
September 12: Read the following two articles. Hudson, Mildred J. and Barbara J. Holmes. “Missing Teachers, Impaired Communities: The Unanticipated Consequences of Brown v. Board of Education on the African American Teaching Force at the Precollegiate Level.” The Journal of Negro Education 63.3 (Summer 1994), 388-393. Also read “Dare the Schools Build a New Social Order,” by George Counts. Be prepared to discuss these articles in class.
September 14: Access the Civil Rights Project at UCLA (see link below). After gaining a general familiarity with the site, focus on The Integration Report (see Quick Links). Take a look at the most recent edition, browse the archives, and review the News Summary and Additional Resources for School Integration at the bottom of the edition. Pick out an article or feature that interests you and summarize the main points in a good solid paragraph. Email me (via attachment) your paragraph by 10:30 am. Class will not meet today because I will be out of town at a meeting. http://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu
September 17: Discussion of summaries submitted on Friday on the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. Research Proposal/Prospectus for Research Paper Due. Submit electronically by 10:30 am and bring a hard copy with you to class.
September 19: Bring a hard copy of Essay #1 and be prepared for a Peer Review exercise.
September 21: Essay #1 Due: Should Teachers Function as Instruments of Social Change? Or you may choose another topic if you clear it with me by the end of class on September 17th.
Thematic Unit II: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Which is more important to learn in school: critical thinking skills or concrete facts?
September 24: Read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Chapters 1 & 2
September 26: Read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Chapters 3 & 4
September 28: Read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Chapters 5 & 6
October 1: Discussion of Jean Brodie continued.
October 3: Bring a hard copy of Essay #2 and be prepared for a Peer Review exercise.
October 5: Essay #2 Due. Which is more important to learn in school: critical thinking skills or concrete facts? Or you may choose another topic if you clear it with me by the end of class on October 1st.
October 8: Writing Workshop: The Annotated Bibliography. Bring at least three of your sources with you to class.
October 10: Peer Reviews of Annotated Bibliographies. Bring an almost-final draft with you to class in hard copy
October 12: Annotated Bibliographies Due
Thematic Unit III: Season of Migration to the North
The Colonialist Enterprise in Education:
Does the idea of colonialism in education deserve two cheers?
October 17: Read article by Dinesh D’Souza, “Two Cheers for Colonialism.” Write a thorough critique of the article and bring it to class with you. We will discuss your critiques and peer review them in class.
October 19: Read the following article. Siegel, Morris. “Educational Opportunity in Dependent Territories in Africa.” The Journal of Negro Education 15.3 (Summer 1946), 552-563. Write an outline of this article and send it to me by 10:30 am. Bring a hard copy with you to class.
October 22: Read Season of Migration to the North, 3-50.
October 24: Read Season of Migration to the North, 51-95.
October 26: Read Season of Migration to the North, 96-139.
October 29: Discussion of Season of Migration to the North continued. Proposed outline for your research paper due. Send me a copy by 10:30 am; also, bring a hard copy with you to class for peer review.
October 31: Bring a hard copy of Essay #3 and be prepared for a Peer Review exercise.
November 2: Essay #3 Due. Return to the essay by Dinesh D’Souza, and analyze his argument in relation to the novel we have just read. You are welcome to use other scholarly sources also. Or you may choose another topic if you clear it with me by the end of class on October 29th.
Thematic Unit IV: The Secret History
Educational Essentialism (A Classical Education)
. Should the academic study of literature focus on the classics?
November 5: Read The Secret History, Prologue – Chapter 2 (pp. 3-103)
November 7: Read The Secret History, Chapters 3-4 (pp. 104-171)
November 9: Read The Secret History, Chapter 5 (pp. 172-269)
November 12: Read The Secret History, Chapter 6 (pp. 275-376)
November 14: Read The Secret History, Chapter 7 (pp. 377-420)
November 16: Read The Secret History, Chapter 8 – Epilogue (pp. 421-559)
November 19: Rough Draft of Research Paper Due. Submit it by 10:30 am. Bring a hard copy with you to class.
November 26: Read Carol Jago’s “With Rigor for All,” and Donald Gallo’s “How Classics Create an Aliterate Society.” Be prepared to compare and contrast these arguments.
November 28: Bring a hard copy of Essay #4 and be prepared for a Peer Review exercise.
November 30: Essay #4 Due. Should the academic study of literature focus on the classics? Or you may choose another topic if you clear it with me by the end of class on November 26th.
Completing the Research Paper
December 3: Oral Presentations – Part I
December 5: Oral Presentations – Part II
December 7: Research Papers Due; Course Evaluations