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Soc. 497S or 597S, Spring 2005

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Created: January 30, 2005
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Index of Site Topics Syllabus for Religion as a Present Social Issue
Independent Study
Soc. 497S or 597S, Spring 2005
Instructor: Jeanne Curran, Ph.D., Esq.
Course: Soc. 497-01 or 597, Independent Study
Project on Religion as a Presnet Social Issue
Course Reference Number:Available only in Sociology Office
Academic Credit: 3 units
Scheduled Meeting Times: TBA, occasional workshops and project activities,
days and times arranged for your convenience.
Meeting Room: Will vary depending on technology needs.
Office: SBS B326
Telephone: 310-243-3831
Office Hours:Pat and I will be in probably one day every other week when no workshops or projects are scheduled, just so we can talk together, as you come in.
Teaching Assistant and Community Adjunct: Patricia Acone, A.B.T.

Course Description:

Discussion of some of the theoretical concerns behind the recent yawning schisms between fundamentalism and secularism. We will talk about this is terms of pre-modernism, modernism, and post modernism, in terms of Mythos and Logos and their respective role in the present worldview. We will consider what we know and to what extent we understand hatred and tolerance, violence and an abhorrence of unnecessary harm to others, fear of the annihilation of old traditions, representing security and continuity, in the face of rapid and sometimes mysterious change, sometimes seen as evil. That will bring us to a fear of annihilation as an END OF DAYS, the rapture through which the "good" will be spared the turbulence of the second coming and destruction of the earth, and how all of that expresses itself in our culture.

I will post my lectures on Karen Armstrong's Battle for God as a theoretical background, but most of our discussions will continue to take present day social issues as they unfold, like SpongeBob, the Tsunami, and the elections in Iraq. Lectures will be posted on Dear Habermas. Discussions will unfold on transform_dom. Please understand that there are no "right answers" to most of what we'll be talking about. Please respect each other's need to differ. Please ask questions. That is how we learn and become sufficiently aware to carry on governance discourse in a meaningful way.



  • Karen Armstrong's Battle for God: Understanding Religious Fundamentalism in Western Culture and Politics Ballantine Books, 2000. ISBN: 0-345-39169-1. This is available on for less than $11. Some of you may not have the time to read it. I'll try to cover as much as I can in my lectures, but it is a book well deserving of your reading it when you can manage to get to it.


  • Please skim the weekly issues of Dear Habermas, even if you can't manage to read everything in depth. I am still trying to provide considerable breadth so that you may choose what interests you most for applying the concepts we address.


  • Participatiion in transform_dom discussions and general awareness of what's being discussed there.

Course Objectives, Outcomes, and Measurement:

All projects, activities, study may be shared in any way that suits you. Grades are individual, based on what you tell me you have done or learned. That's the only way I can know. If you don't tell me, it appears to me that you have missed out on something. Use transform_dom to tell me, as you learn. I'll have the learning records sheet up some time this week, and I'll record the message numbers when you contact me. Use the learning records. They'll give you a clue as to what others are doing.

Our overall objective is a gallery exhibit at the end of each semester, to which we invite friends, families, professionals, to join in the discussion of issues that led to our production of the semester exhibit. That work product is judged by the attendance, by the excitement it generates, by the discussions that go on, and by its appeal to all who take part. Everyone is expected to participate in the Gallery Exhibit. But you are welcome to share projects. Sharing does not have to take place in scheduled meetings. It can happen over the discussion group, with each of you coordinating to bring the final project to fruition the day of the exhibit.

We have not yet scheduled the Spring 2005 exhibit because there is no student union in which to schedule it. Ideas are welcome.

Basic Objectives and Outcomes for Class:

  • "Social Issues Agenda" Objective: I would like students to come away with a sense of the role religion plays in our present social issues agenda. I would like them to be able to fit both religion and family values into that agenda.

  • Use of Visual in Learning Objective: I would like students to choose the method by which they will learn most, either participating in online discussions, or sharing in face to face workshops or office meetings. And I would like them to experiment with visual sociology, either supplementing their reading, writing, and discussion with visual highlights, or sharing in a project for the Naked Space Exhibit in the Srping of 2005..

  • The Left/Right Dilemma of Dualism Objective: I would like students to come away with a sense of the problem with duality, with extremes that deny flexibility and answerability. In America, we are almost all members of the intersection of class, race, gender, religion, and interpersonal relationships in some way. Objectivity IS a perspective. There is no single determinable verifiable truth.

