Work and Welfare

The Evergreen State College Part Time Studies
Spring Quarter, 2002, 4 quarter hours credit

Tuesdays, 6-10 p.m., L2219

Sarah Ryan, faculty L2108 (360) 867-6720,

This year, Congress will debate and decide whether to reauthorize Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the 1996 welfare "reform" program. The program mandated work requirements in state programs as part of a dramatic shift in federal policy. This course will prepare us to think about these issues by taking a look at the connections between welfare and work. Are welfare and "workfare" policies designed as a springboard out of poverty, or are they, as some charge, a way of "regulating the poor"? We'll look at current controversies around welfare, workfare, and poverty through the lenses of history and sociology. What are the relationships between class, race, gender and poverty? What impacts have welfare and public work programs had in the past? How have labor and welfare rights activists organized to influence policy? What lessons can we learn from the past and from community members with experience on all sides of this issue? How would we design public programs if the choices were ours?

Books :

Links and supplemental Readings

Date Activities Reading (completed) What's due?
Week One: April 2 Program overview & expectations, covenants

Introductions; Presentation by Stephanie Johnson, TESC student, seminar on films.

Films: Fast Food Women and Worthy Work, Worthless Wages  
Week Two: April 9 Computer lab workshop; "think tanks" ó who they are & what they do. For Crying Out Loud, pp. 19-153.

(41-65 and 107-119 are optional.)

1-2 page written reflection on text: Who is poor, and why? Discuss at least 3 authorsí views. 
Week Three, 

April 16


Guest: Grace Chang, faculty member and author of Disposable Domestics, on Regulating the Poor

Seminar: Regulating the Poor

Regulating The Poor, Intro-p. 117.  1-2 page paper: What is the authorsí main thesis? What do you see around you that pertains to their argument?
Week Four: 

April 23

Seminar: Regulating The Poor, Film: The Helping Hand.

Lecture: What are segmented labor markets?

Regulating The Poor, pp. 124-282. Notes on the text
Week Five: April 30  Seminar: Regulating The Poor

Film: The Promised Land, from the Eyes on the Prize series.

Regulating The Poor, pp. 285-399


1-2 page paper: Did Piven and Cloward make a good case for their thesis? How do you see it confirmed or contradicted by current policy?
Week Six: 
May 7
Seminar: Put To Work

Lecture: Unemployed Organizing in the Pacific NW, 1930s.

Put To Work Written reflection on text: imagine one 30s poverty program as it might work today
Week Seven: May 14 Seminar: Nickel and Dimed

Guest speakers: Washington WorkFirst

Lecture: Living wage, minimum wage, family wage, poverty line.

Nickel and Dimed 1-2 page paper: How did Ehrenreich answer her questions about welfare reform?
Week Eight: May 21 Film: Poverty Outlaw

Seminar: For Crying Out Loud, Organizing on Welfare Issues.

For Crying Out Loud, 155-285 Written reflection on text. Has Pivenís analysis changed? How is it consistent or different?
Week Nine: 

May 28

Seminar: For Crying Out Loud, Film: Holding Ground For Crying Out Loud, pp. 287-end work on final project and portfolios
Week Ten: June 4


Student presentations   Group presentations
Evaluation Week Student/faculty evaluations by appointment   Draft self and faculty evaluations