Authority, Liberal Education, Paranoia, and Democracy
Thursdays 6:25-9:05 in DM 457
This Web-site has a copy of the syllabus and other information relevant to the course. It will be updated throughout the semester. You are encouraged to provide me with suggestions and comments about the content, and I am grateful for help in correcting the inevitable typos and grammatical errors!
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This Great Ideas Seminar for the Master
of Liberal Studies Program (MALS) is designed to expose students to
an intensive interdisciplinary investigation and historical survey of the
evolving idea (and ideal) of liberal education and its relationship to
democracy. Attention will be directed to its cultural origins and
contexts, its importance for democratic citizenry, and its connections
with both authority and paranoia. Eli Sagan’s
The Honey and the
Hemlock: Democracy and Paranoia in Ancient Athens and Modern America
will be our beginning point. Sagan examines Athenian Democracy from
a Freudian perspective contending that
if the movement from Archaic civilization (Sumer, Egypt) to Classical civilization (Greece, Israel) can be described as a step forward in social evolution, and not merely as a change from one kind of society to another, it should be possible to demonstrate that Classical civilizations were significantly less paranoid than those of the Archaic. So, too, with the development of authoritarian society to democratic society. It will be argued here that democratic society, even in the imperfect democracy we simultaneously enjoy and deplore, represents the least paranoid of any form of society yet seen.1
Studying Sagan will lead to our looking at Kimball’s Orators and Philosophers: A History of the Idea of Liberal Education which develops a historical survey of the evolving idea of a liberal education as a debate between orators and philosophers. We will look at the differing and evolving history of the idea of liberal education while focusing attention on its goal of training the good citizen within the context of this “conflict.”
This, in turn, will lead to our looking at
Martha Nussbaum’s Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform
In Liberal Education. Nussbaum intends “…to argue for a particular
norm of citizenship and to make educational proposals in light of that
ideal.”2 She begins her book
in Aristophanes’ great comedy The Clouds, a young man, eager for the new learning, goes to a “Think-Academy” run by that strange, notorious figure, Socrates. A debate is staged for him, contrasting the merits of traditional education with those of the new discipline of Socratic argument. The spokesperson for the Old Education is a tough old soldier. He favors a highly disciplined patriotic regimen, with lots of memorization and not much room for questioning. He loves to recall a time that may never have existed—a time when young people obeyed their parents and wanted nothing more than to die for their country, a time when teachers would teach that grand old song “Athenia, glorious sacker of cities”—not the strange new songs of the present day. Study with me, he booms, and you will look like a real man—broad chest, small tongue, firm buttocks, small; genitals (a plus in those days, symbolic of manly self-control).3
In contemporary America as in ancient Athens, liberal education is changing. New topics have entered the liberal arts curricula of colleges and universities: the history and culture of non-Western peoples and of ethnic and racial minorities within the United States, the experiences and achievements of women, the history and concerns of lesbians and gay men. These changes have frequently been presented in popular journalism as highly threatening, both to tradition standards of academic excellence and to traditional norms of citizenship. Readers are given a picture of a monolithic, highly politicized elite who are attempting to enforce a “politically correct” view of human life, subverting traditional values and teaching students, in effect, to argue in favor of father-beating. Socratic questioning is still on trial. Our debates over the curriculum reveal the same nostalgia for a more obedient, more regimented time, the same suspiciousness of new and independent thinking, that find expression in Aristophanes’ brilliant portrait.4
Like Sagan, then, Nussbaum will lead us to a critical contrast and comparison of the Athenian and contemporary educational climates and their connections to views of democracy and citizenship. This contrast will be “informed” by the psychological views of Sagan and the historical and cultural perspectives offered by Kimball.
We will then look at Henry Perkinson’s Teachers
Without Goals, Students Without Purposes which offers a Popperian view
of education which, at least at first glance, substantially conflicts with
the picture set out by the prior readings. Perkinson contends that
I usually have difficulty convincing people that I propose this as the solution to what is wrong with schools: teachers should have no goals; students should have no purposes.
