Greg Larson
Department of Communication Studies
Green Thread Course Revisions
September 1, 2011
After completing the Green Thread workshop in May of 2011, I revised my
Communication and Conflict (COMM: 412) course to include several of the “big ideas”
advocated in the workshop. Specifically, I focused on the ideas of social justice/inequality and
the triple bottom line. I incorporated these ideas into the curriculum by adding one assignment
and revising another as detailed below.
I added an assignment to the course that focused on the triple bottom line (people, profits,
planet) by including a class activity and accompanying reflection paper about the proposed Otter
Creek Coal mine in eastern Montana. The Otter Creek Mine controversy provides a good local
conflict that readily shows the competing needs of various parties. I use the controversy as an
example of a “moral conflict”—conflict that involves seemingly incommensurate moral orders.
The assignment involves students researching and voicing the interests of the various parties,
engaging in an in-class multi-party negotiation and then reflecting on their experiences in a
graded paper. In particular, I’m interested in seeing students engage in listening to other voices
and in beginning to explore ways of transcending seemingly intractable conflicts in society that
involve people, profits and the planet.
I also revised another assignment in conjunction with the goals of the Green Thread
workshop by adding supplementary readings and revising a question on a response paper. For
years, I’ve had students read Ted Conover’s New Jack book which is an insider’s account of
guarding a maximum security prison, Sing-Sing, in New York. The students focus on how
conflicts arise and are managed in the prison by the guards and inmates. After attending the
Green Thread, I realized that the book also provided an opportunity to have a larger discussion
about prisons, social justice and sustainability in the United States. I added several readings to
the course which give differing views about prisons and society. We’ll spend class-time
discussing these issues and then students will be asked to reflect on these issues and develop
their own informed opinions.
Overall, I found the Green Thread workshop thought-provoking and useful as I’ve
attempted to rework my courses to consider issues related to sustainability.