University of California, San Diego
MWF 11:00–11:50, Solis Hall 104
Office hours: MW 12:30–1:30, SSB 472
This course explores key issues in contemporary America and how social scientists, journalists, opinion writers, and policy makers approach them. We’ll examine hypotheses, research findings, and arguments about economic security, family, equality of opportunity, marijuana legalization, income inequality, political polarization, obesity, climate change, and happiness. The course aims to improve your understanding of society, the economy, and politics and to aid your development of critical thinking, complex reasoning, and written communication skills.
The course readings and videos are available via the links in the schedule below. You’ll also need an iclicker, which you can purchase at the campus bookstore.
- Week 1: March 30, April 1, 3 (MWF)
- Week 2: April 6, 8, 10 (MWF)
- Video: PBS, Poor Kids, Frontline, 2012, 68 minutes ($2)
- Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “A Decent and Rising Income Floor,” The Good Society, 2015
- Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “Stable Income and Expenses,” The Good Society, 2015
- Week 3: April 13, 15, 17 (MWF)
- Reading: Sara McLanahan and Christopher Jencks, “Was Moynihan Right? What Happens to the Children of Unmarried Mothers,” Education Next, 2015
- Reading: Elizabeth Marquardt, David Blankenhorn, Robert I. Lerman, Linda Malone-Colón, and W. Bradford Wilcox, “The President’s Marriage Agenda for the Forgotten Sixty Percent,” The State of Our Unions, National Marriage Project and Institute for American Values, 2012
- Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “Families,” The Good Society, 2015
Equality of opportunity
- Week 4: April 20, 22, 24 (MWF)
- Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “Equality of Opportunity,” The Good Society, 2015
- Reading: Stuart M. Butler, “Can the American Dream Be Saved?,” National Affairs, 2013
- Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “Early Education,” The Good Society, 2015
- Week 5: April 29, May 1 (WF; no class on Monday, April 27)
- Reading: Nicholas Kristof, “End the War on Pot,” New York Times, 2010
- Video: Eugene Jarecki, The House I Live In, 2011, 110 minutes ($3)
- Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “Marijuana Legalization,” The Good Society, 2015
Essay 1 due: Friday, May 1, in class
- Week 6: May 4, 6, 8 (MWF)
- Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “Income Inequality,” The Good Society, 2015
- Video: Robert Reich and Jacob Kornbluth, Inequality for All, 2013, 91 minutes ($3)
- Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “Is Income Inequality Harmful?,” The Good Society, 2015
- Week 7: May 11, 13, 15 (MWF)
- Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “Political Polarization,” The Good Society, 2015
- Reading: Karen L. Cox, “A New Southern Strategy,” New York Times, 2012
- Reading: Ezra Klein, “What Happens When Congress Fails to Do Its Job?,” Newsweek, 2010
- Week 8: May 18, 20, 22 (MWF)
- Video: HBO Films and Institute of Medicine, The Weight of the Nation, Part 1: Consequences, 2012, 53 minutes
- Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “Weight Moderation,” The Good Society, 2015
- Reading: Michael Pollan, “Unhappy Meals,” New York Times, 2007
- Week 9: May 27, 29 (WF; no class Monday, May 25)
- Video: Al Gore and David Guggenheim, An Inconvenient Truth, 2006, 96 minutes ($3)
- Video: Bjorn Lomborg, “Global Priorities Bigger Than Climate Change,” TED, 2005, 16 minutes
- Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “Climate Stability,” The Good Society, 2015
Essay 2 due: Friday, May 29, in class
- Week 10: June 1, 3, 5 (MWF)
- Reading: Lane Kenworthy, “Happiness,” The Good Society, 2015
- Reading: Charles Murray, “The Happiness of the People,” American Enterprise Institute, 2009
- Reading: Jeffrey Sachs, “What the US Can Learn from Denmark About Happiness,” Huffington Post, 2013
Final exam: Friday, June 12, 11:30am
Course grades will be determined as follows. See below for details.
- 15%: discussion section attendance and participation
- 35%: quizzes (25, only your 20 highest scores count)
- 20%: essay 1
- 20%: essay 2
- 10%: final exam
Each of these will be graded on a scale of 0 to 100. So your numerical course grade is calculated as: (discussion section attendance and participation grade x .15) + (quizzes average grade x .35) + (essay 1 grade x .2) + (essay 2 grade x .2) + (final exam grade x .1).
Your letter grade for the course will be determined as follows:
- 97 and above = A+
- 93–96 = A
- 90–92 = A–
- 87–89 = B+
- 83–86 = B
- 80–82 = B–
- 77–79 = C+
- 73–76 = C
- 70–72 = C–
- 60–69 = D
- below 60 = F
There will be no extra-credit projects or assignments.
