POLITICAL SCIENCE 334:
THE POLITICS OF RACE, ETHNICITY AND INEQUALITY

Gary Klass
gmklass@ilstu.edu

Summer, 2012

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 relatd 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 it 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.

Course Objectives:

o   To familiarize students with the broad spectrum of contemporary political debate about matters of race and ethnicity

o   To understand how ideas about race and ethnicity shape social policy.

o   To engage in critical analysis of ideological positions and policy agendas related to ethnic issues

o   To develop habits and interests in reading good books.

o   To develop capacities to express ideas and insights about matters of race and ethnicity in public fora

Due Dates, Requirements and Grades.

Reviews. Each (undergraduate) student will be assigned to read four of the books (one from each of the four sections of the course), to summarize the work in class, and to submit a review of each book to the discussion list. 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.

The class presentations should be organized around the main ideas in the book, with more than one student addressing the same ideas; they should not be organized as chapter-by-chapter summaries.  As a general rule one students should summarize what the book says, the remaining students should critique, defend, analyze and interpret.

You are welcome to send draft copies of your other reviews to the instructor and to each other at any time, but please do so sufficiently in advance of the due date to receive comments back.  Not paying attention to comments made on your draft is a big mistake.

Class participation, both oral in-class participation in class (including serving as the lead reviewer) and on the discussion list, will comprise 5 percent of the grade.  In-class participation will be graded on a 5-point scale and will be based on book presentations and include at least two well-thought-out messages to the discussion list commenting on other reviews that have been posted. At least one of these must be posted before Friday, June 1.  Such commentaries should consist of serious analysis of the book or the review under discussion. At all times avoid sending quick, short, and immediate responses to reviews and commentaries to the list.  Those who hardly ever say anything in class will get a 0 or 1.

Exams.   There will be one take home exam, 15% of the grade based on one of these two exam questions (use link on on-line syllabus).  The exam will be an approximately 3 single-spaced pages. It must be sent to the instructor by email by June 29.

Format.  In the class schedule below, two books are assigned each Wednesday and Thursday class. The reviews must be posted to the discussion list the following Monday at midnight (except the first week's books which should be posted before class on Tuesday, May 29. Late reviews will not receive a grade higher than a B.  Later than that and you will receive a 20% grade reduction.

Attendance: Attendance for this course is mandatory. Do not enroll in the course if you anticipate problems attending class.   If for any reason at all you miss two classes, you will be assigned an extra review*.  One more class, one more review**.  If you miss a class when you are scheduled to present a book, you must schedule a special meeting with the instructor as soon as possible.

Discussion list. An unusual feature of this course involves the use of an Internet electronic mail discussion list,
POS334-L. Each student's work will be distributed on the POS334-L list to over two hundred faculty and students across the world, some of whom will be submitting their own writings and commentaries on each other's writings. The purpose is both to provide an external audience for the students' ideas and to bring ideas from the outside into the class. In effect, your writing will be on public display.

Course Schedule:

I. Introduction:
The first two classes will address general principles of writing book reviews, an introduction to the major value conflicts and issues concerning race and ethnicity, and some demonstration of the use of electronic mail and discussion lists. Subsequent Mondays and Tuesdays will address additional literature on race and ethnicity, prepartion for forthcoming book presentations  We will examine and evaluate previously-published book reviews, including those sent to the POS334-L discussion list.

 II. Schedule:

          Section one
W. May 23

Joe Feagin. Racist America
John McWhorter. Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America
Th May 24

Paul Krugman,
The Conscience of a Liberal
Mona Charen,
Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help

book reviews due: Tuesday, May 29, noon

          Section two
Monday: no class

W May 30

Eugene Robinson, Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America
Michael Eric Dyson, Is Bill Cosby Right?: Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost its Mind?
Th May 31

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Charles Murray, Coming Apart

book reviews due: Monday, June 4, midnight

         Section three
W. June 6
Fergus Bordewich, Killing the White Man's Indian
Frank H. Wu., Yellow: Race in America, Beyond Black and White
Th. June 7
Samuel Huntington, Who Are We: The Challenges to America's National Identity
Roberto Suro, Strangers Among Us: Latino Lives in a Changing America

book reviews due: Monday, June 12, midnight

         Section four
W. June 13
Dinesh D'Souza, Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus
Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom. No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning

Th. June 14
Jonathan Kozol, The Shame of the Nation:
Richard Rothstein, Class and Schools

book reviews due: Monday, June 19, midnight

 Final Paper due Friday June 29

*extra book reviews for abscences:

Urofsky, Melvin, Affirmative Action On Trial
Barbara A. Perry, The Michigan Affirmative Action Cases
Sharon Hays Flat Broke with Children: Women in the Age of Welfare Reform  


                                                                                                http://lilt.ilstu.edu/gmklass/pos334/sylFal1.gifprinted on virgin rainforest paper