Living on Spaceship Earth: Environmental Issues and Their Literary Portrayals

November 1, 2004

 

Donald Stearns, Ph.D. and Kim Worthy, Ph.D.

FIRST YEAR LEARNING COMMUNITY K:
LIVING ON SPACESHIP EARTH: ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES AND THEIR LITERARY PORTRAYALS

Instructors: Donald Stearns, Ph.D., Megerle Science Building, Room 413
Office Hours: Tuesdays, 2:00-4:00 pm; Wednesdays, 5:00 7:00 pm and by appointment
Office Phone: Ext. 3197 on campus; (718) 390 3197 off campus
Home Phone: (856) 667-0486
Email: dstearns {at} wagner(.)edu

Course Description:
This course focuses on development of college level communication skills through reading, writing, discussions, and presentations stemming from issues raised in the learning community.

Specific course objectives:

To respond originally and lucidly to a series of reading based, experience based, and research based topics

To learn how to compose, by relating writing to perceiving, thinking, and expressing

To use the composing process to focus and develop perspective on any topic

To acquire the habits of supporting assertions, of building controlled paragraphs, and of revising and editing so that sentences are complex yet clear

To learn “to write for one another; to read your own writing to others; to listen seriously to what your classmates wrote; to give and receive positive criticism” (Toby Fulwiler, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 5, 1986, page 104)

Required Texts:

  • Dell Publishing. The American Heritage Dictionary. 4th edition. New York: Dell, 2001.
  • Des Jardins, Joseph R. Environmental Ethics: An Introduction to Environmental Philosophy. 3′ ed. Belmont, California: Wadsworth, 2001.
  • Hacker, Diana. A Writer’s Reference. 4 1h ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000.
  • Assigned Readings: Associated Press. “Suit Names Chemical, Water Companies.” Staten Island Advance 2 Aug. 2000: A 12.
  • Avril, Tom. “Toms River Cancer Deal Gives Children $13 Million” The Philadelphia Inquirer 23 Jan. 2002: A I, A8.
  • Facione, Peter and Noreen Facione. “The Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric.” In Facione, Peter; Facione, Noreen; Giancarlo, Carlo and Steve Blohm. “The CT Album” and Workshop Materials. Millbrae, California: Insight Assessment and The California Academic Press, 2002.
  • Facione, Peter; Facione, Noreen; Giancarlo, Carlo and Steve Blohm. “The Reflective Journal” [modified from their “The Reflective Log.”] “The CT Album” and Workshop Materials. Millbrae, California: Insight Assessment and The California Academic Press, 2002.
  • Feeney, Tom. “In their Hearts, the Parents of Stricken Kids Find Truth.” The Star Ledger 20 Dec. 2001: A26.
  • Feeney, Tom and Mark Mueller. “Crusading Mom Shrugs off Vindication.” The Star Ledger 19 Dec 2001: A22.
  • Gawande, Atul. “The Cancer Cluster Myth.” The New Yorker Feb. 8, 1999: 34 37.
  • Kaye, Richard A. “Tie Dyed Food.” The New York Times 21 Apr 2002, see. 14: 1, 9.
  • Kelley, Tina. “How to Separate Good Data from Bad.” The New York Times 4 March 1999.
  • Lesman, Alex. “Reduce, Re use, and Recycle: The Coop’s Environmental Policies and Practices.” The Linewaiters’ Gazette. Park Slope Food Coop, 782 Union Street, Brooklyn, New York.
  • Light, Richard J. “Diversity on Campus,” Chapter 7, pages 129 159. In Light, Richard J. Making the Most of College. Students Speak Their Minds. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2001.
  • Loeb, Paul Rougat. “The Cynical Smirk.” Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999.
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory. “The Karen Silkwood Story.” Los Alamos Science 23 Nov. 1995.
  • MacPherson, Kitta. “Toms River Cancer Tied to Pollutants.” The Star Ledger 19 Dec. 2001: Al, A22.
  • MacPherson, Kitta and Ted Sherman. “Experts Hail 6 year Toms River Cancer Study.” The Star Ledger 20 Dec. 2001: A23, A26.
  • “After 30 Years, Some Resolution.” The Star Ledger 20 Dec. 2001: A26.
  • Park Slope Food Coop. “Frequently Asked Questions.” Park Slope Food Coop, 782 Union Street, Brooklyn, NY. 16 Sep 1999.
  • “Mission Statement.” The Linewaiters’ Gazette 25 Jul 2002: 9.
  • Pearce, Jeremy. “Trouble in Paradise.” The New York Times 23 Jun 2002, sec. 14, 1,8.
  • Peterson, Iver. “Many Cancers in Toms River Still Shrouded in Mystery.” The New York Times 19 Dec. 2001: A30.
  • Picard, Joseph. “Cancer Cases at OCC Spur State Investigation.” Asbury Park Press 4 May 2002: A I, A6.
  • Rampton, Sheldon, and Stauber, John. Toxic Sludge is Good for You: Lies, Damn Lies, and the Public Relations Industry. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995.
  • “The Junkyard Dogs of Science.” New Internationalist Jul 1999: 20 22.
  • Rock, Andrea. “Toxicville.” Ladies’ Home Journal Sep. 1999: 106, 108 109, 114,116.
  • Shermer, Michael and Pat Linse. “How Thinking Goes Wrong.” The Baloney Detection Kit. Skeptics Society, 2001.
  • Sucato, Kirsty. “What’s Wrong in Toms River?” The New York Times 16 Dec. 2001, sec. 14: 1, 10.
  • “Making a Particle of Difference.” The New York Times 16 Dec. 2001, sec. 14: 10.