Lindsay DePalma, Teaching Assistant
Section A03, W 9:00–9:50, HSS 2321
Section A04, W 10:00–10:50, HSS 2321
Office hours: W 12–12:30, F 9:30–11, Cafe Roma (Price Center)
Gary Lee, Teaching Assistant
Section A01, M 1:00–1:50, HSS 2321
Section A02, M 2:00–2:50, HSS 2321
Office hours: F 12:30–1:30, The Art of Espresso (Mandeville Center Coffee Cart). Additional office hours will be announced before essays are due.
Attendance and participation in discussion section is required. Your discussion section grade will be based on your participation. Attendance can affect your section grade in the following way: Each section will meet nine times, beginning the second week of class. You can miss two without penalty. If you miss three, your section grade will be lowered by 20 points. If you miss four, it will be lowered by 40 points. If you miss five or more, your section grade will be zero.
Beginning April 6, each day in class you will take a short quiz on the course materials (readings and/or videos) for that week. Each quiz will have ten multiple choice or true/false questions. You will answer the questions using your iclicker.
You must register your iclicker with Ted. To do that, go to ted.ucsd.edu, log in, choose this course, and click on “Register iclicker” in the blue menu bar. If you get a new iclicker at any point during the quarter, register it immediately.
For technical support with iclicker registration and use, contact Academic Computing and Media Services, APM 1313, email email@example.com, tel 858.534.2267.
You can take a makeup if you have to miss a quiz for any of the following three reasons: (1) holidays or special events observed by organized religions (for students who show affiliation with that particular religion), (2) absences pre-approved by the UCSD Dean of Students (or Dean’s designee), (3) extended illness (this requires a doctor’s note). If you miss a quiz for one of these reasons, contact me no later than the day of the quiz to schedule a makeup. I will need written verification of the circumstances.
You cannot take a makeup if you miss a quiz for any other reason. This includes faulty iclicker registration, forgetting to bring your iclicker to class, stolen or lost iclicker, iclicker malfunction, dead iclicker battery, needing to arrive late to class or leave class early, oversleeping, minor illness, transportation problem, family or friend’s special occasion, family problems, family illness, needing to study for another course, etc.
Here are my recommendations for how to prepare for the quizzes: (1) Take notes on the course materials. Study those notes rather than re-reading or re-viewing the materials. (2) Don’t get too bogged down in detail. Try to understand the question(s) the author is trying to answer, the answer(s) she gives, and the key pieces of evidence and reasoning. (3) Don’t overthink the quiz questions. Don’t assume I’m trying to trick you. (4) If possible, study with one or more other students in the class.
You will write two short essays. The assignments:
- Essay 1: What’s the most useful thing we could do to improve K-12 education in the United States?
- Essay 2: What should America’s immigration policy be?
Due dates are listed above. An essay turned in late but within 72 hours of the deadline will be penalized 25 points (out of 100). An essay turned in more than 72 hours late, or not turned in at all, will receive a grade of zero.
Turn in a hard copy and upload your essay on Ted. Emailed essays won’t be accepted. To upload it on Ted, go to ted.ucsd.edu, log in, choose this course, and click on “Upload essays” in the blue menu bar. Your essay won’t be visible to other students on Ted; this is just to allow us to check for plagiarism and length.
Length: Each essay should be 1,500 words (excluding footnotes), plus or minus no more than 100 words.
Formatting: The essays must be typed single-space on 8½-by-11 paper with 1-inch margins on top and bottom and 2-inch margins on each side. Use 11-point or 12-point font size.
Sources and citations: Consult at least five sources of your choosing. Use footnotes (not a reference list or bibliography) to give credit to anyone from whom you borrow evidence or argument. The footnotes aren’t included in the word count. I’m not picky about the formatting of the footnotes, but be sure to include the author(s), title, and year; don’t simply list an internet address.
Don’t plagiarize. If you aren’t sure what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it, see the UCSD Library’s guide to preventing plagiarism.
Keys to success: Answer the question. Write clearly. Refer to relevant evidence (opinion and logic are fine but insufficient). Anticipate objections to your position. Use proper grammar and punctuation. Adhere to the length, formatting, and citation instructions. It might help to try out your argument on classmates or friends or family.
If you need help with writing, consider seeking assistance from the UCSD Writing Center.
The final exam will cover all of the course material. The date and time of the exam are listed above.
Students are encouraged to share intellectual views and discuss freely the principles and applications of course materials. However, graded work must be the product of independent effort unless otherwise instructed. Students are expected to adhere to UCSD policy on academic integrity.
SPECIAL NEEDS AND ACCOMMODATIONS
Students who need special accommodation or services should contact the Office of Students with Disabilities (OSD), University Center 202, email firstname.lastname@example.org, tel 858.534.4382. You must register and request that the OSD send me official notification of your accommodation needs as soon as possible. Please meet with me to discuss accommodations and how the course requirements and activities may impact your ability to fully participate.