Pol 11: Final Paper Instructions (Fall 2014)

Bronx Community College – College Now – Fall 2014
Introduction to Political Science
University Heights High School

Professor Roy R. Rogers

 

Final Paper Instructions

General Instructions

            The largest portion of the student’s grade will be final paper. In this paper students will be asked to assess a problem them in contemporary American society (i.e. police brutality, sexism, internet privacy, etc.) and offer policy suggestions on how to resolve this problem. For their paper students are to use three to five academic, journalistic, and/or scholarly sources (not Wikipedia!) in their research. Generally papers should be between four to seven pages

The first draft is to be finished by NOVEMBER 3 and a second draft finished by NOVEMBER 24. The final version is due on DECEMBER 22.

 

Research Questions

            This research paper has two central parts. The first is identifying a problem in American society and showing why it needs to be fixed. The second is offering solutions to the problem through changes in public policy.

            Students are to think of a problem they see in American society – it could racism, sexism, homophobia, education, children’s rights, health care, police brutality, transportation, drug laws, etc. etc. Once they have identified a problem in American society students will need to show how it is a problem using facts and research. This research should be conducted by consulting scholarly (books, journals) or journalistic sources (newspapers, magazines). For an example of appropriate sources please see below.

            Example: if one was writing a paper on the “war on drugs” one would consult articles in the New York Times to show how out of control enforcement of anti-drug laws are and the negative impact this has on poor communities.

           Once students have identified their problem they are to offer suggestions as to how public policy can be changed to fix this problem. What is public policy? It is the actions of government (state, local, federal) and other public institutions (schools, churches, mosques, etc.) that shape and limit how our society operates. This ranges from things like laws and court decisions to customs – like getting up from your seat in the subway for an elderly person. Public policy is the decisions our society has made as to how it should be run. In your paper you should offer concrete suggestions, drawn from your research, as to how public policy could be changed to resolve your chosen problem.

            Example: if one was writing a paper on the “war on drugs” one could suggest that making some illegal drugs legal would improve the situation or changing the length of time that people convicted of possessing drugs serve in prison.

 

Sources

            Students must have three to five academic, journalistic and/or scholarly sources for their research. These sources may be primary or secondary sources but, a student must have at least three secondary sources for their final paper. All sources must be cited in proper format and every paper must have a properly formatted bibliography. Proper formatting for paper writing will be discussed in class on October 27.

Acceptable sources include:

  • Books
  • Scholarly Journal Articles
  • Reputable websites [NOT Wikipedia]
  • Newspapers
  • News Magazines [not US Weekly]
  • Book Chapters

If a student is confused as to what is an acceptable source they should consult with the instructor.

 

Important Dates

The following dates are the key steps in writing and revising your paper in the strongest piece of writing possible. The more you revise and sharpen your paper the higher your grade will be.

  • September 17 – Paper topic must be chosen
  • October 22 & October 27 – Discussion of paper writing skills
  • November 3 – A first draft must be handed in
  • November 10 – Individual Meetings About Papers
  • November 24 – A second draft must be handed in
  • December 15 – Individual Meetings About Papers
  • December 22 – A final draft must be handed in
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POL 11 – Revised Schedule (Spring 2014)

Pol 11 – Introduction to Political Science

College Now – Bronx Community College – Spring 2014
Professor: Roy R. Rogers

Revised Schedule

PROLOGUE – SETTING THE STAGE

FEBRUARY 10: Introduction
FEBRUARY 12: Primary & Secondary Sources

FEBRUARY 17: NO CLASS (HAPPY LINCOLN’S BIRTHDAY!)
FEBRUARY 19: NO CLASS (ENJOY YOUR WINTER BREAK!)