(Other readings may be assigned as needed.)

Assigned Films/Videos:

  • Deadly Neighborhoods: Cancer Clusters. Executive Producer
  • Paul A. Dowling, Writer Alan La Garde. Medstar
  • Communications, Inc., 1996. (Package Copyright 1997 Films for the Humanities and Sciences).
  • Project Censored. Dir. Steve Keller. Distributor: Media Education Foundation, 1999.
  • Trade Secrets. A Moyers Report. Prod./Co writer Sherry Jones.
  • Executive Editor Bill Moyers. Public Affairs Television, Inc. in association with Washington Media Associates, 2001.
  • TV Nation. Dir. Michael Moore. Sony Entertainment Pictures, Inc. 1994.

Experiential Component:
As part of Reflective Tutorial, you are expected to include an experiential component that takes place outside the traditional classroom setting. The experience should relate to the general theme of the learning community (aspects of environmental issues). The goal is to provide a mechanism for each of you to understand more clearly the relevance of environmental issues through direct involvement that allows for reflection. Such reflection can be communicated via the journal entries and can become part of the general discussion in this course. Part of the experiential component of this learning community is project oriented and is called The Toms River Project, because it deals with various aspects of water pollution in Dover Township, New Jersey, where Toms River is located. This water pollution may be linked to a childhood cancer cluster found there. As part of The Toms River Project, you will be expected to attend all group trips to Toms River, New Jersey, which are expected to include at least two Friday all day trips. You will also attend the following evening meeting of the Citizens Action Committee for Childhood Cancer Cluster (CACCCC), as well as any additional CACCCC meetings that may be scheduled later in the semester:

Monday, September 30, 2002, 7:00 pm, Manuel Hirshblond Meeting Room, Dover Township
Municipal Building, 33 Washington Street, Toms River, New Jersey

Additional trips may be required, depending on their relevance to your Toms River research (e.g., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Manhattan, N.J. Department of Environmental Protection in Trenton, New Jersey, Washington, D.C. meeting with politicians and other officials concerned with the Toms River cancer cluster). You will receive detailed information regarding The Toms River Project from Dr. Stearns.

The experiential component will also require a group field trip to Washington, D.C., where you will meet a member of Congress who represents you someone you will have already contacted and arranged to meet on that day (tentatively set for Thursday, October 31, 2002). At that meeting, the two of you will discuss an environmental issue related to President George W. Bush’s proposed national energy policy an issue that you will have researched prior to your trip. You will bring with you a carefully worded letter (see Letter to Member of Congress below) stating your position on the issue, with evidence for your position. The letter will be addressed to your selected Congressional member and will be the focus of your meeting with him/her. Dr. Stearns will describe this experiential component in class.

A community service activity required of all LC K students will involve working at the incredible Park Slope Food Coop for approximately three hours. Dr. Worthy will describe this experiential component in class.

Attendance and individual involvement will be evaluated as part of the active participation grade.

