Letter to enrolled students

Posted July 27, 2011

Friends, Greeners, Those Looking Behind the News:

Greetings from Olympia and welcome to “Behind the News.” For those new to Evergreen, welcome to the College. For those returning, welcome back. We’re refining our plans for fall quarter, and we want to share some information, announcements, and assignments that will help you prepare for our work together.

The Web Site:
The program syllabus, covenant, and other documents will soon be posted on the program web sites  (This is the “blogs” site. A link to our “moodle” site is found to the right.)  Please visit the site soon and regularly during the next month. Bookmark our sites since we will be using them throughout fall quarter.

Fall quarter books:
One piece of the syllabus we want you to have immediately is the book list. Here are the readings for fall quarter, in the order in which we will study them:

  1. Duneier, Michael, Sidewalk. Farrar, ISBN 9780374527259.
  2. Hill, Christopher, The Century of Revolution: 1603-1714. Routledge, ISBN 9780415267397.
  3. Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan. Penguin, ISBN 9780140431957.
  4. Locke, John Second Treatise of Government . Hackett, ISBN 9780915144860.
  5. Marx, Karl, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. Prometheus, ISBN 9780879754464.
  6. Arendt, Hannah, The Human Condition. University of Chicago, ISBN 9780226025988.
  7. Foucault, Power/Knowledge. Pantheon, ISBN 9780394739540.

It is crucial that you own these specific editions of the texts. We must have the same words on the same pages before us when we discuss these texts in seminar and in writing. New editions of all these books will total well under $100. They will be available at the bookstore on-campus, but you can find many, if not all, of them online at a considerable discount. Just be sure to buy these specific editions. If this requirement places a financial burden on you, please let the faculty know as soon as possible.

Program schedule:
Our first class meeting will be on Monday, September 26th, at 12:00 p.m., in room E 1107 in the Seminar 2 building. We will meet on Monday afternoons, on Tuesday both mornings and afternoons, and on Thursday both mornings and afternoons. While we will be seeing one another only fifteen hours a week (plus conference time and time working in small groups), you must plan to work at your studies full-time, at least forty hours a week. We assume you have other responsibilities and commitments (as do we), but plan to meet them in a way that won’t interfere with your academic work (as will we). “Behind the News” offers a challenging, cohesive curriculum that cannot be carried out piecemeal, in a half-hearted fashion. We will become a vital learning community only with a full commitment from each of you. As you probably have discovered, the best fun comes from being fully engaged in something: we intend that kind of enjoyment and pleasure in the weeks and months that lie ahead.

Your first reading assignment — to be completed BEFORE classes begin:
Reading will be a key practice for us. While you all know how to read, of course, we will take time to read closely, deliberately and engaged with the author. This often means reading more slowly than may be your habit, actively thinking and taking notes, and cultivating a relationship with the author. Reading in this way is a skill, and we all get better the more we do it.

Before we convene on September 26th, we expect you to read the first of our books, Sidewalk. Duneier offers an extraordinary, detailed account of social life in a small corner of America. He introduces us to important lessons about power, a central concept in our studies, and he does so in a tangible way. We will find it useful to recall these lessons as we move into more theoretical and historical studies.

As you read Sidewalk, consider these questions:

  1. Would it be possible for you to gain and hold a place as a vendor on the blocks of Greenwich Village that Duneier studies? How so? How would doing so compare to setting up in your own town or neighborhood?
  2. The vendors in Duneier’s story have important relationships not only with one another, but also with the police, courts, customers, pedestrians, and their own families. Describe who has what kind of power in these relationships.
  3. How is Duneier’s relationship with these men shaped by power? The “Conclusion” and appendixes are important to this question.

Our next reading will be The Century of Revolution. Please get started on this book as well.

Project Prep:
In groups of four or five, you will be investigating a controversy found in the news. We’ve described this project in our catalog copy. Please read it again. In these next weeks, pay attention to the news: notice what’s covered in the media and in print; read columnists of various persuasions; give thought to what you’d very much like to better understand; make notes and explore your own thinking. The project will be a major part of our work for the quarter.

Your first writing assignment – a letter of introduction:
Just as reading will be central to our work, so will the practice of writing—writing as a way of thinking, of discovering, and of creating ideas, interpretations, and arguments. You are getting to know us by reading this letter. Before the quarter begins, we would like to get to know you and what you’re thinking, by reading some of your words.

We ask you to send us a letter—not an e-mail, but a letter on paper. Tell us a bit about why “Behind the News” interests you. Let us know some particular ideas or questions that you seek to explore in the program. We’re also curious to know how you envision spending your time this next year and where this program fits into your undergraduate studies overall. You can address your letter to Matt Smith or Charles Pailthorp, your two faculty. The mailing address is: Lab II, The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA, 98505. Please send your letter by September 15. These letters will help do a better job of preparing for our work.

That’s all for now. We look forward to meeting you and to the prospect of becoming one of Evergreen’s memorable, exciting, outstanding, interdisciplinary, team-taught programs. Who isn’t puzzled these days about the role of power in our daily lives, both as individuals and as members of various communities? Working together, we can develop ways of exploring these puzzles as they show up concretely in our daily lives. We’re going to have a great time digging into a host of fascinating questions and speculations as we explore what lies Behind the News. See you soon!

Matt Smith
(360) 867-6459
LAB II 3251

Charles Pailthorp
(360) 867-6158
LAB II 2257