I make this quirky recommendation because I have come to the conclusion that contemporary educational practice is based on a thoroughly incorrect theory of knowledge. Most teachers have a completely inadequate conception of the nature of knowledge….5
This will lead us, finally, to look at Joel Spring’s Wheels In The Head: Educational Philosophies of Authority, Freedom, and Culture from Socrates To Human Rights and consider critically the question the political control of education and its ramifications for a democratic society.
In this course students should become familiar with the problems, positions, and methodologies of the individuals studied. Students should also become familiar with the interpretation texts; they should enhance their ability to provide balanced exposition and examination of complex problems, positions, and methodologies. In addition to introducing students to the thinkers and themes mentioned above, this course is intended to help students enhance their critical reading, writing, and speaking skills.
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Eli Sagan, The Honey and the Hemlock: Democracy and Paranoia in Ancient Athens and Modern America, (Princeton: Princeton U.P., 1991) Students are encouraged to begin reading this book before the first class! See note below, and order from a bookseller!
Bruce Kimball, Orators and Philosophers: A History of the Idea of Liberal Education (second edition) (N.Y.: College Entrance Examination Board, 1995)
Martha Nussbaum, Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education (Cambridge: Harvard U.P., 1997)
Henry Perkinson, Teachers Without Goals, Students Without Purposes (N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, 1993)
Joel Spring, Wheels In The Head: Educational Philosophies of Authority, Freedom, and Culture from Socrates To Human Rights (second edition), (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1999) See note below, and order from a bookseller!
NOTE: Several of the texts are "out of print" and, hence, not available at the FIU Bookstore. Nonetheless, they may be readily ordered (sometimes as used, sometimes as new) from book sellers. As of 04/20/04, the FIU Bookstore has notified me that it can not secure copies of Sagan's The Honey and the Hemlock and Perkinson's Teachers Without Goals, but both may be found at Amazon.com and Sagan is also available at Powells Books.
For Professor Johnson's lecture on May 27: The Port Huron Statement
For Professor Harris' lecture on June 3: Plato's Republic Book X (until he starts talking about immortality):
http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.11.x.html and Aristotle's Poetics (sections 12, 13, 14, & 15):
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To assist me in ensuring that the course’s interdisciplinary focus is
clearly foregrounded, I will arrange for about six guest lecturers who
will provide a variety of perspectives on the course topics and/or readings.
At present I am still working on this element of the course, but the confirmed
guest lectures thus far are:
Professor Kenneth Johnson, Department of English and Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs—who will lecture in concert with the Sagan book on Thursday, May 27.
Professor Kenton Harris, Department of Philosophy and Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences—who will lecture on the dispute between Plato and Aristotle regarding the social and educational value of art (in connection to censorship and liberal education on Thursday, June 3.
In the middle of the semester, we will be having one or more guest lectures from FIU's Wolfsonian Museum on Miami Beach, and the class that evening will be held at the museum so that we can also explore some of the material they have available which is relevant to the courses' central topics.
Professor Steven Fain, Department of Educational Leadership—who will lecture in concert with the Spring book. His presentation is tentatively entitled: "From Socrates to Paulo Freire: A Journey of A Few Short Steps” on Thursday, July 29.
Requirements and Policies:
The following requirements and policies will apply for this course, and students should read them carefully as I adhere rather strictly to them. I do not accept claims to ignorance in their regard. I apologize in advance for the length, tone, and specificity of this discussion, but irksome experiences over time have shown that it is wise to clearly specify these items.
1. Regular class attendance is required: Students must attend for the whole class period, and those who leave before the class is over will be counted as absent. Students who have no unexcused absences will have their course grade raised by one third of a letter grade (B to B+, etc.). Students who have one unexcused absence will have their course grade lowered by one third of a letter grade (C+ to C, etc.), students who have two unexcused absences will have their course grade lowered by two thirds of a letter grade (C+ to C-, etc.), and additional absences will be treated according to this progression.
