“Them That’s Got Shall Get”:  Inheritance and Justice
Spring 2010

Nancy Koppelman, American Studies
Lab II, 2255, telephone: 867-6383, koppelmn@evergreen.edu

Rachel Wichert, European History
Lab II, 2266,  rachelnussbaum72@yahoo.com

Joe Tougas, Philosophy
Lab II, 3249, telephone: 867-6891, tougasj@evergreen.edu

Teaching Assistant:  Eric Severn, severi31@evergreen.edu

Class Standing: All level. This program offers appropriate support for first-year students as well
as supporting and encouraging advanced work.

Special Expenses: $150 for class trips

Them that’s got shall get,
Them that’s not shall lose.
So the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have,
But God bless the child that’s got his own,
That’s got his own.

–Billie Holiday

Modern America is often characterized as a place where people can make up their own minds about what to be, what to do, and where to live and work.  Famously, America is considered a place where people are not confined to live out legacies that they inherit because of who their parents were.  People in America are mobile: they can “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and, with hard work and dedication, make of themselves what they will.

Yet much of what we human beings are is, in fact, inherited.  People do not choose their biological parents, nor do they select their historical connections to birthplace, ethnicity, culture, language, or class.  Genes determine skin color, height, sex at birth, and a range of other characteristics.  There are also strong statistical correlations between parents and their children when it comes to educational achievement, earning potential, political attitudes, and so on.  Inheritance therefore involves a range of pre-determined biological and social conditions with which people must grapple over a lifetime, within particular historical and cultural contexts.

In “Them That’s Got Shall Get”, we will study how the tensions between inheritance and mobility have manifested in American culture.  We will study how the principles of freedom, equality, and property rights created conditions for the acquisition of new wealth, and how these principles changed how people thought about what they are entitled to by virtue of the conditions of their birth.  Topics may include property rights, racial identity, social privelege, adoption, eugenics, national pride, family loyalty, and citizenship.
We will also address how people respond to the determining features of inheritance through their free will.  People manipulate skin and hair color; they sustain, or challenge, or attempt to destroy bonds to birth-family or culture; in some cases, they change their primary sex characteristics.  And having shaped their own lives through acts of will, people create and ratify documents that express their desires after death; their “wills” literally continue to live on in how they bequeath their property.  People also create laws and policies to challenge or shape the legacies of inheritance, or reject the religion or class into which they were born in favor of a chosen spiritual or economic affiliation.  Yet history cannot be erased, and genes cannot be altered.  Inheritance is part of who we are.  This program will invite students to consider how they understand inheritance in their own experience, and to learn to think in critical and useful ways about the tensions that inheritance creates in their own lives.

The program will take two field trips.  The first will be a day trip to the International District in Seattle, where we will learn about Asian-American experience and visit Inter*im and the Wing Luke Museum, the only Pan-Asian community-based museum in the United States.  The second will be a three-day trip to La Push, Washington, home to the Quileute Tribe, where we will visit a community deeply influenced by inherited links to a particular place and to specific ways of living in and understanding that place.


9:30-12:00  All-Program Meeting
1:00-3:00  Book Seminar

9:00-11:00  Writing Workshop

10:00-12:00   Book Seminar
1:00-5:00  Tea/Talk/Film

READING LIST (in order):

Ridley, The Agile Gene
Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
Locke, Second Treatise of Government
Fussell, Class
Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color
Mosse, Toward the Final Solution
Zangwill, The Melting Pot
Erdrich, The Painted Drum
Wray (ed.), Native Peoples of the Olympic Peninsula
Oliver and Shapiro, Black Wealth/White Wealth

There will also be a few short readings available from the program website.


Writing Workshops

Wednesday mornings will be Writing Workshops.  During the first week, we will provide some guidelines for making useful critiques of your colleagues’ writing, which will involve close reading and analysis.  By the second week, you will begin to practice peer critiques, working with drafts of the “Wednesday papers”(see below), and you will engage in small group for this purpose while faculty meet with students in individual tutorials.  Three times during the quarter, you will bring in assigned essays and you will engage in peer critiques of those essays before handing them in to faculty.

Program Tea

Every Thursday, we will have tea and snacks before the week’s final talk or film. Faculty will provide tea for the first couple of weeks; students should bring their own cups and any special teas you like.  Teatime is a regular part of the program in addition to serving as a spontaneous informal social time to relax and exhale and the end of the week.

Every student in the program will contribute $3.50 cash during the first week of the quarter to Program Petty Cash.  (Faculty will collect these funds in seminar during the first week.)  Each week (except weeks 4, 8, and 10), a team of at least two volunteer students will be responsible for making and serving the snacks, and will receive approximately $15 from Petty Cash the week before to buy ingredients.  We invite you to make snacks from recipes that you have inherited, or that have some special meaning for you.  Each group will have a few minutes to explain the origins and meaning of their snack.  At the end of the quarter, the program will vote on which snack was the best one.  Winners will receive a gift certificate for dinner at a good local restaurant.

