Introduction to Social Science
REVISED SYLLABUS, AS OF 26-SEPTEMBER-2001
Hon 200-820
MWF 1:50-2:45, in Mahar 117
Ranjit S. Dighe Mahar 425; 312-3480
SUNY-Oswego  dighe@oswego.edu
Fall 2001 http://www.oswego.edu/~dighe

This course provides an introduction to the perspectives and patterns of inquiry of several social science disciplines, namely anthropology, economics, political science, and sociology. We will examine how these disciplines relate to each other and also how they relate to history, a discipline that resembles a social science but has long eluded classification. We will also consider how the social sciences relate to the natural sciences and whether social science is "real" science. Finally we will bring these disciplines to bear on two rather big topics: the way that American history is taught in our public schools, and the rise of the Eurasian nations to dominance over the rest of the world.

Office hours: T Th 2-4, and by appointment

Required texts

Best, Joel. Damned Lies and Statistics. ($20)
Carr, Edward H. What Is History? ($10)
Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs and Steel. ($16)
Heilbroner, Robert, & Lester Thurow. Economics Explained. ($12)
Loewen, James. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. ($15)
(Total cost of buying all-new books at list price: $73.)

Other required reading

The New York Times (Monday-Friday). Available online or by subscription. (Subscriptions are available at a special student rate, but the Times's delivery service to this campus has in past semesters been spotty, so subscribing is optional. Reading it for about 20-30 minutes every weekday is required, however.)

Strongly recommended

Hacker, Diana. A Writer's Reference. 4th ed. Boston: Bedford Books, 1999 (You might own this already.)

Course web site

http://www.oswego.edu/~dighe/socsci.htm

This site, which is also accessible through my home page, is worth checking periodically. It will include any future updates to this syllabus, a complete list of course materials on reserve at the library, and links to related sites.

Assignments and grading

You will write a 15-to-20-page term paper (in two drafts) and present it. The two drafts and the presentation together will account for 60% of your grade.

You will also be expected to participate actively in class discussions. You will prepare written questions for (five) other students' presentations, and you will prepare talking points for (ten) other class discussions. These you will turn in to me, typed, in class. Your participation and written questions will account for 25-30% of your grade.

Finally, you will facilitate one or two class discussions. (Preparing and distributing an informative outline of the material is generally a good idea in these situations.) Your performance as facilitator, as well as your performance on miscellaneous assignments, will account for the remaining 10-15% of your grade.

Draconian policy on cheating

Students who are caught cheating on the term paper will automatically fail this course and, possibly, will have their misdeeds reported to the college authorities. Students who are caught cheating on a minor assignment will receive a zero for the item in question, as well as zeroes for two other, equivalently weighted items (think of it as a "treble damages" policy).

Course outline and schedule (still liable to change a bit as the semester progresses)
 
Week Dates Topics
1 Aug. 27, 31 Introduction: What is social science?; the Rashomon phenomenon; history as a social science; the five main social sciences (begin) 

What to read:
* Ryunosuke Akutagawa, "In a Grove," from Rashomon and Other Stories (handout)
* Carr, ch. 1 ("The Historian and His Facts")
* Loewen, "Introduction: Something Has Gone Very Wrong" and ch. 1 ("Handicapped by History: The Process of Hero-Making")
 

  • NOTE: Class was canceled on Wed., Aug. 29, because I was sick.
  • 2 Sept. 5, 7 The five main social sciences (finish); history as a social science (continued)

    * Heilbroner & Thurow, chs. 3 and 12 ("A Bird's-Eye View of the Economy," "How Markets Work")
    * Carr, chs. 2-3 ("Society and the Individual"; "History, Science, and Morality")

    MON., SEPT. 3: LABOR DAY -- NO CLASSES
    THURS., SEPT. 6: LAST DAY YOU CAN ADD THIS COURSE

    3 Sept. 10, 14 Social statistics; The 9/11 terror attacks and the USA's place in the world

    * Best, "Introduction: The Worst Social Statistic Ever" and ch. 1 ("The Importance of Social Statistics")
    * Loewen, ch. 8 ("Watching Big Brother: What Our Textbooks Teach About the Federal Government")
     