2. Appropriate conduct is expected in class: I expect students to turn off portable phones and beepers, and to have reset or muted any distracting watch alarms. Courteous consideration others is a fundamental element in the classroom. I expect students to refrain from engaging in private conversations, noisy snacking, and only in the case of emergencies should students momentarily leave the classroom while class is in session. In short, students are expected to comport themselves in a manner which does not interfere with instruction and learning. Disruptive behavior will not be tolerated.
3. Regular reading is assumed and class participation is necessary: students who do not do their readings will have difficulty with the requirements and students who do not attend class will have difficulty with their readings. I strongly recommend that students do the readings several times—at least once before the class in which they will be discussed and once after the class. The very character of this seminar requires that students actively participate in their education, and there will be a daily class-participation grade assigned.
4. Papers, examinations, and deadlines: there will be two take-home essay examinations (one at the mid-term time and one at the end of the course). Students will have 72 hours to complete the examinations and submit them via e-mail. Each exam will be worth 25% of the course grade, and sample questions will be distributed prior to the exam. There will be one ten-to-twelve page paper which must be turned in by 10:00 A.M. on Monday, July 26 (it may be submitted via e-mail, or in person). Each student will present his or her paper to the class in the last weeks of the semester. The paper will be worth 20% of the grade with the presentation of the paper worth an additional 10%. Sample topics will be distributed at least two weekends prior to the due date for the paper. Class participation will be worth 20% of the course grade. A grade will be assigned for each class (transmitted each Friday to the students via e-mail), and the composite of these grades will be assigned this percentage of the overall grade. The take-home exams must be turned in via e-mail by 9:05 P.M. on Sunday, June 27 and Sunday, August 15.
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5. Grading Scale: in grading papers and exams, and in calculating
the course grade, I use the following scale:
The “split” grades (B+/A-, for example) are assigned when the work is between the indicated grades. Of course, these split grades can not be used for the ultimate course grade, and thus the grades for the various individual papers and exams are calculated using the percentages indicated above (and adding or subtracting the appropriate fractional consideration in accordance with the attendance policy). For the overall course grade the above point equivalents constitute the minimum necessary to receive the indicated grade (thus students must earn at least a 3.67 to receive an A-).
6. Extensions and late work: I indicate the due date for the paper and the exams above. Moreover, I will hand out paper topics so that students have at two weekends to work on their papers, and I hand out sample exam questions in advance of take-home examinations. There should, then, be little call for extensions. Before the due date I will consider reasonable requests for extensions. Note, however, that excuses do not guarantee extensions, and excuses offered after due dates are far, far less successful than those offered before due dates. If I grant an extension to a student, that extension will establish a new due date, and that date must be met (or in extraordinary circumstances, an additional extension may be arranged [but only when it is requested prior to the (extended) due date]). Please note that requests for extensions must be made directly to me—neither my secretary nor your doctor may grant extensions for this course, and last minute calls to my voice-mail provide no assurance of extensions. On and after the due date, only an extraordinary request will be accepted (acceptable examples: hospitalization on due date, extremely serious personal problem, death in the immediate family; unacceptable examples: running out of time, and flat tires).
Papers and take-home exams are due as indicated above. Papers and exams submitted within the next 24 hours will receive a one-third decrease in grade (example: B+ changes to a B), and each additional 24 hour period will earn an additional one-third grade decrease. A paper turned in one week late, then, would receive a seven-thirds grade reduction (an A paper would receive a C-). Clearly, students have a strong incentive to contact me if they are going to be unable to turn their papers in on time—failure to do so may have serious consequences in terms of the course grade. If your paper is late, then, it makes sense to speak with me (after class, in my office, or on the phone)—when I am provided with a good reason, I will stop the penalties from continuing to pile on to those already assessed for the lateness. Note that unless I have explicitly granted you an incomplete, all late papers must be turned in by the last class of the semester—assignments which are not turned in as of that time will be considered undone, and the penalty for having not done any of the requirements for the course is a course grade of “F.” Note, also, that I will not accept any but the most extraordinary of excuses for submitting the Final Exam late as grades are due soon after the deadline.