FEBRUARY 24: The Ancient Tradition [CHOSE BETWEEN PAPER OR EXAM]

PART ONE – THE MAKING OF MODERN POLITICS

FEBRUARY 26: The Christian Tradition & Machiavelli [TOPIC FOR FINAL PAPER DUE]

MARCH 3: The Social Contract
MARCH 5: The Age of Democratic Revolutions

MARCH 10: The Rights of Women
MARCH 12: Utilitarianism

MARCH 17: Marxism
MARCH 19: Political Liberalism

MARCH 24: Study Skills – Citation Formatting & Paper Writing

INTERLUDE – BUILDING STUDY SKILLS & THE COLLEGE Experience

MARCH 26: College Expectations and Skills

PART THREE – THE AMERICAN POLITICAL EXPERIENCE

MARCH 31: The American Democratic Experience – From Revolution to Civil War [DRAFT DUE]
APRIL 2: The American Democratic Experience – From Reconstruction to Recession

PART FOUR – AMERICAN POLTICAL INSTITUTIONS

APRIL 7: The Constitution
APRIL 9: American Government – Congress & the Presidency

APRIL 14: NO CLASS (ENJOY SPRING BREAK!)
APRIL 16: NO CLASS (ENJOY SPRING BREAK!)

APRIL 21: NO CLASS (ENJOY SPRING BREAK!)
APRIL 23: American Government – The Judiciary & Local Government

PART FIVE – AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY

APRIL 28: Realism & Liberalism
APRIL 30: Post 9-11 Foreign Policy

PART SIX: Contemporary POLITICAL ISSUES

MAY 5: Church & State in Modern America
MAY 7: Gun Control

MAY 12: Affirmative Action
MAY 14: Death Penalty

MAY 16: FINAL EXAM or FINAL PAPER DUE

 

POL 11 – Sylabus (Spring 2014)

Pol 11 – Introduction to Political Science

College Now – Bronx Community College – Spring 2014
Monday and Wednesday

Professor: Roy R. Rogers
royrichardrogers@gmail.com
https://royrrogers.com/teaching

What makes a good leader? How does American politics work? Who should I vote for? What does it mean to be a politically active citizen? These are important, and difficult, questions all Americans face. This course, by introducing you to the academic discipline of political science, will help you begin to provide answers to those critical questions. By studying the history and ideas behind American politics, American political history, and current political debates, this course will provide students with the tools to navigate the tricky waters of informed citizenship. As part of the College Now program this course will also provide students with an introduction to the college experience and college course work by promoting students’ critical thinking, writing, and reading skills.

Learning Goals
By the end of this course every student should:

v Have a basic understanding of the themes of America political history, political science, and political theory

v Have improved their critical reading, writing, and thinking skills.

v Have improved their study skills and test taking abilities.

v Have a basic understanding of the college experience (academic and personal) and the expectations of college coursework.

Texts
All readings for the class will be distributed as printed packets. Students will be given one (and ONLY one) copy of each packet of readings. They are responsible for keeping track of any materials once they have been distributed. Misplaced or lost packets will not be replaced.

Assignments & Grading
Your final grade will be calculated from the following breakdown:

v 30% –  Final Paper or Final Exam

v 25% –  Weekly Reflection Papers & Homework

v 25% – Class Participation

v 20% –  Discussion Questions

In-Class Requirements
For reach class meeting students will be expected to have read all assigned material (primary source readings etc.) and be fully prepared for discussion. Such class discussions make up an important part of students’ class participation grade. Reading primary sources and discussing them in class is the core of this course. Students that do not do the reading or participate in class discussions are setting themselves up for failure.

In addition, students are expected to have completed – before class – all writing assignments or homework assigned for the class meeting. Such assignments are due at the very beginning of class.

Weekly Reflection Papers & Homework
Students are to write a reflection upon class discussion and readings for each week. In their reflections students should respond to questions, issues, and themes discussed by the instructor and their fellow classmates. Periodically students will complete a homework assignment instead of reflection paper. A detailed guide on the requirements for the reflection papers will be handed out in the second week of classes (February 24). All homework and reflection papers should be between two to three paragraphs in length.

All homework assignments and reflection papers are due the Tuesday after the assigned. For example, if an assignment is given on April 17th it would be due on April 23rd.

Discussion Questions
Before each class meeting students should come up with three to five study questions about the reading for that class. Discussion questions should be designed to encourage discussion with your fellow students and, thus, should not be questions of fact but of interpretation and opinion. A good question should help one’s fellow students better understand the sources under discussion.

Students MUST provide the instructor with a copy of their discussion questions at the beginning of each class period.

