Interdisciplinary Introduction to North American Studies
Date: Wednesday, 3:15-4:45
Instructor: Agnes Simon
Office hours: By appointment
This course gives a broad introductory overview to North America with the goal of evoking interest in the subject among students. We are going to cover cultural, political, philosophical, security, socio-economic, everyday living and other issues. While we also reflect on historical developments, we do so to achieve our primary goal: learning about North America of present time. Often our approach will be comparative as we ponder how nationalism, patriotism, xenophobia, immigration, populism, disinformation is seen in North American and in Central Europe. For that purpose, the course will utilize a variety of learning tools and instruments that range from brief lectures, classroom discussions and interactive exercises to audiovisual material.
By the end of the course students will
- identify the major issues of contemporary North America
- formulate views on the most hotly debated topics of the region
- be able to draw comparisons between American events, processes, and attitudes and those of their own countries
- Attendance. 10% of the final grade will be based on attendance. Students may miss only 1 class during the semester without penalty.
- Participation. Students are expected to actively take part in the course including completing the reading, contributing to class discussions and other in-class activities. Participation will give 30% of their final grades. We will use a token system where each student will be able to earn a credit each class. The conditions to earn the participation credit will be clarified at the beginning of each class. A maximum of 12 credits are needed to earn the full 30% of the grade.
- Homework Assignments. At the end of certain class sessions, you will be asked to complete exercises for our next meeting. These will often, but not always, relate to assigned reading or multimedia material and will be used in class. They will be collected by the instructor and graded on l (worst) to 3 (best) scale. The best 5 of your homework assignments will be counted toward your final grade and, together, they will give 15% of your final grade.
- Essay. Each student is required to write a 5-6 page (about 2000 word) long analytical essay investigating an issue of North American politics. This essay will make up 50% of the final grade. For the paper, the student should select a topic of interest within the broad issue areas that we discuss during the course. The paper should focus on a specific, well-defined research question and it should be analytical rather than descriptive, that is, it should answer a “why” rather than a “what happened” question.
Students will have to get the selected the topic of their final paper approved by the instructor latest by April 4, 2018. To this end, they should schedule an in-person or skype appointment with the instructor. This consultation is most useful if the student arrives with the chosen topic, an explanation of why s/he finds the topic interesting, and an identified research question that s/he intends to answer in the paper. However, if the student has difficulties in finding a topic or specifying the research question, the consultation may facilitate thinking in those areas. Therefore, students are encouraged to schedule the appointment sooner than later. Paper is considered approved when the student receives an email from the instructor to this effect.
The submission deadline for the paper is the end of day on May 20, 2018, by which time the paper should be emailed to the instructor. Papers are expected to use a 1-inch (2.54 cm) margin, and size 12 Times New Roman font type with double spacing. The paper should be the original work of the student following the rules of academic citations. Papers will be evaluated along the soundness (logic) of the argument including evidence provided, organization of the paper, use of scholarly sources. A more detailed assignment description with assessment criteria will be provided to students in due course.
Grades will be based on EUBA’s standard grading scale. If rounding is necessary, standard rules of rounding will apply. Extra credit assignments are unlikely, but if they occur it is at the discretion of the instructor and they are available to every student in the class.
Academic honesty is fundamental to the activities and principles of a university. All members of the academic community must be confident that each person’s work has been responsibly and honorably acquired, developed, and presented. Copying the work of another student or anyone else and presenting it as your own work is plagiarism. Plagiarism and other forms of academic cheating will result in failing the course.
Please, respect your fellow students and your instructor by using your electronic devices (laptop, tablet, cell phone, etc.) for class related activity only.
Schedule and Assigned Material
Where available, links to reading and multimedia material are provided below. For those, who have problems with links can find all reading (not video) material on the course’s Google Drive folder (where additional supplemental material will also be posted during the semester).
The required material needs to be read or watched before the actual class it is assigned for. Please bring a copy of the actual reading material to class each class.
Week 1 (February 14): Course Introduction
Week 2 (February 21): The American Dream
- Rethinking the American Dream (Vanity Fair)
- Keeping the Dream Alive (Time)
- What So Many People Don’t Get about the US Middle Class (Harvard Business Review)
Week 3 (February 28): The U.S. Constitution
- The U.S. Constitution
Week 4 (March 7): Civil Liberties and Civil Rights
- Declaration of Independence
- African Americans and Civil Rights
Week 5 (March 14): Political Culture, Ideologies, and Parties
- American Political Culture
- Greenberg and Page 2011, pp. 253-271.
Week 6 (March 21): Campaigns and Elections
- Greenberg and Page 2011, pp. 285-295.
Week 7 (March 28): Preparing for the Essay
Week 8 (April 4): Politics in Washington D.C.
Required Reading and Video:
- Wilson and DiIulio 2006, pp. 456-464.
- I’m Just a Bill
Week 9 (April 11): Foreign Policy
Week 10 (April 18): The News and Social Media
Required Reading and Media:
Week 11 (April 25): Immigration
- One article selected by the student and based on criteria discussed in an earlier class.
Week 12 (May 2): Popular Culture and Sports
Week 13 (May 9): Living in North America
Required Reading: None.