General Studies 197
Controversial Issues in Minority Communities
Instructor: Thomas Andrews
Office: 312 William H. Gates Hall
Office Hours: MTTh 3:30-5
Meeting Time & Location
The class will meet Tuesday afternoon from 3:30 to 4:20. Our default classroom will be Room 119 in the new law school building: William H. Gates Hall. Occasionally we may meet elsewhere. One class will be held in the King County Courthouse, in downtown Seattle, in the courtroom of Judge Richard Jones, from 4-5 p.m. This should give you time to get downtown from the campus if you have another class until 3:20. Directions will be distributed. We may have another class downtown in the courtroom of Judge Richardo Martinez in the Federal Courthouse. That will also begin at 4 pm for the same reasons.
Course Overview & Expectations
CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES IN MINORITY COMMUNITIES
GEN ST 197 H
This seminar is designed to explore how individuals in and out of particular communities form opinions about controversial issues that affect those communities. We will explore what information and values are available to people inside and outside particular communities, and we will focus on how you can help influence public and private discussions in a constructive way. In particular, we will explore what role the law has to play in addressing and/or resolving these issues.
We will examine such topics as wrongful conviction, racial profiling, migrant farmwork, drugs and sentencing, homelessness, Native American land claims, and the problems facing immigrants in the wake of 9/11.
Most of the classes will be taught by guest speakers who have professional experience confronting and dealing with the issues we will discuss. All of the speakers are lawyers, although one of them is currently a federal judge and another a state judge. Several of us are fulltime law professors. Each of us will bring to the class his or her perspective on the particular way that lawyers, and others involved in the legal system in this country, influence the way that we all talk and think about controversial issues. We will compare lawyer talk with the way the media, and the affected people in the community, describe and talk about the issues. We will try to distinguish fact from opinion and from urban legend. We will also try to identify the different value systems that inform peoples judgments about the meaning of facts.
As students, I hope you will bring your experiences from your communities, prior schooling, and work to bear on our discussions. Participation in class is key. I want everyone in this class to engage and talk during our brief time together. Only if you ask questions and comment on what others have to say will you make this seminar the most useful learning experience that it can be for everyone, including the speakers. (You may need to interrupt speakers, on occasion, because each is passionate and very knowledgeable about the subject that he or she is presenting. I hope you will do that so that we can get to the heart of some very difficult issues.)
All of the topics that we will discuss are too large and complex to be thoroughly covered in a single class. One of my goals is to help you learn about the resources available here at the University and in the surrounding community for further exploration of the issues and topics that interest you.
To earn credit for the course you will need to:
1. Attend class.
Occasional absences are permitted but if you miss more than three classes without permission, you risk being denied credit.
2. Do the reading assignments.
There is no required text or course pack. There will be no exam for this course even though one may be scheduled by the central scheduler. I will, however, require readings each week. Required readings will be short. Assignments will be posted on this webpage and I will also try to send you notice when a new posting has been made. I will also post links to additional reading in case you are interested and have additional time. The URL for the course webpage is:
3. Keep and turn in a Journal.
The journal should record your reactions to and reflections on the readings, classes and topics we discuss. You should feel free to include questions that the material assigned or class lectures and discussion raise for you, even if you have no answers. (One of the most important lessons we can learn is what the questions are.) You will quickly discover that many of the guest lecturers do not have satisfactory answers to many of the questions they raise. Your entries need not be long, but I expect at least one page per class (200-300 words). I would also like the journal entries you turn in to be something more than notes you took of the reading you did or the presentation you heard. Try to give me some personal reactions to or reflections on what you read or heard: something of yourself. And please try to do it in complete sentences. My strong preference is that you maintain and submit your journal in electronic format. This facilitates storage, reconstruction if there is a question about submission, and editing (by you). But I will accept handwritten journals. If you miss a class, your journal should contain your reactions to the readings assigned for that class.
Journals should be handed in at the end of the quarter (preferably electronically). I would like your journals by the last day of the examination period (end of finals week). There will be no final examination for the class.
4. Write a Review Essay
In addition to the Journal, I want each of you to do a 3-5 page review essay. The review should be of some book, short story, play, movie or TV show that relates to (a) some controversial issue in a minority community and (b) the law. This assignment is intended to be open ended. I am looking for your personal reflections on the piece of writing or movie-making that you pick as you explore how it relates to the theme of this course. Here are a few ideas on how to approach the assignment: What problem or issue is depicted? What perspective was brought to the problem or issue? Was there a resolution proposed or hinted at? Did you find the resolution offered satisfactory? Unsatisfactory? Why or why not? Like you Journals, the Review Essay should be handed in at the end of the quarter (preferably electronically). I would like it by the last day of the examination period (end of finals week).
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Last modified: 5/30/2006 2:09 PM