Attendance
Attendance is required for every class meeting. Attendance will be taken during each class meeting to ensure this. If a student needs to miss class, the instructor must be notified in advance (in case of emergencies, before the following class meeting). To encourage attendance, students who miss no more than three (or fewer) classes will receive an additional five points on their final grade.

Final Paper/ Final Exam
The largest portion of the student’s grade will be a either a final paper OR a final examination. Students only complete ONE of these assignments for thirty percent of their overall grade. Students must decide upon an option by February 24.

For the final paper students are to research one of the assigned primary source readings from any of the assigned reading packets. In their research students should look into the author(s) of the source, the context in which it emerged, and its importance to political philosophy and/or the American political experience. For their paper students are to use three to five academic and scholarly sources (not Wikipedia!) in their research. More detailed instructions will be handed out in class on February 24.

Students who chose to complete a final paper are to have selected a topic by February 26 and have a COMPLETE draft complete by April 2. The final version is due on May 16.

The final examination will be comprehensive, containing material from all parts of the course. The examination will be given on May 16. A study guide will be distributed two weeks before the exam.

Extra Credit
Occasionally (and at the instructor’s discretion) assignments for extra credit will be made available. This will usually consist of attendance at, and brief reports on, lectures and other cultural events relating to politics in New York.

Classroom Policies

In order to ensure that this class is a successful space for learning and critical dialogue, the following polices are in affect.

v Plagiarism and academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Any assignment (even in part) found to be plagiarized will be marked as a failure (zero points). A second instance of plagiarism will result in automatic failure of the course. If students have ANY questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please come see (or e-mail) the instructor and/or consult the course website.

v All work must be turned in to the instructor via hardcopy by the beginning of the class period on the date in which it is due (see schedule, below). Assignments will NOT be accepted via e-mail, except in cases of emergency. Late work will NOT be accepted.

v Cell phone usage and texting is forbidden in the classroom. If a student must use their cell phone because of an emergency situation, please let the instructor know before the beginning of class.

v There is no such thing as a stupid question. If a student is confused or unclear about any topic under discussion, please raise your hand and ask a question or come see the instructor after class.

v Sexist, racist, or homophobic comments will not be tolerated in the classroom.

v Students with learning or other disabilities should come to speak with the instructor, in private, either before or after class. Any and all disabilities can be accommodated, as long as the instructor is promptly informed.

v Students with family, work, legal, or financial issues that may affect their attendance or class performance should come speak to the instructor as soon as possible, to see if arrangements can be made.

v Drinking beverages is welcome in class, but please no eating.

Class Schedule

PROLOUGE – SETTING THE STAGE

FEBRUARY 10: Introduction
FEBRUARY 12: NO CLASS (HAPPY PRESIDENT’S DAY!)

FEBRUARY 17: NO CLASS (HAPPY LINCOLN’S BIRTHDAY!)
FEBRUARY 19: NO CLASS (ENJOY YOUR WINTER BREAK!)

FEBRUARY 24: Primary & Secondary Sources [CHOSE BETWEEN PAPER OR EXAM]

PART ONE – THE MAKING OF MODERN POLITICS

FEBRUARY 26: The Ancient Tradition [TOPIC FOR FINAL PAPER DUE]

MARCH 3: The Christian Tradition & Machiavelli
MARCH 5: The Social Contract

MARCH 10: The Age of Democratic Revolutions
MARCH 12: The Rights of Women

MARCH 17: Utilitarianism
MARCH 19: Marxism

MARCH 24: Political Liberalism

INTERLUDE – BUILDING STUDY SKILLS & THE COLLEGE Experience

MARCH 26: Study Skills – Citation Formatting & Paper Writing

MARCH 31: College Expectations and Skills

PART THREE – THE AMERICAN POLTICAL EXPERIENCE

APRIL 2: The American Democratic Experience – From Revolution to Civil War [DRAFT DUE]

APRIL 7: The American Democratic Experience – From Reconstruction to Recession

PART FOUR – AMERICAN POLTICAL INSTITUTIONS

APRIL 9: The Constitution

APRIL 14: NO CLASS (ENJOY SPRING BREAK!)
APRIL 16: NO CLASS (ENJOY SPRING BREAK!)

