Syllabus Course Overview

In this course, you will research conspiracy theories—ways that people respond to public sequences of events with conflicting, contradictory, or controversial accounts.  We will consider conspiracy theories as a subset of a climate of terror, and we'll investigate conspiracy theories as a as soc
ial, cultural, and historical phenomena. We will discuss what attracts people to the rhetoric of fear and what conspiracy theories tell us about the society in which we live that produces them.

Please download the "Syllabus Sign-off" at the bottom of this page in the "Attachments" section.

Instructional Objectives: An Overview

You will assume critical distance from an objective point of view and research numerous sides of an alleged conspiracy.  You will evaluate the information and the sources you locate and compose an investigative report and presentation.  You will also sit on Focus Groups in which you will assess your peers' findings, debate the issues, and figure out what
really happened.   To help you gain background knowledge on conspiracy theories,  you will also read George Orwell’s novel 1984 to explore the power relationship between a government and its citizens. 

Conspiracy Theory Class in the English Department: 
Goals and Understandings

The goals of a Conspiracy Theory class in the English Department at FHS are primarily to help you develop your skills as a persuasive commun
icator.  By focusing on persuasion through viewing, reading, writing, and rhetoric, this class will enhance your analytical and argumentation capacities.  A major way to do this is through understanding genres. Genres are categories of discourse ---- written, spoken, audio, or visual --- that have commonly-accepted structures and style.  Genres are formed by conventions that change over time as new genres are invented and the use of old ones are discontinued. In this class, you'll analyze multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions to ground your ideas.

By the end of this course, you will be able to identify, interrogate, and draw upon rhetorical elements of argumentation as you analyze conspiracy theories. You will make these cognitive leaps by engaging in a wide variety of social and personal learning experiences:  you'll balance consultation with peers with a lot of personal research and written reflection.

Literary Component

Students will read George Orwell’s novel 1984 to explore the critical, social, and historical interconnections elements regarding a citizen’s relationship with the government.  Many English courses read this novel as a dystopian exploration of human desire to preserve individuality.  However, this course will analyze the novel as an illustration of our uneasy relationship with the forces of authority that both allow a civilization to function and also suppress the resistant elements of a society. 

 Students will explore the following core questions: 

·         What is the role of government? 

·         What should be the limitations of a government’s power over the individual? 

·         What are the advantages and disadvantages of transparency in the inner-workings of a government? 

·         At which point does a government which employs secrecy as a tactic to ensure order become a force of conspiracy that suppresses the development of a society? 

·         Can a government that wields power behind a veil of secrecy retain its integrity and avoid becoming a self-serving autocracy? 

·         At which point does the individual, who is aware of the secrecy of an authoritarian force, give way to paranoia? 

Students will study the historical events of the years during Orwell’s development and writing of the novel (1944-1949) and draw parallels between events of this era to events of the periods of time surrounding their research and contemporary events. 

As the novel is a difficult text with an idiosyncratic usage of the English language, students will also explore the text in a hermeneutical sense: in other words, students will make personal meaning through evaluating how the language in contemporary society and contemporary media alters messages.  This will lead students to investigate how authors wield power over readers by controlling the language of the text in the same way that institutions of authority work to control and manipulate public interpretations of events and messages. 

Course Grading (approximate)

This course consists of daily assignments, announced and unannounced quizzes on reading/ viewing/ listening/ speaking/ writing/ vocabulary, three reflection papers, a comprehensive exam, a research project on a conspiracy theory (for non-senior project students), and, of course, regular seminar attendance.

Daily Assignments 20%
Quizzes 10%
Three Reflection Papers 30% (total)
Comprehensive Exam: 20% (end of term three)
Research Project 20% (end of term four)

Final Exam (exempt for students with A- average or above) 10% of total grade

An "Open Honors" option will require these students to assume accelerated participation in all areas. (Please see the page with the Open Honors' description for more information about this option.)
Open Honors forms are due no later than Friday, February 17, 2012.

Academic Expression:  
This elective is open to a variety of ways of interpreting the intersection of sports and popular culture.  Students are encouraged to participate as co-teachers and to share their questions and ideas.  We will call these exchanges of ideas "dialogicality."  Each student is expected to be an active participant in the dialogicality. At times, co-teachers will present differing interpretations about and points of view on a sports topic.  In all discussions, each person is expected to show respect to the comments and positions of fellow students and the teachers. 

Each student is warmly encouraged to meet with the teacher by appointment after school.

Dr. Carolyn Fortuna, PhD in Education, M.A. in Writing, B.A. in Letters

FHS B107

Copyright © 2012.
Carolyn F,
Jan 30, 2012, 2:12 PM
Carolyn F,
Feb 26, 2012, 12:55 PM
Carolyn F,
Jan 28, 2012, 11:17 AM