  • The OK, I'll Think On That Objective: This is too personal to measure as a learning objective. If you believe that you "know" something, and that you are right, and that "God" is on your side, that is far too personal for me to state as a goal that I would like to change your mind. I would like to open your mind to the idea that others think differently, see the world, maybe see "God" differently. And I would like to plead that you never do harm to those "Others" over that disagreement. This objective is for you to consider, to think on, to decide for yourself. But I would like to know that this course helped you to think about it.

  • The Discipline of Learning Objective: I would like for students to think deeply about the discipline of learning, of following issues and concepts more deeply, of realizing that others have thought on these concepts, some centuries ago, and that thought, like hope, is an ontological need for humans. Superficial learning of a traditional text will sometimes get you an A, but it can never bring you the thrill that comes with consistent effort at the intensity of learning.

  • The OK, I Found Something Objective: I would like students to find a way to let me understand in what ways you have found such depth in the study of law during this semester. If you haven't, that's a hot clue that you haven't yet been disciplined enough. Pick something and go deeply into it, even if it's why the tsunami happened. Find something, something that intrigues you, like the potential that nature will overcome all our plans with no rational explanation, so that you, too, will find on your own the joy of learning.

  • The This Is What It Feels Like Objective: I would like you to consider a real person, someone you know, maybe even yourself, and wonder deeply about religion and their relation to it. Either imagine yourself as them, or talk to them about their feelings and ideas. I would then like you to find some way to let us share the feelings and thoughts that person has about his/her religion or not-religion. This isn't meant as a term paper suggestion. A photo, a drawing, a paragraph, a poem, a bit of music, would do.

Academic Assessment:

    Congratulations! You have an A! We expect work that will produce a professional and competitive product in a real market. We also expect that even our most creative workers will recognize throughout the semester that an effective product presentation depends on good work standards from every member of the team. Team morale and expectations have a great deal to do with enforcing work standards collaboratively. Time to learn that process.

    If, for whatever reason, your work is not meeting our production standard, we are sure that you will be in touch with us to either seek employee assistance or counseling. One hot clue that you may be slipping is if your name appears nowhere on blogs, on shared readings, on small group discussions, and if we haven't heard from you. CSUDH has a student assistance counselor: Pat. See her for help.

    • Assignments:

      Start with this week's issue of Dear Habermas. You are welcome to use any of the materials from the Winter Break as well as those from this semester.

      Keep up with Jeanne's Lectures and with Visual Sociology on each week's issue, and with the current discussions on transform_dom. No, you can't read everything in depth. The choice is yours. But do skim enough to be able to follow both lectures and discussions.

      Workshops and special projects will be announced a week or so ahead of time, and will vary over days and times. Pat and I will be on campus at least once every other week or so. jeanne

    • Common Sense:

      Permission to enroll in this course is premised on upper division or graduate status that should render you capable of performing competently. However, I recognize that crises occur and that you have many conflicting demands as students, family members, and workers. Please remember that A's are earned, not given for the status characteristic of "being a good student who could get an A if he/she made the effort." One way to deal with such crises effectively is to be sure that I know when they are happening. Because most of my lectures and your practice are on the site, it's easier to make up missed time over conflicts than you might think.

      Nota bene: If you have the flu, or some other highly contagious illness, please don't come and give it to the rest of us. We'll help you catch up when you're well. I lost three weeks to flu two years ago. The bugs are getting stronger and more resistant to medication, and I'm getting older. If I lose three weeks during classes, you'll be left with a substitute.

      If you haven't slept, and are falling asleep from exhaustion, please stay home and sleep. Sleep deprivation is a very real problem. We all drive freeways to get here, and go home often late at night. You can kill yourself and others that way. Please don't.

      If you have the privilege of assured income and support and the discretionary time to focus deeply and intently on your academic work, we are happy for you, and delighted to have the extra work you can then do. But in an urban or rural commuter college, such privilege is rare. Please do not denigrate those who are struggling to balance conflicting demands. If you can help someone, please do. If you can help make a silent voice heard, please do.

      I do not give specific deadlines, because I want you to use your common sense and your own discipline to study effectively. All work can be made up within university-imposed limits.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Individual copyrights by other authors may apply.