APRIL 21: NO CLASS (ENJOY SPRING BREAK!)
APRIL 23: American Government – Congress & the Presidency

APRIL 28: American Government – The Judiciary & Local Government

PART FIVE – AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY

APRIL 30: Realism & Liberalism

MAY 5: Post 9-11 Foreign Policy

PART SIX: Contemporary POLITICAL ISSUES

MAY 7: Church & State in Modern America

MAY 12: Gun Control
MAY 14: Affirmative Action

MAY 16: FINAL EXAM or FINAL PAPER DUE

POL 11 – Final Paper Instructions (Fall 2013)

Bronx Community College – College Now – Fall 2013

Introduction to Political Science

Professor Rogers

10/07/2013

 

Final Paper Instructions

General Instructions

The largest portion of the student’s grade will be a final paper, due on May 21. For this paper students are to research the author of one of the assigned primary source readings from any of the assigned reading packets. For their paper students are to use three to five academic and scholarly sources (not Wikipedia!) in their research. All papers are to be four to seven pages.

Students are to have selected a topic by September 25 and have a COMPLETE draft finished by November 4. The final version is due on December 6.

 

Topics & Research Questions

Students may choose the author of any of the primary source assigned in this class as the subject of their paper. Students are to research the life of their subject and his or her contribution to political philosophy and/or the American political tradition. As part of their research students should also seek to contextualize their subjects in their time and place.

In their papers students should seek to answer some of the following questions:

• Who was this person?

• Why were they important? Why are they significant?

• How did they contribute to the American political tradition and/or the history of political philosophy?

• How was this person shaped by their particular time and place?

• What other thinkers and writers shaped the person’s thought and action?

Students should have a topic selected by September 25.

 

Sources

Students must have three to five academic and scholarly sources for their research. These sources may be primary or secondary sources but, a student must have at least three secondary sources for their final paper. All sources must be cited in proper format and every paper must have a properly formatted bibliography. Proper formatting for paper writing will be discussed in class on October 28.

Acceptable sources include:

• Books

• Scholarly Articles

• Reputable websites [NOT Wikipedia]

• Book chapters

If a student is confused as to what is an acceptable source they should consult with the instructor.

 

Formatting

A student’s paper should be double spaced, 12-point Times New Roman or similar font with standard page margins. Please do not play any games with the margins or font. Not following these formatting rules will have a significant negative impact on the paper’s grade. All reviews should be in Chicago Manual of Style format and contain footnotes and a bibliography.

In general a good paper should contain a one paragraph introduction laying out sketching out the student’s research, a one page discussion of the subject’s life and times, two to three page discussion of the subject’s significance, and a concluding paragraph summing up the details discussed in the paper.

 

Deadlines

The following deadlines must be met for a student to get the maximum possible grade on their final paper:

• September 25 – A topic must be selected

• November 4 – A first draft must be handed in

• December 6 – A final draft must be handed in

 

HIS 244 – Midterm Study Guide (Fall 2013)

History 244 – Modern United States History

Professor Rogers

Midterm Examination Study Guide

This study guide should provide you with all of the necessary information to study and do well on the final examination. Students will be provided with a blue book(s) in which to write their answers.

The midterm examination will be held on Wednesday, October 16th.  Students will have the entirety of their class period to take the exam.

Structure

The exam will be broken into two parts: term identification and short answer questions.

Part One – Term Identification (15 points)

Students will be given between ten and fifteen terms drawn from the lectures, of which they will be asked to identify only THREE. Again, students are to select only THREE TERMS to identify. Any terms identified beyond that will be ignored. Each identified term will be worth up to five points, for a total of fifteen points on this part of the exam.

In indentifying terms students are expected to explain WHO or WHAT the term is, WHEN the term took place historically, WHERE the term fits geographical, and, most importantly, give the Historical Significance of the term. When describing the WHEN of a term, a student is not required to always give an exact date – centuries (such as 1600s, 1700s, etc.) or over all time periods (the Medieval Warm Period, the American Revolution, etc.) are acceptable.  When discussing the Historical Significance  of a term students should be sure to stress why the term is important to American history and place in context with other events, people, and historical processes we have discussed in class. Any answer that does not cover all of these points will lose points.

