Syllabus (Spring 2022)

Week 1 (Jan. 18-20)Week 2 (Jan. 25-27)Week 3(Feb. 1-3)
Week 4 (Feb. 8-10)Week 5 (Feb. 15-17)Week 6 (Feb. 22-24)
Week 7 (Mar. 1-3)Spring BreakWeek 8 (Mar. 15-17)
Week 9 (Mar. 22-24)Week 10 (Mar. 29-31)Week 11 (Apr. 5-7)
Week 12 (Apr. 12-14)Week 13 (Apr. 19-21)Week 14 (Apr. 26-28)
Course Requirements

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Week 1 (Jan. 18-20)

Tuesday – Introduction

Thursday – Genetic Enhancement

  • Eugene Bardach, A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis: The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving (fourth edition, 2012) – pp. xv-xiv (Brightspace)
  • Maureen McHugh, “The Starfish Girl,” Slate ( July 23, 2018)

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Week 2 (Jan. 25-27)

Tuesday – Climate change

Thursday – Data privacy

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Week 3 (Feb. 1-3)

Tuesday – A.I.

Thursday – Culture (a sociological perspective)

  • Wendy Griswold, Ch. 1, “Culture and the Cultural Diamond,” from Cultures and Societies in a Changing World – available online from the library for members of the Vanderbilt University community
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)

Week 4 (Feb. 8-10) – Genetics and public policy

Tuesday

  • Gattaca (1997), dir. Andrew Niccol
  • Quiz 1
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)

Thursday

  • Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (2003)
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)

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Week 5 (Feb. 15-17) – Genetics and public policy (cont.)

Tuesday

  • Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (2003)
  • National Academies, Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects (2016), free online. Read the “Preface” (xiii-xv) and “Executive Summary” (1-3)
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)

Thursday

  • Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake (2003)
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)

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Week 6 (Feb. 22-24)

Sunday, 11:59 p.m.

  • Final project, tentative proposal (1 paragraph description plus a 1-slide PowerPoint). Please feel free to propose more than one idea, but if you do, be sure to create a rationale and PowerPoint slide for each. A list of local organizations working for the social good will be posted in Brightspace.

Tuesday  – Arts organizations and social justice

  • Presentation of selected proposals – 1-slide PowerPoint
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)

Thursday – Climate change (cont.)

  • Interstellar (2014), dir. Christopher Nolan
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)

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Week 7 (Mar. 1-3 ) — Climate change (cont.)

Tuesday

  • Craig DeLancey, “Racing the Tide” (2014) – (Brightspace)
  • Pitchaya Sudbanthad, “Floating,” Guernica (2019)
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)

Thursday

  • Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (2011)
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)

SPRING BREAK (March 7-11)

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Week 8 (Mar. 15-17)

Tuesday – Climate change (cont.)

  • Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (2011)
  • Colin Dayan, “Preface” and “By Way of Beginning” from With Dogs at the Edge of Life (2016) – (Brightspace)
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)

Thursday –

  • Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (2011)
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)

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Week 9 (Mar. 22-24)

Tuesday – Humanities organizations and social justice

  • Guest speaker
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)

Thursday – Data privacy

  • Snowden (2016), dir. Oliver Stone
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)

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Week 10 (Mar. 29-31) – Data privacy (cont.)

Tuesday

  • The Social Dilemma (2020), dir. Jeff Orlowski
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)
  • Quiz 2

Thursday

  • Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story (2010)
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)

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Week 11 (Apr. 5-7) – Data privacy (cont.)

Tuesday

  • Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story (2010)
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)

Thursday – A.I.

  • Ex Machina (2015), dir. Alex Garland
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)

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Week 12 (Apr. 12-14) – A.I. (cont.)

Tuesday

  • Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun (2021)
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)

Thursday

  • Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun (2021)
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)

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Week 13 (Apr. 19-21) – A.I. (cont.)

Tuesday –

  • Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun (2021)
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)

Thursday

  • A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001), dir. Steven Spielberg
  • Final quiz
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 1 comments on either blog)

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Week 14 (Apr. 26-28)

Tuesday

  • Workshop
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)
  • Blog: (Group 2 comments on either blog)

Thursday

  • Workshop
  • Final paper due (11:59 pm)*

Course Requirements

  • Two blog posts (15% each)
  • Quizzes (30%)
  • Class participation (10%)
    • Rationale: Learning to speak articulately about topical issues is a valuable skill, which small discussion seminars are designed to foster. Pushing oneself to voice an informed opinion in public often forces a person to think more deeply and to respond to others, whereas listening passively can foster the tendency to accept others’ ideas rather than work out one’s own position. Speaking about specific features of the text also demonstrates that one has read the assigned material carefully.
      • Class participation grades will be calculated as follows: Attendance at the great majority of classes (no more than 3 unexcused absences) constitutes the minimum passing standard and establishes one’s participation grade as a D.
      • Speaking up only a few times during the course of the semester constitutes satisfactory performance and earn a grade of C.
      • Entering the discussion every second or third class period constitutes average performance and earns a grade of B.
      • Frequent participation that is intelligent, respectful of others, and clearly oriented toward contributing to the class experience constitutes excellent performance and earns a grade of A.
    • Alternative forms of class participation are available. Please speak to the instructor.
  • Final project (30%). Students have two options for completing this assignment.
    • Single author option: Profile a local arts or humanities organization that is engaged in social justice work. Your profile may be in the form of a paper (5-7 pages), podcast (5-7 minutes), or video (3-5 minutes).
    • Collaborative option: Working with two other researchers, write a policy brief (10-12 pages, double spaced) about an important issue facing our community, nation, or world. This policy brief should have a short introduction that outlines the issue you are addressing, three substantive sections, and a conclusion that recapitulates your team’s recommendations. Section I consists of a review of existing approaches to the topic; section II, an analysis of one or more works of literature, film, or TV that expand our understanding of the issue at hand, with emphasis on what the creative work adds to existing perspectives; section III, a discussion of your team’s recommendations, which outlines your reasoning for each proposal, expected benefits, feasibility, and consequences if these or other remedies are not adopted.
      • Division of work: One student should be responsible for composing each of the substantive sections, but the entire team should work together to assess the existing approaches, the literary or media pieces, and your team’s recommendation. Please use Slack to coordinate your work and invite me to you Slack workspace.
      • You should use at least one reputable policy document as your source for determining existing perspectives on the topic. You can find plenty of such documents online simply by searching with terms like “climate change policy recommendations.” Determining which reports to rely on takes judgment. Generally, good sources for policy documents include:
        • Government agencies, in the U.S. or abroad, including their separate departments, such as the Health and Human Services, Dept. of Energy, etc.
        • International organizations, such as the U.N., UNESCO, WHO, etc.
        • Scientific organizations, such as the NIH, NSF, DoE, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine
        • Professional societies, such as the American Medical Association (and all its sub-disciplines)
        • Please avoid advocacy pieces from interest groups, which might be biased. For example, anti-GMO groups or anti-vaccination groups pump out torrents of false, one-sided, or misleading information. If a case is to be made for or against one of these issues, it needs to be made using the best data available.