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7. Plagiarism and academic misconduct: when you engage in plagiarism you present as your work the opinions or arguments of someone else. Plagiarism is dishonest since the plagiarist offers for credit what is not her or his own. It is also counter-productive because it defeats a purpose of education—the improvement of the student’s own powers of thinking, reasoning, and expression. Plagiarism may even occur when one expresses another’s sequence of ideas, arrangement of material, or pattern of thought in one’s own words. We have a case of plagiarism when a sequence of ideas is transferred from a source to a paper without a process of digestion, integration, criticism, and inquiry in the writer’s mind and without acknowledgment (I have borrowed this statement, to a large extent, from the FIU English and Sociology/Anthropology Departments’ descriptions of plagiarism). Academic misconduct occurs when the norms of inquiry are violated. Examples include students who present false Doctors’ notes, who pretend that they have a family or medical emergency, or who seriously hinder other students’ scholarly activities. I assign a course grade of F when I confront cases of plagiarism or academic misconduct, and I bring such students before the appropriate disciplinary body (the processes are set forth in the Student Handbook). The minimal penalty for students found guilty of plagiarism through the process is an F in the course, the provision that the University’s “Forgiveness Policy” may not be used to expunge that grade, and such students are placed on Academic Probation for the remainder of their undergraduate careers at FIU (so that a second such act usually results in expulsion from the University).
Students should be aware that it is not hard for professors to spot many cases of plagiarism. In the 2002-2003 academic year, for example, I caught and charged a total of six students for plagiarism and all it took to catch them was a simple web search! The University’s policies on Academic Misconduct and Code of Academic Integrity may be found on the FIU web-site at:
http://www.fiu.edu/~oabp/misconductweb/1acmisconductproc.htmStudents should not live under the illusion that it is difficult to prove plagiarism or misconduct. Contemporary web-based search engines make it easier than it was ever before to detect such activities, and I routinely filter passages I am suspicious of through one or more such filters.
Tuesdays: 3:30-4:30, Thursdays: 5:15-6:15, and by appointment.
Office: DM 341D
Phone/Voice Mail: 305-348-3350
I check both voice and E-Mail several times a day, and I return my calls.
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Useful Web Sites:
Students are encouraged to send me sites they believe others might benefit from as they pursue the readings, discussions, and assignments for this class. I will up-date this section as new information is sent to me.
The Perseus-Tufts Collection of Greek and Roman Texts, Images, and secondary materials (recommended by Henry Lares). This site has so much material regarding Ancient Greece and Rome that it makes your head spin!
Lecture Supplements, Sample Take-HomeExam Questions, and Paper Topics:
Throughout the semester paper topic assignments and
sample exam questions will be posted below:
Port Huron Statement
Plato's Republic Book X (until he starts talking about immortality):
Aristotle's Poetics (sections 12, 13, 14, & 15):
Postmodernism, Liberal Education, and Authority
Nussbaum On Liberal Education and Democracy
Popper, Perkinson, Pedagogy, and Authority:
Fallibilism, Pedagogy, and Power
Education, Democracy, and Wheels In the Head
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1 Eli Sagan, The Honey and the Hemlock: Democracy and Paranoia in Ancient Athens and Modern America (Princeton: Princeton U.P., 1991), p. 15. Back
2 Martha Nussbaum, Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education, (Cambridge: Harvard U.P., 1997), p. ix. Back
3 Ibid., p. 1. Back
4 Ibid., p. 2. Back
5 Henry Perkinson, Teachers Without Goals, Students Without Purposes (N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, 1993), p. xii. Back
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