List of possible terms on the test is provided below

Part Two – Short Answer (10 points)

Students will be given between five and ten short answer questions, of which they will be asked to answer TWO. Again, students are only to answer TWO questions. Any questions answered beyond that will be ignored. Each question answered will be worth up to five points, for a total of ten points on this part of the exam.

Answers are expected to be between three to four paragraphs and answer all aspects of the question. Any answer that is either too short or fails to cover every aspect of the question will lose points.

Terms

 

Transportation revolution

Railroads

Communication revolution

The telegraph

Industrial Revolution

Factories

“cult of domesticity”

Lincoln’s Reconstruction Plan

Andrew Johnson

Radical Republicans

“Restoration”

The Black Codes

Radical Reconstruction

The 14th Amendment

Union Leagues

Sharecropping

“scalawags”

“carpetbaggers”

Redeemer Democrats

Klu Klux Klan

Colfax Massacre

Redemption

U.S. Grant

15th Amendment

Panic of 1873

Compromise of 1876

Transcontinental railroad

National brands

Second Industrial Revolution

“new” immigration

The corporation

“limited liability”

Vertical integration

Horizontal integration

Middle management

“Taylorism”

Holding companies

Wounded Knee

Dawes Act

The Social Question

Panic of 1893

Social Darwinism

Gospel of Wealth

Labor Unionism

The New South

Bourbon Democrats

“home rule”

Southern Transcontinental railroad

Poll taxes

Literacy tests

Jim Crow

Booker T. Washington

Atlanta Compromise

Ida B. Wells

Plessy v. Ferguson

 

Merger movement

Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890)

Interstate Commerce Act (1887)

Pendleton Act (1883)

Cooperative Movement

Grange & Framers’ Alliance

Populism

The People’s Party

“the Silver Question”

Election of 1896

Progressivism

The new middle class

Professionalization

The Social Gospel

Political Machines

The initiative

The referendum

Recall elections

City-managers

Women’s suffrage

Feminists

Materialists

19th Amendment

World War I

Committee on Public Information (CPI)

Espionage and Sedition Acts

“the return to normal”

Automobiles

Commercial Aviation

The telephone

The assembly line

“Fordism”

Electricity

The New Era

Consumer culture

Public amusements & mass entertainment

Coney Island

The New Woman

The flapper

The Great Migration

The Great Crash

Causes of the Great Depression

International debt crisis

The ordeal of the Great Depression

Depression culture

Herbert Hoover

Hoovervilles

Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC)

The New Deal

Franklin Roosevelt (FDR)

Countervailing power

The First Hundred Days

Emergency Banking Act

Glass-Steagal Act

FDIC

Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC)

Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA)

Rural Electrification Administration (REA)

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA)

Civil Works & Public Works Administrations

“American Liberty League”

Industrial unionism

Congress of Organizations (CIO)

Second New Deal;

Wagner Act

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)

Social Security Act

Court Packing Scheme

“Roosevelt Recession”

Fair Labor Standards Act

Syllabus – HIS 20 (Spring 2013)

HIS 20 – The American Nation: The Political and Social Development of a People

College Now – Bronx Community College – Summer 2013
Monday through Thursday – 9:30 to 11:30 am

Professor: Roy R. Rogers
royrichardrogers@gmail.com
http://royrogers.com/teaching

What does it mean to be an American? How did this meaning change over time? What were the experiences of immigrants to America? How did these experiences shape American history? What do past injustices in American society mean for Americans today? These are common but complex questions that shape our political dialogue. This course – by examining the historical experience of the United States – will get you thinking about these challenging issues. Starting with the first encounters between Native Americans and European empires and concluding with the election of Barack Obama, this course will provide you with the historical grounding necessary to be an informed citizen in America today.

Learning Goals
By the end of this course every student should:

  • Have a basic understanding of the narrative of American history from 1492 to the present.
  • Have a basic understanding of the role of immigration in the history of the Americas and United States.
  • Have improved their critical reading, writing, and thinking skills.
  • Have begun to think historically about the past and present circumstances.
  • Have a basic understanding of the college experience (academic and personal) and the expectations of college coursework.

