Y490 Senior Seminar - School of Liberal Arts

Y490 Senior Seminar – Ramla Bandele
You are seniors and we are in a seminar.
Seminar means a small group meets to collectively study certain topics, each contributing
and learning how present information in a coherent and evidentiary way.
You need these skills for:
Interviews – taking a question and organizing a good answer and initiating discourse.
Collective problem solving – you will often have meetings where people come together
to solve a problem, develop or modify a major product line, etc.
Research – if you choose to attend graduate school, it will be expected that you have
superior research skills. This will also be true in your chosen profession – even if you
plan to have your own business.
Critical thinking – this skill is invaluable in your political affairs. You need to analyze
and synthesize data to draw conclusions and answers in a complex, competitive society.
Seminar Protocol
This seminar will be a collaborative effort: we study particular topics that help us
understand America’s political evolution, which of course influences the continued
development of our political institutions.
Students will write a critical summary of the assigned reading. This will involve looking
at other sources on the topics. Be prepared to use your summary in the class discussion
on the subject. Your summary should range between 2-5 pages each week.
There will be no examinations but there is a research paper and a presentation of your
research to your colleagues. The presentation should be about 15 minutes and students
should be prepared to answer questions regarding their conclusions.
Attendance is required. Students may have one absence; after the first absence, you
will lose ten points per absence. More than three absences will result in withdrawal or a
failing grade.
Schedule: In most instances, we will study our topic for two class meetings. This means
we will finish an assign book in two class meetings.
1. We will study the evolving relationships between the men who developed and
implemented the constitution.
Reading: Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis
2. We will study the democratizing of American electoral institutions. In the early 19th
century the vote was given to most white men.
Reading:Andrew Jackson and the politics of martial law; nationalism, civil liberties and
partisanship. By Matthew Warshauer
3. We will look at how African Americans, who have been in America in 1619 finally
achieved modest freedom during and after the Civil War. We will study how America
tried to modify its institutions in such a way as to include a heretofore marginalized
Reading: A Short History of Reconstruction, 1863-1877. by Eric Foner
4. Continuing the democratizing analysis, we will look at the political ideology of
women in their first convention. Then we will move on to explore the suffrage
movement that transformed into feminism and how these politics have changed American
Readings: From One Voice a Chorus: Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s 1860 Address. In
Women Studies in Communication, 1999 You can find this in the EXAC database in
Reading: Feminism’s Future: Is the Women’s movement growing or losing power? In
CQ Researcher , Feb 1997 Vol 7 Issue8
5. Religion has become a salient variable in contemporary politics. We will look the rise
of religious activists in the Republican party and American politics. Secondly, we will
examine America and Islam, focusing on how our political institutions can embrace and
protect Muslim Americans, while simultaneously asserting the State’s right to surveill
and hold Muslims and any other Americans in a vigilant effort to quail terrorism.
Reading: God is a Conservative: Religion, Politics, and Morality in Contemporary
America by Kenneth J. Heineman
Reading: Understanding Islam: Is Islam compatible with Western Values. In CQ
Researcher, Nov. 3, 2006, Vol. 6 #39
6. The court has been called upon to determine the constitutionality of many
controversial issues in American politics, including protecting the Civil Rights of
minorities, ruling on abortion rights, government retention of Americans by the U.S.
government. Who are these people making these decisions? Can they be truly objective?
Reading: The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin
7. Ongoing dialogue on the presidential primaries.
Summary papers and research paper guidelines.
The summary will include the following components
A review of the reading, clearly illustrating that you understand the argument
Your analysis of the author’s argument. Here you will do further reading so that
you will have a deeper understanding of the topic.
Arguing persuasively your view of the reading and “reality” This argument must
not be based “on a feeling” or a cultural or religious norm alone. Rather it should
be grounded in research. There are many databases that provide scholastic and
professional analysis without being long and circuitous.
Have a question or statement to contribute to our discussion
You must turn in the summary after class for grading. Each paper will be worth
10 points.
Your research paper will be 25 pages in length. It can be on any number of topics as long
as it relates to the development or evolution of American politics and institutions. Your
research paper will be worth 100 points.
You must use the writing manual: Writing a Research Paper in Political Science: A
Practical Guide to Inquiry, Structure, and Methods.
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