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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Taso Lagos
H A&S 251
Seattle Campus

Western Civilization I

Introduction to ideas and society in Western Civilization. For university honors students only. Offered: A.

Class description

The class looks at the role of the individual in community and the moral and ethical responsibilities that this entails. We examine this issue by putting five individuals on trial: Socrates, Machiavelli, Napoleon, William Randolph Hearst and George W. Bush. Class is divided into 5 groups and each group will participate as Prosecution, Defense, Witnesses, Jury and Recorders. There are five short take-home exams and engagement in the class is a distinct requirement. In other words, this class is heavily interactive.

Student learning goals

Digest and process the responsibility that an individual has to him/herself and to the community at large. Does this divide make a civil society fundamentally impossible?

Critique the basis on which ideas and concepts in Western Civilization are based and maintained

Research the backgrounds of historical leaders to determine the veracity of common wisdom versus actual fact

General method of instruction

There will be two lectures followed by a trial. Background reading provided, but students encouraged to supplement this course reading with other material to better prepare for each trial.

Recommended preparation

Here is list of required reading:

1.American Soul by Jacob Needleman 2.The Prosecution of George W. Bush by Vincent Bugliosi 3.Citizen Hearst by W. A. Swanberg 4.Napoleon: The Path to Power by Philip Dwyer 5.The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli 6.The Trial and Death of Socrates by Plato

Class assignments and grading


•Take Home Midterm Exams - 120 points (30 points each) 30% •Trials – 100 points 25% •Trial - Group Outline – 30 points 7.5% •Participation – 100 points 25% •Journal/Book Review – 50 points 12.5 400 points (100%)

There is no perfect grading system. I use the 400-point scale because it works for me and because I think it is the fairest approach to evaluating your performance in the class. Basically by showing you the scale (see Page 2) it is clear how many points you need to achieve your intended grade for the class. I want to make grading as transparent a process as possible and this seems the best way to do it. For me, it also means that in theory the 400-point scale allows all students to achieve a 4.0 – it does not force people into a bell curve (although strangely in the end it always turns out that way!).

There seems to be a difference between grading and learning, and let me explain what I mean by that. Over the years in teaching I’ve noticed that there are many students who come to class to get a “good grade” and others who come to learn. The first student places an inordinate amount of mental and physical energy on what it takes to maintain superior grades at the expense of actually learning. The second student focuses on the material and what the class is trying to teach you. There seems to be a qualitative difference between the two. Ironically, the second student usually ends up with a superior grade. Students who come to class to really learn something are what make teaching fun and worthwhile. While grades are important (and as an undergrad I placed undue importance on them myself!), they are not why you are here. Focus on learning and the grade will take care of itself, as strange as that sounds. To quote Dr. Lisa Coutu of the Department of Communication: “I am more impressed by students who want to learn than students who want a good grade!”

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Trial of Ideas
Last Update by Taso Lagos
Date: 07/25/2008