THE POLITICS OF RACE, ETHNICITY AND INEQUALITY
The Politics Of Race, Ethnicity, And Inequality (POL 334 sec.001)
Since its founding, no set of political issues has more bedeviled the American political system than those having to do with race and ethnicity. The nation’s founders devised a political system that has done a pretty good job of addressing conflicts arising from ideological, geographic, religious and class differences, but the institutions they created have been largely inept when it comes to dealing with the persistent inequalities related to race and ethnicity. Social policy problems related to education, crime, and welfare, that might otherwise find resolution, often prove unsolvable to the extent race and ethnicity enter into the debates. How and whether or not the nation can begin to solve these problems are the fundamental questions of this course.
At its simplest level, much of the debate over race in the US is between those who see racism as the fundamental cause of America's social ills and those who blame these problems on the behavior and lifestyle of the disadvantaged themselves. Starting with either of these first two premises -- and in some cases, compromises between the two premises -- those how have studied and written books on race in America have developed a wide range of competing theories, and agendas.
In this course we will read many of these books, analyze and critique them. We will read the books in part for the knowledge and information they might contain, but mostly to gain an understanding of the diversity of thinking about these matters. An important objective of this course is for the students to develop an ability to communicate their own ideas and insights about these most controversial of subjects. This involves more than formulating ideas and putting them on paper; it involves finding an audience, exposing one's ideas, evidence, and logic to others and anticipating, and responding to, their reactions. In this regard, this course will be different.
Perhaps unlike many other courses related to race, ethnicity and social inequality, there will be no attempt to impose any doctrine, perspective or ideology on this course (although even saying that might do so), other than that we ought to adhere to common standards of free and open inquiry. The books themselves have been chosen to reflect a very broad spectrum of thought and ideology. The authors, the other students in the class, and, perhaps, the instructor will, no doubt, express views with which you will disagree. This should be appreciated: you will never learn much from people you agree with. Our discussions will be guided by one general rule:
We are all students trying to learn; it is just as important not to take offense
as it is not to offend.
Due Dates, Requirements and Grades.
Each reviewer will be asked to summarize and discuss the assigned book as part of a group presentation on the assigned date. The review will not receive a grade higher than a B if a) it is submitted late, or b) if the reviewer cannot adequately summarize the book the prior week. Each review will be evaluated based on the "Summary Grade sheet" standards. For the reviews, each review will count for 20% of your final grade. Note that the class presentation on each book is a part of the grade for participation.
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