Failure to meet the minimal requirements of the experiential component will automatically result in Incomplete if you are passing at the end of the semester; otherwise it will result in an F for the course.

Letter to Member of Congress:
Decide your personal view regarding an environmental issue related to President George W. Bush’s proposed national energy policy, and provide a written summary of that view no later than October 4th (the due date for the 2nd draft of your research paper). Carefully prepare a thoughtful letter describing your position, with evidence supporting your viewpoint. Address the letter to the member of Congress you will have arranged to visit October 3 01h in Washington, D.C. (see Experiential Component above). As part of your research, find out the position of that member of Congress regarding your selected issue and take that into account as you prepare your letter. You must see a WIT in the Writing Center before the due date, Thursday, October 17th. The WIT must go over the letter with you and must sign this draft of the letter. A revised, clean copy of the original letter and the signed first draft are both due in RFT class Thursday, October 17th. While this letter will not be graded as a short paper, it will be assessed for overall effort, as well as evidence of critical analysis and persuasive argument; that evaluation will constitute part of the active participation grade.

Journal Entries:
You are responsible for contributing to an ongoing, freewheeling, electronic group journal throughout the semester, with entries expected by 9:00 am Tuesday or Thursday approximately every week (see RFT syllabus for the days). Each entry should focus your thoughts on the content of the two lecture courses that are part of your learning community. You will be assigned specific study topics designed to enhance your understanding of environmental issues. The general goal of this journal writing is to encourage an introspective awareness of your personal role regarding environmental issues. Please note that this is not a diary: do not lapse into personal matters unless they directly relate to the environmental theme of the learning community. While each journal entry will not be graded, there will be a subjective assessment of overall effort and general improvement with time, and that evaluation will constitute part of the active participation grade.

Research Paper:
A research paper dealing with an environmental issue and its relation to a specific aspect of The Toms River Project is required as part of this course. The fourth and final draft of the paper must be at least 15 full pages of text (not including the title page, Abstract section, or References section). The paper must include at least five references that Dr. Stearns has approved. The paper must be prepared using the style recommended by the Council of Biology Editors (see CBE Formatting Style in the RFT section of packet). Consult A Writer’s Reference and your WITs for help in structuring each paper. Correct formatting, spelling and grammatical construction are expected. Please save your file on diskette for ease during the rewriting/revision process. Three times during the semester you will meet individually with Dr. Stearns to review drafts of your research paper. To each conference bring a folder containing photocopies of all cited reference materials used for the paper. Dr. Stearns will evaluate your research effort, conceptual understanding of the research, and editorial/grammatical quality.

These conference evaluations will become a part of the overall grade for the research paper, along with an evaluation of the fourth and final draft. Dr. Stearns will be looking for substantial improvement with each draft. Late papers will be docked five points for each day late, calculated as the number of days after the deadline that the paper is turned in and found suitable for evaluation. Note: Your paper will be returned to you unread and docked points if it does not meet the formatting requirements cited earlier. Any additional instructions will be given in class.

Web Page Presentation of The Toms River Project:
After attending a workshop regarding the setting up of web pages on the Internet, you will create your own web page and post a summary of your research paper, especially that portion of your research dealing with Toms River, on the Internet, with web links to other related web sites (e.g., web sites of Toms River organizations related to the childhood cancer cluster there). Your instructors will provide more detailed information in class regarding preparation for this component of the Reflective Tutorial. At the end of the semester, during the Reflective Tutorial final exam period, there will be student web page presentations of The Toms River Project.

First Year Diversity Program:
As part of the First Year Program, all freshmen are expected to participate in an event that comprises the First Year Diversity Program, which is designed to introduce the diversity of New York City and to increase cultural awareness (see information in RFT syllabus on COURAGE). Attendance and individual involvement will be evaluated as part of the active participation grade.

Active Participation:
You are expected to attend and actively participate in all the described activities and are responsible for all announcements made during those activities. Active participation is expected, and participation points will be lost for poor attendance with unexcused absences, poor performance regarding journal entries or letter to a member of Congress, meager discussion, lateness to class or other course related event, missed appointments without giving proper and timely notice to your instructor, as well as missed deadlines that were not otherwise penalized.

Grading:
Research paper……………………30%
Short paper assignments………..25%
Web page setup/presentation….20%
Active participation ……..……..25%

 

School: Wagner College
Professor: Donald Stearns and Kim Worthy
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