Field Trips

The first field trip is a day trip to Seattle on Thursday, April 22.  We will use college vans and go up together.  Plan to be away from about 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., though we may return sooner.  The second field trip is a three-day visit to the Quileute Reservation in LaPush, Washington.   We will again use college vans.  Plan to be away from about 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 19 until the late afternoon/early evening of Friday, May 21.  All fees for field trips except food are paid for out of the $150 special fee.  Plan to donate $15/day for food. We will need volunteers to drive the vans; drivers will need to have, or obtain, an Evergreen van-driving permit.


Seminar Writing

Each seminar will begin with brief in-class writing on the assigned reading for that seminar.  This will be a way for us to focus on the texts quickly during the first few minutes of seminar, and for you to venture an interpretation of an excerpt, argument, or theme selected by faculty.  You may be asked to read what you wrote during seminar.  This writing will be turned in to faculty at the end of each seminar.

Wednesday Papers

Most of our Writing Workshops will be devoted to close readings of two-page student papers.  Each week, about half the program will write papers, and the other half will read and comment on those papers.

Term Paper

Each student will write a term paper on a topic of her or his choice, but grounded in the themes of the program.  The paper will be written in three phases.  We will give you explicit guidelines and critiques along the way.  The term paper is an opportunity for you to explore deeply some aspect of the program’s themes and topics about which you care a great deal.  The program’s books will give you ample support for many topics.  However, we encourage those of you who are especially ambitious to choose topics that require additional research.  We are glad to talk with you about possible directions for your paper.


Maintain a portfolio which includes your seminar writing, Wednesday papers, your colleagues’ responses to your Wednesday papers, your responses to colleagues’ Wednesday papers, copies of your work-in-progress toward your final paper, and, at the end of the quarter, your self-evaluation, and any other academic work you choose to include.  These portfolios will be collected at the end of the quarter prior to your evaluation conference.


At the end of the quarter, you will be required to write a self-evaluation and an evaluation of your seminar leader before your credit is posted.  You will be required to submit your self-evaluation for inclusion in your formal transcript.  Your self-evaluation ought to represent your very best work of the quarter and speak honestly about your experience and achievement.  We will conduct an evaluation writing workshop at the end of the quarter to help you reflect on your work and write your evaluations.


As most of you probably know, Evergreen has adopted six expectations of Evergreen graduates.  They are quite general and apply to all students at the college.  In this program, we have additional expectations.  We assume that everyone will meet these expectations to the letter.  You’ll note that they refer to participation, work habits, and punctuality.  These are matters of form and character.  Successful study of the program’s content depends on making a commitment to abide by these matters of form.   These are the minimum requirements for earning full credit in the program.
These expectations constitute the substance of our program covenant.  During the first week of the quarter, you will be asked to sign a document stating that you’ve read these expectations and agree to work in the manner described here.


•    Everyone will arrive on time and stay until class is over.
•    If, for some unavoidable reason, you miss a class, contact your seminar faculty by email or phone, and also contact another student to get assignments or handouts, and to get filled in on what happened in class.  Then, if you still have questions, come to one of the program faculty.
•    We meet only ten weeks, and for only 13 ½ hours per week.  Excessive absences threaten your ability to earn full credit.  There are no good excuses for absences, but you may have a good reason.  If you must be absent, be sure to let your seminar leader know in advance.
•    Students who have not completed the day’s assignment should not speak in class.  You cannot participate in a discussion about a book that you have not read. These students should take careful notes which will be of use as they catch up on the reading.
•    Everyone is expected to participate fully in all class activities.  This will include reading aloud in class, both from your own writing and from the course’s texts, participating in all workshops, and coming to class fully prepared to discuss our work in seminar.  If you do not speak up in class activities, the ONLY basis for faculty to evaluate your work will be your writing.


•    Each student will meet with faculty for at least two individual writing tutorials during the quarter.  Tutorials will take place during Writing Workshop time on Wednesday mornings.  Tutorial appointments are a requirement.  A single missed appointment reduces credit.  Call well before the appointment if you develop a schedule conflict.


•    Each student will do seminar writing, three Wednesday papers, and three phases of a longer paper.  Your ability to do well depends on your diligent preparation and participation in class, as a reader, writer, and discussant.  You must always hand in your work on the due date.  It’s better to hand in a paper you can’t stand than to hand in nothing.
•    Read and carefully follow all directions.  Reading well is a prerequisite to doing well in the program.
•    Late papers will not be accepted.
•    Save all your papers and drafts in a portfolio to turn in at the end of the quarter.
•    Clearly distinguish between words you have quoted from others and your own words. Cite sources using standard MLA form. Honesty is essential to the work of the program. Plagiarism will not be tolerated.


Full credit can be earned for full participation ONLY.  Reduced credit will occur if:

•    you are repeatedly late for class.
•    you do not write all seminar papers, Wednesday papers, responses, and three assigned phases of the term paper.
•    you do not come to class prepared.


In this class, you are a member of a community of learners dedicated to becoming better readers, writers, and discussants, and to developing a better understanding of what it means to be an American.  This is an unusual opportunity.  Adults rarely work with this level of concentration on improving their facility with words, and on examining the nature of individual and national identity.  If you give yourself fully to the work, you will have an educational experience that will last you your lifetime.  You will also have a lot of fun.  Nothing quite compares with doing this particular kind of exploratory and reflective work with other people.  Let’s work hard and enjoy it!