 

Texts
The following texts are REQUIRED:

  • Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty! An American History 3rd Edition (New York, NY, W.W. Norton, 2011)

Additional reading materials will be handed out in class

All textbooks are property of the College Now program and must be returned at the end of the course.

 

Assignments & Grading
Your final grade will be calculated from the following breakdown:

  • 25% – Midterm Examination
  • 25% – Final Examination
  • 20% – Primary Source Analysis Papers
  • 20% – Homework
  • 10% – Class Participation

In-Class Requirements
For reach class meeting students will be expected to have read or watched all assigned material (sections of the textbook, primary source readings, etc.) and be fully prepared for discussion. Such class discussions make up an important part of students’ class participation grade.

In addition, students are expected to have completed – before class – any writing assignments or homework assigned for the class meeting. Such assignments are due at the very beginning of class.

Primary Source Analysis Papers
Students are required to complete THREE short (two to four page) detailed analyses of THREE different primary sources of the student’s choice. Primary sources many be selected from any primary source handed out by the instructor in class or in the course reading packet. If a student is unclear on what is an acceptable primary source for these assignments, please consult the instructor at any time.

In their analysis students are to address three elements. First, students are to outline the argument or position of their selected source. What is the author(s) attempting to say? What are they seeking to describe? Second, students are to contextualize the source under analysis. How does this source tie into the broader themes (immigration.) or events (the Columbian Exchange, etc.) discussed in this course. Third, and finally, students are to assess why the analyzed source was created. Why do you believe the author(s) of this source wrote what did they did? Did they hope to change a law? Promote a religion or ideology? Etc. Etc. In assessing why a source was created students should think critically about the both the content and context of a source to determine the purpose(s) of an author(s).

A detailed guide for completing these assignments will be handed out during the second week of the course and made available on the course website.

While students are to complete THREE primary source analyses, only TWO of the three completed assignments will impact a student’s final grade. The two completed assignments with the highest grade will be selected. If a student, however, does not complete all three primary source analysis a zero will be recorded for at least one of the two assignments.

Homework
Periodically students will be assigned short homework assignments (one to two pages) based on the assigned primary source readings and class discussions. These short papers are graded differently than other assignments in the course. Students can either received full credit (for completing all of the required elements of the assignment), half credit (for only completing only part of the assignment) or no credit (for not doing the assignment or not following directions).

Attendance
Attendance is required for every class meeting. Attendance will be taken during each class meeting to ensure this. If a student needs to miss class, the instructor must be notified in advance (in case of emergencies, before the following class meeting). To encourage attendance, students who miss no more than three (or fewer) classes will receive an additional five points on their final grade.

Examinations
There will be midterm and a final examination. The midterm will cover material from the first half of the course. The final will cover material from the second half of the course. The final exam is not comprehensive. Four class periods before each examination, a brief study guide will be handed out in class and made available on the course website.

Extra Credit
Extra credit will be made available on the midterm and final examinations.

 

Classroom Policies

In order to ensure that this class is a successful space for learning and critical dialogue, the following polices are in affect.

  • Plagiarism and academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Any assignment (even in part) found to be plagiarized will be marked as a failure (zero points). A second instance of plagiarism will result in automatic failure of the course. If students have ANY questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please come see (or e-mail) the instructor and/or consult the course website.
  • All work must be turned in to the instructor via hardcopy by the beginning of the class period on the date in which it is due (see schedule, below). Assignments will NOT be accepted via e-mail, except in cases of emergency. Due to the nature of a summer course, late work will NOT be accepted.
  • Cell phone usage and texting is forbidden in the classroom. If a student must use their cell phone because of an emergency situation, please let the instructor know before the beginning of class.
  • Laptop use is welcome, though only for class purposes or pursuits. Sadly, Facebooking is not a class pursuit.
  • There is no such thing as a stupid question. If a student is confused or unclear about any topic under discussion, please raise your hand and ask a question or come see the instructor after class.
  • Sexist, racist, or homophobic comments will not be tolerated in the classroom.
  • Students with learning or other disabilities should come to speak with the instructor, in private, either before or after class. Any and all disabilities can be accommodated, as long as the instructor is promptly informed.
  •  Students with family, work, legal, or financial issues that may affect their attendance or class performance should come speak to the instructor as soon as possible, to see if arrangements can be made.
  • Drinking beverages is welcome in class, but please no eating.

