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U of R LDST 205 - Syllabus

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LDST 205: Justice and Civil Society Fall 2010 Jepson School of Leadership Studies Dr. Thad Williamson Jepson Hall 135 Email: [email protected] Office Hours: Monday, 2-4 p.m., or by appointment. General Expectations This is a very demanding course. It involves both intensive reading and substantial direct involvement in the community, as well as periodic writing assignments and quizzes. You will not be able to do well in the course unless you make it a major priority. I have several expectations for students in the course. The first is that you show up at least one minute early for each class, and stay until the end (even if occasionally the discussion runs one or two minutes over time). Bathroom breaks are disruptive and disrespectful; wait until after class unless it is an emergency. No laptops should be used in class, for any reason. Taking of notes is encouraged, but you need to be prepared to participate at any time. Attendances at all classes is mandatory. It is equally important, however, that you come prepared for class. This means several things. First, you should have done the assigned reading prior to class. Second, you should bring the relevant text with you to class. Third, you should be sufficiently rested and fed to be alert and ready to participate during class. Sleeping or nodding off in class will be regarded as equivalent to an absence. Fourth, you should have a notebook devoted to this class only, both for taking notes and for keeping any and all handouts over the course of the semester. The reading load for this class will strike some of you as high relative to other courses at the University of Richmond. It is a substantial amount of reading, and doing the reading in a thoughtful fashion will require a substantial investment of time and effort on your part. Generally speaking, you should always be carrying a book with you (whether for this class or another) and reading should be your default activity during the week as a college student. This class will be a lot of work but I can make three promises to you. First, the quantity of reading is quite comparable to what your peers taking courses on “Justice” (or political philosophy) at other high-caliber colleges and universities are required to do. Second, compared to many of those courses, the readings in this class represent a diverse set of genres: philosophical texts, Biblical interpretation, a novel, first-person nonfiction, a historical study, a journalistic account, and a graphic novel (or “comic book” if you prefer!). 1 Third, if you make an investment in this material, the intellectual and (possibly) personal rewards will be rich. You have the opportunity to engage in detailed examination of the question of what “justice” is and what makes for a just society, and to engage directly with some of the central texts that have addressed this question in Western societies: Plato’s Republic, John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice, Reinhold Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society. You also will have the opportunity to relate these philosophical texts to contemporary issues of social justice. By the end of the class you should have acquired the tools not only to engage in further philosophical enquiry about the nature of justice, if you so choose, but also the ability to critically analyze other contemporary issues from the standpoint of social justice, and the ability to think critically and creatively about how to respond to social injustice. This is an unusual opportunity to think about all these questions together, in a serious way—at the same time that you are engaged firsthand in the community. Expectations Regarding Community Work It is critical that you establish a connection with your service site as soon as possible, that you begin your service work no later than the first week of September, and that you continue to be engaged regularly through the end of the semester. You are free to make the arrangements with your site supervisor that best fit your schedule and theirs, but whatever arrangements you make you should honor. Last-minute cancellations are disruptive and aggravating to the sites. Show up when you are supposed to show up and be sure to communicate clearly with your supervisor. Your primary purpose while at the service sites is to be useful and helpful to the organization you are working with and the population the organization serves. From a pedagogical point of view, the aim of the service work is to directly expose you to ongoing social problems in the Richmond community. In almost all cases, these social problems are linked to questions of social justice: inclusion and exclusion, educational and economic inequality, meeting special needs. The reading we do in class will, over the course of the semester, help provide a deeper context for thinking about what is going on at your service site: why the social problem you are addressing exists, what questions of justice are implicated in the problem, and why and how the problem is or is not being addressed. This does not mean that all the readings directly connect to the kind of work you are doing in your service site. It also does not mean that the purpose of the readings is to show you to be a more effective volunteer. We will talk about that question in the classroom from time to time, and you are invited to speak with me directly about that question at any time outside of class. If you wish to read a thoughtful reflection on community service, the book The Call of Service by Robert Coles is highly recommended. Short Explanation of the Course of Study This may be difficult and at times incomprehensible at the start of the course. But give it a try anyway. Then come back and re-read this near or at the end of the course. 2 “Justice” is a term with many meanings and many possible applications. This class is intended to explore many of these meanings and definitions, but it has a particular focus: social justice. We are not concerned in this class, primarily, with questions of criminal justice, for instance. Nor are we primarily concerned here with “just war theory.” Even within the framework of social justice, our ambit is limited. In this course, for instance, we will devote very little attention to questions of “global justice,” at least in the formally assigned readings.1 “Social justice” is a distinct mode of enquiry from personal ethics. That is to say, when discussing social justice we


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