Citizenship, Service, and Social Change: Theory and Application

May 5, 2009

Objectives: The guiding question in this course is: how do we develop citizens of a democracy who have the capacity and interest to engage in the kinds of community work needed to create and maintain healthy communities? Unpacking this question requires examining, problematizing, imagining and linking theories about: civic education, community development, complex organizations, politics, social change and democracy.

In this course, we will juxtapose theory and practice. Each student will work with others to take on a project that broadly engages students in public work. The project can be on-campus through some sort of student organization, or it can be an off-campus community-based project. The student must be taking on a leadership role in organizing the project. We will use.your experiences as a backdrop to explore the course material. By juxtaposing experiences with readings, we will learn from experience and from analysis. In this way, the process of community work and critical reflection will become mutually reinforcing and enriching.

Of particular interest to us will be the university. We will examine the university as a social institution and community actor. We will explore the internal dynamics’ of the university as a social institution that shapes our notions of citizenship and service. We will also explore the university as an actor whose patterns of actions can and do shape communities.

Format: This class is a seminar. I will expect you to come to class prepared with reading notes that summarize the major points of the reading, and link the readings to larger course themes. We will juxtapose student led discussion, presentations on projects with a variety of other class formats. We will often be joined by others who will participate in our semester long conversation. We will also use films, outside lectures, and off-campus explorations. Students will drive our time together and the ultimately shape of the course.

Two things to know about me:

  • I believe that time is a precious commodity. Please do not walk into class late. Late arriving students disrupt the flow for students who arrived on time. Likewise, unexcused absences will result in your final grade being lowered at my discretion. I will not discuss missed class material from an unexcused absence.
  • I expect students to check their e-mail on a daily basis.

Requirements: Every student will be required to complete two critical essays, a public work project (including reflection paper), and a final exam. I will also expect reading notes and other writing assignments: Critical Essay #1 (15%); Critical Essay #2 (25%); Community Project (10%); Class Participation And Reading Notes (20%); and Final Examination (30%).

Texts:

  • Harry Boyte. 2004. Everyday Politics: Reconnecting Citizens and Public Life. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Anne Colby, Thomas Ehrlich, et al. 2003. Educating Citizens: Preparing America’s Undergraduates For Lives of Moral Responsibility and Civic Responsibility. Jossey-Bass.
  • Maxine Greene. 1988. Dialectics of Freedom.Teachers College Press.
  • Robert Hildreth. 1998. Building Worlds, Transforming Lives, Making History. A Guide To Public Achievement for Colgate University.Center For Democracy and Citizenship, University of Minnesota. To be handed out in class.
  • George Liebman. 2004. Neighborhood Futures. Transaction Publishers.
  • Jodi O’Brien. 1999. Social Prisms. Pine Forge Press.

Part 1: Framing the Question
Week I: The Themes and Practice of Everyday Politics Boyte, chapter 1-2 and then preface
Week 2: Thinking Sociologically About Key Concepts O’Brien, prologue, and chapter 2-5
Week 3: Paradox. Contradictions, and Community 0′ Brien, chapters 6-8 and then chapter 1
*Critical Essay #1 Due

****After the first part of the course, we will decide as a class how we want to read the other texts and what texts we want to add to our course reading.

WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS:

Critical Essay #1:

Thus, far we have been framing this course by broadly trying to grasp the central question of the course: how do we develop citizens of a democracy who have the capacity and interest to engage in the kinds of community work needed to create and maintain healthy communities? We have spent most of our time talking about democracy, public work, healthy communities, and the sociological imagination.

Pulling together the readings and course discussions. write an essay that explains and justifies the public work (the service-learning) project that you are going to do this semester as part of SOAN 380.

Things you should include:

  • Use the readings. How have the readings and/or class discussion allowed you to critically reflect on your own life experiences. Your essay should: describe specific ideas from the books that resonated with you, and discuss why these ideas struck you as profound and important (or wrong) given your life experiences. Summarize the core logic of the reading.
  • Describe the project: What are you going to do? Make sure that you clearly justify the significance of the project.

Hints to the Wise:

  • Be creative. There are lots of ways to frame your thoughts.
  • Use the course material. Include quotes and specific references to stories.
  • Be precise.
  • The intent of the essay is two fold:
    • Demonstrate that you understand the readings and course material.
    • Explain the project you are going to do this year.

Obviously this assignment is asking you to: (1) summarize the course material, and (2) justify/describe your course project. You cannot adequately discuss every facet of the book and/or your life biography as it intersects with community service and social change. This exercise is intended to force you to identify the core points of the book and to figure out a scheme for conceptualizing the ideas presented in class, as they are important to you.

I will be looking for evidence of critical thinking which is shaped by sophisticated and logical lines of reasoning. In other words, be specific and precise. This will allow you to include more ideas in less space.

Critical Essay #2:

The central question of the course: how do we develop citizens of a democracy who have the capacity and interest to engage in the kinds of community work needed to create and maintain healthy communities? We have examined three major topics: healthy communities, democracy, and civic education. We have also introduced a variety of sociological concepts and ways of framing questions.

Pulling from the readings and course discussions, write an essay that examines the following question: “To what extent is Colgate educating citizens to do public work?”
The essay should be 8-10 pages. It should demonstrate a keen understanding of the last two books. It should also connect to themes raised earlier in the term. You will want to be specific. There are lots of ways to organize your thoughts. A few key issues:

  • By “to what extent” you want to keep SWOT exercises/questions in mind. Look at the handout from class.
  • By “educating citizens” you want to pull heavily from the Colby and Ehrlich work.
  • By “public work” you want to pull from Boyte.
  • By “to do” we mean capacity and interest.
  • It might be helpful to also refer to O’Brien and early class handouts.

Hints to the Wise:

  • Be creative. There are lots of ways to frame your thoughts,
  • Use the course material. Include quotes and specific references to stories.
  • Exhibit both logical and sophisticated thinking.
  • Make sure that you demonstrate that you understand the readings and course material.

For Wednesday:
Read chapters 4-7 in Colby. Question: take one great classroom experience at Colgate. How did it contribute to your moral and civic development (chapter 4)? What does this tell us about the pedagogical and Institutional strategies raised in chapters 5-6? Address the same question with one “co-curricular” program you have attended.

Final Exam:

  • How do we develop citizens of a democracy who have the capacity and interest to engage in the kinds of community work needed to create and maintain healthy communities?
  • Craft a response that pulls from the ideas and language (theories and concepts) we have discussed this term in readings and discussions. Also pull from your projects. This is an opportunity to weave together all the work we have done this semester into your own statement about the course question. Feel free to write this to me in a memo as Dean of the College, as opposed to a faculty member.
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