Class Schedule

JULY 8: Introduction
JULY 9: Europe & the Americas at 1492
JULY 10: The Columbian Exchange & the Origins of Trans-Atlantic Imperialism
JULY 11: Field Trip to AbelCine

JULY 15: Britain in the Americas
JULY 16: New World Slavery
JULY 17: The Imperial Crisis & the American Revolution
JULY 18: Creating a Republic [PRIMARY SOURCE ASSIGMENT 1 DUE]

JULY 22: MIDTERM EXAMINATION
JULY 23: Cultural, Economic, and Social Revolution in the New Nation
JULY 24: Secession, Civil War, and the Second American Revolution
JULY 25: Race, Labor, and Capital in a Reconstructed America

JULY 29: Progressive America, Jim Crow, & the New Era [PRIMARY SOURCE ASSIGNMENT 2 DUE]
JULY 30: The Ordeal of the American People – Depression, New Deals, & World Wars
JULY 31: Cold War America & the American High Tide
AUGUST 1: FIELD TRIP TO THE TENEMENT MUSEUM

AUGUST 5: The Joys & Agonies of the 1960s [PRIMARY SOURCE ASSIGNMENT 3 DUE]
AUGUST 6: The Lost Decade & the Reagan Revolution
AUGUST 7: The Neo-Liberal Moment
AUGUST 8: FINAL EXAMINATION

Some advice on how to prepare for your Oral Exam

I found the process of studying for my oral examination, over the course of the summer and fall of 2012, to be one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life – filled with stress dreams, anxious days, and more than a little stressed pacing. I was lucky enough to pass the exam with my sanity (somewhat) intact. To make this deeply unpleasant process a bit more open and less stressful for future generations of Graduate Center (GC) history Phd students (and perhaps graduate students at other programs as well) I thought I’d write down some of the “wisdom” I’ve acquired by virtue of making it through the damnable exam.

As always – your mileage may vary.

Before You Even Begin The Process

  • Apologize to your spouse/partner & family: Have people in your life that love you? Great! But you best apologize to them because you’re going to be a miserable bastard for the next several months – moody, unavailable, stressed. Best be up front about this now, instead of half-way through the process.

As You Choose Your Committee

  • Pick professors that you know: A good orals committee should consist of examiners that you know well and who know you. A big part of what made my exam a success was that my committee was made up of professors that I’d known and cultivated professional relationships with over my 2+ years at the GC. I had a friendly rapport with all five of them, which made staring across from them as they asked difficult questions much more pleasant than it could have been.

    Does your department have a famous professor that you barely know? While it may be a good idea to chat them up at the next departmental party, it is a bad idea to throw them on your orals committee.

  • Mine your colleagues for advice: By the time you reach your oral exam you should know at least a few students that are further along in the program. You simply must question them about their committee! Who did they have on theirs? What was their exam like? Where their any personality conflicts? Every graduate student loves to tell success stories and/or horror stories (sometimes these are the same story) about their graduate career, so don’t feel awkward about asking.Every department has its bad citizens – those who fight with their fellow examiners, ask off-list questions, refuse to offer advice about the process, etc. etc. You need to keep these people as far away from your committee as possible. The only way to do that is to milk the collective wisdom of your department.

As You Write Your Lists

  • There are two basic ways to organize your lists: You can organize them “chronologically” or “thematically.” A chronological list would have chronological headings (such as “the Great Society” or “the New Deal”) with three or four books under each. For an example: see my 20th century American history reading list. I found this type of list very helpful in examination fields where I wasn’t a complete master of the various different topical historiographies. Selecting books this way gave me much more breadth and depth about each subject and has helped alot with my teaching.

