INQ 120: The Moral of Our Story Roanoke College, Spring 2015

INQ 120: The Moral of Our Story
Roanoke College, Spring 2015
Block 5, 1:10-2:10, MWF, West 125
Block 6, 2:20-3:20, MWF, West 125
Professor: Holly Jordan
Office: 303 West
Email: [email protected]
Office Hours: Block 2 (9:30-10:40 MWF)
and by appointment
Course Description
The theme for this course in moral philosophy is “The Moral of Our Story.” We will engage in
moral reasoning by reading the accounts of slaves, refugees, and holocaust survivors, and also
by examining important events (mostly) in the 20th century such as the Arab-Israeli Conflict,
colonialism, and the Bosnian conflict. By placing ourselves in the positions of those who made
difficult moral decisions and those who lived through the consequences of those decisions, and
asking the questions ‘what would I have done?’ and ‘how would I have reacted?’ we will
prepare ourselves to be more confident moral decision makers. Through these (mostly) nonfiction narratives, we will gain insight into questions such as: What makes some moral decisions
better than others? What are our capacities to be good and to be bad? Is there a real
difference between right and wrong, or is morality “all relative”? Might we see through these
stories that humanity shares a common moral story?
One of the primary purposes of this course is to develop your oral presentation skills. We will
focus on preparing oral presentations and how to use presentations as a way to synthesize
information. In addition, we will write in a variety of ways, focusing on the writing process and
Course Objectives
By the end of this course, students will be able to:
 Formulate and evaluate arguments about ethical positions;
 Describe connections between the course topic and broader traditions of critical
reflections on the good life;
 Give an effective oral presentation;
 Write a paper with a clear thesis, cogent argumentation, effective organization, and a
minimum of sentence-level errors;
 Read, discuss, and write about college-level academic texts and ideas; and
 Use library and other resources to find, evaluate, and synthesize information from
multiple sources and use this information in support of a research question.
Required Readings
Things Fall Part by Chinua Achebe - ISBN-13: 978-0385474542
Night by Elie Wiesel - ISBN-13: 978-0374500016
Bluebird: A Memoir by Vesna Maric - ISBN-13: 978-1593762582
We Just Want to Live Here: A Palestinian Teenager, an Israeli Teenager, An Unlikely
Friendship by Amal Rifa’i and Odelia Ainbinder - ISBN-13: 978-0312318949
Slave: My True Story by Mende Nazer - ISBN-13: 978-1586483180
The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore - ISBN-13: 978-0385528207
A Writer’s Reference, Roanoke College Edition by Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers.
New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012.
Come to class. Come to class prepared. If for some reason, you are not prepared that day, still
come to class. You are paying for this degree. Come to class.
Obviously, only a select few of you will have perfect attendance in this course. If you are
absent, you still must complete any work due that day. This includes any work to be submitted
online. You will be allowed three unexcused absences this semester (I don’t feel like it/It’s too
pretty outside/I just want to eat sleep/etc. days). Use them wisely. More than three will affect
your participation grade.
Legitimate situations may arise during the semester that keep you from class (illness, family
death, religious holiday, etc.). If you plan to be absent for a session, please notify me via email
before that session. If you are unable to attend class unexpectedly, please notify me before the
next class session with the reason for your absence. Absences ultimately will only be
considered “excused” if proper documentation (doctor’s note, etc.) is provided within a week of
the absence. Please note that every three times you are late to class will count as one absence.
Absences are factored into the Participation grade.
Course Policies and Resources
Academic Integrity
The integrity of the classes offered by any academic institution solidifies the foundation of its
mission and cannot be sacrificed to expediency, ignorance, or blatant fraud. Therefore, I will
enforce rigorous standards of academic integrity in all aspects and assignments of this course.
For the detailed policy of Roanoke College, regarding the definitions of acts considered to fall
under academic dishonesty and possible ensuing sanctions, see Academic Integrity at Roanoke
College ( Should you have any questions about possibly
improper research citations or references, or any other activity that may be interpreted as an
attempt at academic dishonest, please see me before the assignment is due to discussion the
While collaboration is key in understanding some of the moral arguments we will discuss this
semester, please note that all work must be completed individually. For group projects,
students will be required to submit a document explaining their involvement in the project.
Communication with Professor:
Students should contact me at [email protected] with any questions or concerns they
have. It is the instructor’s goal to have all written work graded within 10 days of submission. If
you are concerned that I have not graded something of yours after this 10-day period, please
feel free to email me. My goal is to respond to your emails within 48 hours of them being sent.
