*Contemporary Social Issues

COURSE DESCRIPTION:

This course is a seminar discussion of current books and topics in the Social Sciences that have implications for how students can “live well” in the 21st century. Topics to be considered include changes in family, childhood, entertainment, media, and work.

GOALS:
By the end of the course, students will have developed their abilities to:
1. Understand some key processes driving contemporary American culture.
2. Explore different strategies for coping successfully with ongoing changes.
3. Think critically about the arguments and presuppositions of popular cultural texts.
4. Discuss cultural arguments both in online forums and in formal written work.

TEXTS:
There are 4 books that we will be reading in their entirety. All of them are available from the bookstore or online (e.g. Amazon or Barnes and Noble). 
“Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment” by Richard Winter 
“The Divorce Culture” by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead
“Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser 
“Why the Rest Hate the West” by Meic Pearse 

VIDEOS:
There are 4 full videos that we will be viewing this semester, as well as several shorter clips. All of them are available online and are linked from the course website. Most are free, but some might require rental from Netflix or Amazon.

ASSIGNMENTS:
Reading Responses (24) 10 pts each; 240 possible
Video Responses (4) 25 pts each; 100 possible
Participation in Forums 100 pts possible
Final Integration Paper 100 pts
Total 540 possible

ASSIGNMENT DESCRIPTIONS:
Reading Response Papers: For each day’s reading, the students will type a single-spaced, “summary/response paper” and submit it to MyCourses (Moodle) by the posted deadline. Please follow these guidelines:
• The papers should be at least one FULL page per day (NOTE: that is SINGLE-SPACED)
• This paper should include summary statements of the article interspersed with the student’s comments and reactions. 
• Quotes are sparingly allowed, but should not be more than 15% of your paper. 
• These are not meant to be “formal” papers, but are simply a personal reaction to show me you have processed the reading before online discussion begins. 
• It is expected that you will have some commentary on all chapters/readings assigned for that day, and that you show evidence of having read the ENTIRE assignment. 
• PAPERS MAY NOT BE SUBMITTED LATE. Do not wait until the last few minutes, because computer clocks are not always in sync! All deadlines are programmed for Central Standard Time.
• Note: some days have a video clip for part of this assignment. You may have to plan ahead for viewing depending on your access to high-speed Internet.

Video Response Papers: There are four videos that are available online for class discussion.
• Supersize Me
• Suicide Killers
• Maxed Out
• Digital Nation

For each video, you will have to write a response paper. Grammar and spelling will matter. Each should be a well-written 4-pages double-spaced paper discussing the following:

• Summarize the premise and story of the video.
• In what ways did this video reflect the readings you have done so far this semester?
• Was the video fair, or did it seem biased? If so, how?
• What lessons did you take away from the video?

Online Discussion of Readings and Videos: 
An important component of online classes is the chance to interact with other class members and the instructor. While part of the beauty of online education is that it is “asynchronous” (meaning you don’t have to all be online at the same time), we all still need the chance to bounce our ideas off of one another. For this to happen effectively, the following requirements are in place for online forums:
• On the course homepage, each week has an assignment link for “Online Forum for Week #”.
• The forum for each week opens at 12:01 AM Sunday and closes at 11:55 PM that Saturday. NOTE: The window for the first and last weeks are slightly shorter, since the class starts on a Monday and ends on a Friday.
• During that week, you are expected to actively participate in the discussions over the readings by doing a “meaningful post” (see definition below) at least 10 times.
• Your posts should be spread out over the week. At a minimum, you should have 4 posts by midnight Tuesday, 8 posts by midnight Thursday, and 10 posts by midnight Saturday. However, please have no more than 6 posts by midnight Wednesday. YOU CANNOT “BANG OUT” ALL YOUR POSTS IN ONE DAY!
• The professor will assign a grade for your weekly posts early the following week. Factors included will be:
o Posting enough times by the deadlines.
o “Meaningfulness” of the posts.
• By “Meaningful”, the professor will be considering the following issues:
o Was the post well-written and easy to follow?
o Did you pay attention to previous posts and choose appropriately whether to start a new thread, or place your post under someone else’s topic?
o Did the post treat the book or video respectfully? (It’s OK to be critical, but be fair.)
o If you disagree with the materials or another post, did you give evidence for your position, or make a good argument?
o Was the post worth your classmates’ time by adding to their knowledge, or was it merely a “me too” statement? Some things that are helpful to your peers might include:
• Start of a new thread of discussion that is relevant and interesting.
• Outside material (links to relevant articles or websites).
• New data (things that you learned in other classes or found in other sources).
• Personal examples (experiences that illustrate or disagree with the course materials or others’ comments).
• New argument or perspective.
• Helpful feedback on someone’s earlier post.
• Course participation grade will be an average of your 6 weekly post grades.
• The professor will try to give feedback after the first week via email if there is an ongoing problem with your posts.


Final Integration Paper: At the end of the semester, each student will write a 6-page double-spaced “How Then Will I Live” paper. This paper should focus on the life the student would like to live in light of the topics we discussed. Attention should be paid to the dangers and resources the student will need to deal with to reach these goals. It should also give concrete “next steps” to begin making this resolution a part of your life. This is not a “formal research paper”, so footnotes, bibliography, etc are not necessary. However, I do want to see specific references to ideas from each of the books. I also expect papers to be well-written and edited. You may also discuss the videos, but it is not required.


TENTATIVE SCHEDULE:
The course schedule is programmed into MyCourses. As a rule of thumb, those deadlines are:
• A paper on either a Reading or Video is due each night by 11:55 PM CST (Monday through Friday).
• You must do 10 posts per week (4 by Tuesday, 6 by Thursday, 10 by Saturday), with no more than 6 by Wednesday.
• The Final Integration paper is due on the last Friday.
• All deadlines are midnight.
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