  • NOTE: Classes were canceled on Sept. 12 because of the 9/11 terror attacks.  Class on Sept. 14 was devoted to a discussion of those attacks and their context.
  • 4 Sept. 17, 19, 21 Social statistics (continued)

    * Best, chs. 2-3 ("Soft Facts," "Mutant Statistics"); ch. 4 ("Apples and Oranges"); chs. 5-6 ("Stat Wars," "Thinking About Social Statistics")

    Student discussion leader: Lindsey (9/21)

    MON., SEPT. 17: LAST DAY YOU CAN DROP THIS COURSE

    5 Sept. 24, 26, 28 Economic history; Cause and effect

    * Heilbroner & Thurow, ch. 1 ("Capitalism: Where Do We Come From?"); chs. 4 ("The Trend of Things") and 19 ("The Unfinished Revolution")
    * Carr, ch. 4 ("Causation in History")
    * K.C. Cole, "Correlation and Cause: Smart Kids With Big Feet," pp. 137-146 of The Universe and the Teacup: The Mathematics of Truth and Beauty (1997; handout)

    Student discussion leaders: Sara (9/24), Nick (9/26), Diana (9/28)

    6 Oct. 1, 3, 5 The Roots of Civilization: Guns, Germs, and Steel, Part 1

    * Diamond: Preface ("Why Is World History Like an Onion?", Prologue ("Yali's Question"), Epilogue ("The Future of Human History as a Science"); chs. 1-3 ("Up to the Starting Line," "A Natural Experiment of History," "Collision at Cajamarca"); chs. 4-6 ("Farmer Power," "History's Haves and Have-Nots," "To Farm or Not to Farm")

    Student discussion leaders: Dan (10/1), Shannon (10/3)

    7 Oct. 8, 10, 12 Student presentations

    MON., OCT. 8: TERM PAPER PROSPECTUS DUE

    8 Oct. 15, 17, 19 Student presentations
    9 Oct. 22, 24, 26 How the West Attained World Dominance: Guns, Germs, and Steel, Part 2

    Diamond: ch. 8 ("Apples or Indians"); ch. 9 ("Zebras, Unhappy Marriages, and the Anna Karenina Principle"); ch. 10 ("Spacious Skies and Tilted Axes")

    Student discussion leaders: __________________________________

    FRI., OCT. 26: LAST DAY OF COURSE WITHDRAWAL PERIOD

    10 Oct. 29, 31; 
    Nov. 2
    Discovery and Disease:  Coming to America

    * Diamond: ch. 11 ("Lethal Gift of Livestock"); ch. 13 ("Necessity's Mother")
    * Loewen, ch. 3 ("The Truth About the First Thanksgiving")

    Student discussion leaders: __________________________________

    11 Nov. 5, 7, 9 Controversy and Current Events (Nov. 5, 7) ; Student presentations (Nov. 9)

    * Loewen, ch. 9 ("Down the Memory Hole: The Disappearance of the Recent Past")
    * additional readings TBA

    Student discussion leaders: __________________________________

    FRI., NOV. 9: FIRST DRAFT OF TERM PAPER DUE

    12 Nov. 12, 14, 16 Student presentations
    13 Nov. 19 Student presentations

    WED.-FRI., NOV. 21-23 -- NO CLASSES -- THANKSGIVING BREAK

    14 Nov. 26, 28, 30 Race: The American Obsession?

    * Loewen: ch. 4 ("Red Eyes"); ch. 5 ("'Gone with the Wind: The Invisibility of Racism in American History Textbooks"); ch. 6 ("John Brown and Abraham Lincoln: The Invisibility of Antiracism in American History Textbooks")

    Student discussion leaders: __________________________________

    15 Dec. 3, 5, 7 Marching Forward Through Time? History as Progress

    * Loewen: chs. 11-12 ("Why Is History Taught Like This?," "What Is the Result of Teaching History Like This?"); ch. 10 ("Progress Is Our Most Important Product")
    * Carr, "History as Progress"

    FRI., DEC. 7: FINAL DRAFT OF TERM PAPER DUE