Disability Support Services
 The Office of Disability Support Services, located in the Goode-Pasfield Center for
Learning and Teaching in Fintel Library, provides reasonable accommodations to
students with identified disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are provided based on
the diagnosed disability and the recommendations of the professional evaluator. In
order to be considered for disability services, students must identify themselves to the
Office of Disability Support Services. Students requesting accommodations are required
to provide specific current documentation of their disabilities. Please contact Rick
Robers, M.A., Coordinator of Disability Support Services, at 540-375-2247 or e-mail
[email protected]
 If you are on record with the College’s Office of Disability Support Services as having
academic or physical needs requiring accommodations, please schedule an appointment
with Mr. Robers as soon as possible. You need to discuss your accommodations with
him before they can be implemented. Also, please note that arrangements for
extended time on exams, testing, and quizzes in a distraction-reduced environment
must be made at least one week before every exam.
 For more information, visit
The Writing Center
The Writing Center at Roanoke College, located on the Lower Level of Fintel Library, offers
writing tutorials focused on written and oral communication for students working on writing
assignments/projects in any field. Writers at all levels of competence may visit the Writing
Center at any point in their process, from brainstorming to drafting to editing, to talk with
trained peer tutors in informal, one-on-one sessions. The Writing Center is open Sunday
through Thursday from 4 to 9 pm. Simply stop in, or schedule an appointment by going to, where our schedule of writing workshops and creative
writing playshops is also posted. Be sure to bring a copy of the assignment and the syllabus
with you. Questions? Email [email protected] or call 375-4949. For more
information, visit
Course Structure and Rules of Conduct
The structure of our classes will change from session to session. Some days will rely more on
lecture; others will be student-led. As this is a class happening in real time, a day’s scheduled
events may change if there is an item in the news worth bringing to the table.
As unstructured as this sounds, I do have a few rules. First, just be the adults you are. I expect
everyone to treat both the material and each other with respect. Religious tolerance is
expected from each student. At no time will you be required to discuss your personal beliefs in
class, but if you do, assume that you will be treated with courtesy.
Second, use whatever technology you need to do well in this class (computers, tablets, etc.),
even if that means quickly looking up a word in your phone’s dictionary. That being said, use
your technology wisely. If something your doing with your tech is distracting to me or someone
else, we may need to have a talk. At minimum, I reserve the right to tell you to close it/turn it
off immediately.
Third, bring whatever else you need to do well in this class. Yes, that includes coffee and
snacks. Just don’t bring anything terribly disruptive to other students (food requiring
silverware, loud wrappers, anything that smells like a chicken biscuit). Feel free to bring
enough to share with everyone.
Finally, check your email often. Set Inquire up to forward messages to your email if you are not
good at checking Inquire often. Check your email before class daily to make sure there have
not been last-minute handouts or articles sent out (or cancellations due to weather—I live in
Assignment Requirements:
Students must complete the readings for the course in the order they appear and on time. Due
dates for readings assignments will be posted at the end of this document Students shall at all
times turn in their own work.
All assignments must be turned in Microsoft Word (.doc/.docx) or Rich Text (.rtf) format in 12
point Calibri with 1” margins all around. No other file formats will be accepted. All assignments
must be written following proper spelling and grammar and must be free of Internet-speak.
Students who do not own an office suite are encouraged to download LibreOffice, a free opensource alternative to MS Office or iWork:
Students should strive to complete all work on time. Work that is not handed in on time will
lose 10% of their grade on the assignment for every day it is late. Exceptions can be made to
this policy if requests are made prior to the scheduled date and time of an assignment, quiz, or
Grades for this course are on a percentage system. At the end of the semester, the student’s
grade will be given as a percentage, based on the points earned out of all possible points. The
types of graded work in this course include:
Class Briefings (six throughout semester)
Précis six throughout semester)
One-Page Summaries six throughout semester)
Book Presentation (one per student)
Article Presentation (one per student)
Attendance/Participation – See Attendance Policy beginning on page 1. Students are expected
to participate in class daily. This involves bringing that day’s assigned reading to class (in print
or digital format) as well as being actively engaged in learning (being engaged and thoughtful
listeners, contributing to class conversation, etc.). Rear-in-chair is not sufficient to receive full
credit on attendance and participation. Exceptional students will bring material to the
conversation not necessarily assigned.
Class Briefings – At the beginning of the semester, I will ask you what your major interests are
both in school and in “real life.” From there, I will assign each student a topic/area on which
they will be an “expert” – this could be anything from religion to finance to entertainment. For
each major moral problem we address this semester, each student will be responsible for a
one-minute briefing on the issue from their assigned area of expertise. Students should use
news articles, scholarly articles, or anything else of academic quality to put together these
briefings. These one-minute briefings are an exercise in depth and brevity.
Précis – A Rhetorical Précis, pronounced (pray-see/s), is a summary or abstract of a work. The
Rhetorical Précis has a rigidly specific format as outlined below. It is important that you follow
the format carefully. This is not an easy task. But it is a crucial step towards building critical
reading ability. Précis must follow the prescribed format (see Inquire for details on how to
complete a précis. Précis are always due on Inquire by the beginning of class the day we are
discussing the article. Students will complete six précis throughout the semester, one on each
article assigned. The lowest précis grade will be dropped.
One-Page Analyses – For every book we read, students will submit a one-page single spaced
analysis of each book we read. Students should strive to have the first 25% (or less) of the
paper be a summary of the book indicating the major plot points and themes. The second 75%
(or more) of the response should be an analysis of the book: how does it tie into the history
we’ve learned? How can you apply the article paired with it? What are the major moral
problems addressed in the text?
Book Presentation – Each student will present on a section of a book we read in this course.
Students will begin with a ten-minute presentation of the text for that day and then will assist
the instructor in facilitating a discussion about that day’s portion. Book presentations will be
solo presentations. Students are encouraged to use any means necessary to help their fellow
students understand the chapter(s) assigned for that day, including PowerPoint presentations,
handouts, etc.
Article Presentation – Each student will present on a scholarly article or chapter that we read in
this course. Students will give a fifteen-minute presentation on the article/chapter and then
assist the instructor in facilitating a discussion on that day’s assignment. Article presentations
will be group presentations (students will be in groups of 2 or 3). Students are encouraged to
use any means necessary to help their fellow students understand the chapter(s) assigned for
that day, including PowerPoint presentations, handouts, etc. For the article presentations,
students are highly encouraged to discuss the article and their précis with the professor prior to
the presentation to make sure the most important points are being covered.
Students in this course will be graded on a plus/minus system (i.e. A, A-, B+):
A: 100-93, A-: 92-90, B+: 89-87, B: 86-83, B-: 82-80, C+: 79-77, C: 76-73, C-: 72-70, D+: 69-67, D:
66-63, D-: 62-60, F: 59-0
Course Schedule
Jan 12 – Introduction to the Course
Jan 14 – Intro to the Course Continued/Intro to Inquire
Jan 16 – Public Speaking according to Steve Jobs
Jan 19 – Briefing: Nigeria and (post-)colonialism (see Grades for more information)
Jan 21 – Selection from Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (see Inquire) – Précis 1 Due
(see Grades for more information)
Jan 23 - Achebe, Things Fall Apart, Part 1 – One-Page Analysis on Things Fall Apart due (see
Grades for more information)
Jan 26 – Achebe, Things Fall Apart, Part 2
Jan 28 – Achebe, Things Fall Apart, Part 3
Jan 30 – Library Day (students will meet at the 3rd Floor conference center in Fintel Library
Feb 2 – Work from Home:
Feb 4 – Briefing: Concentration Camps and the Banality of Evil
Feb 6 – Arendt – Selections from Eichmann in Jerusalem (see Inquire) – Précis 2 Due
Feb 9 – Oprah Winfrey and Elie Wiesel (Interview)
Feb 11 – Wiesel, Night Chapters 1-3 – One-Page Analysis on Night due
Feb 13 – Night Chapters 4-5
Feb 16 – Night Chapters 6-7
Feb 18 – Night Chapter 8-9
Feb 20 – Briefing: The Bosnian Conflict and the Status of Refugees
Feb 23 – Arendt – “We Refugees” (see Inquire) – Précis 3 Due
Feb 25 – Maric, Bluebird 1 – One-Page Analysis on Bluebird due
Feb 27 – Maric, Bluebird 2
Mar 9 – Maric, Bluebird 3
Mar 11 – Briefing: The Arab-Israeli Conflict and Geopolitical/Religious Conflict
Mar 13 – Herzl – Selections from “Der Judenstaat” and Qutb – Selections from Social Justice in
Islam (see Inquire)– Précis 4 due (one précis for each reading)
Mar 16 – Rifa’i and Ainbinder, We Just Want to Live Here, Chapters 1-4
Mar 18 – Rifa’i and Ainbinder, We Just Want to Live Here, Chapters 5-7
Mar 20 – Rifa’i and Ainbinder, We Just Want to Live Here, Chapter 8-10
Mar 23 – Briefing: The Sudan and Modern-Day Slavery
Mar 25 – Jagger – “‘Saving Amina’: Global Justice for Women and Intercultural Dialogue (see
Inquire)– Précis 5 due
Mar 27 – Nazer, Slave, Part 1
Mar 30 – Nazer, Slave, Part 2
April 1 – Nazer, Slave, Part 3
April 6 – Nazer, Slave, Part 4
April 8 – Briefing: Justice and Poverty in the United States
April 10 – Reading – Rawls – Précis 6 Due
April 13 – Moore, The Other Wes Moore, Part 1
April 15 – Moore, The Other Wes Moore, Part 2
April 17 – Moore, The Other Wes Moore, Part 3
April 20 – Final thoughts