    A thematic list would be organized under two or three thematic headings (such as “slavery” or “religion”) with a dozen or more books under each. For an example: see my colonial & revolutionary America reading list. This approach allows you to tailor your list to your interests and provides a lot of depth. However, things are left off (for example there was very little discussion of Native Americans on the linked list).Each approach, I think, is valid and serves different purposes. Some examiners will like a deep “thematic” approach while others will want more chronological coverage. Make sure you consult close with each examiner before setting your heart to any one approach.

  • Novelty is your enemy: About 1/2 of the books on your lists should be books that you’ve encountered over the entirety of your coursework and your own secondary research. Do not just throw a book on your list because it is “new” or (even worse) a classic that you’ve always wanted to read. You have a lot of historiography to master and, most importantly,  keep straight over a relatively short period of time. Just throwing interesting books on your lists willy-nilly is a recipe for disaster. Carefully consider each book you put on your list – for its place in the historiography, its relationship to other books on the list, its length, your scholarly interest in the subject, etc. This will save you many headaches and, possibly, heartbreak as you begin studying.
  • Take a look at your colleagues’ lists: This will give you a good sense of what your department is looking for in a reading list. It is also especially helpful for subject matter(s) you will be largely mastering while you are studying. For example, my European intellectual history reading list was heavily influenced by (read: borrowed from) a colleague’s list. The most examples you have the better.

When You Are Studying

  • Come up with a plan and/or a schedule: It really helps to come up with a basic schedule – X number of weeks on subject A, Y number of days on subject B, etc. – and plan of attack. It should be flexible and open ended but it is beyond helpful to have a general plan even before you crack open your first book.
  • Be prepared to adjust the plan: Shit is going to happen. You are going to get sick. Your spouse is going to get sick. The weather is going to be beyond perfect one day. You are desperately  going to need a drink at some point or another. All of this going to be ok. Life will happen. You’ll need to adjust the plan. By expecting shit to hit the fan, it won’t slow you down as much when life gets in between you and your sack of books.
  • Start with what you know, finish with what you’re unfamiliar with: Once you begin studying start with the subject/fields that you know and love the most. I started with my colonial/revolutionary American list. This way you begin this long, miserable process with subjects that you care deeply about and have already done a lot of work on. Finish up your studying with subjects that you didn’t know well going into the exam or had difficulty with in the past. That way the subject is “freshest” in your mind as your enter the examination room. I finished my studying with my European intellectual history list, and let me tell you, that was the right call.
  • You must appreciate quantity over quality when it comes to your reading: The fundamental goal of studying for your oral examination is to get through all of the books. Now is not the time to be reading these books for their artistic or writerly value. You need to understand each book’s basic argument, evidentiary base, place in the historiography and move on to the next one in the stack. If you are spending more than a couple of days on any one book you’re going to find yourself rapidly running out of time. However you read before you began studying, you are going to have to become  big-time utilitarian while preparing for your oral exam.

    Studying for this exam is like being a shark – you must constantly move forward or you will drown.

  • Create a study group: Depending on the size of your program there will likely be two or three other people taking their examination roughly at the same time you are. It would be beyond helpful if you formed some kind of study group with them – even if their have largely different lists from your own. The value of having other folks to bounce ideas off, to quiz you on historiography, and bitch about all this stress cannot acknowledged enough. I would not have passed my exam without the help of my two friends who also took the exam that same semester.
  • Meet with your committee: Over the course of your studies you should meet with each committee member at least twice. It is important that you get a good sense of what their expectations are for you on the day of the exam. What sort of answers are they looking for? What advice to they have about studying? What do they think are the key historiographies to master?

    If they are open to it, you should also try to get each examiner to do a test runthrough of their portion of the exam. This will significantly cut down on the stress  of actual day of the exam and will get your “botched” attempts out of the way. It certainly did that for me.

  • Book reviews are your friend: There are just going to be some books on your lists that you won’t understand or be able to historiographically place or some historiographies that you simply can’t master despite your best efforts or, horror upon horror, a book or two your university library will refuse to deliver to you. In these (and other cases) book reviews are your lifesaver. While short books reviews can be helpful it is most useful to look at reviews in publications that support longer (or longish) pieces – such as the William & Mary Quarterly or Reviews in American History. Book reviews, with all honestly, will save you when times get tough.

On The Day of the Exam

  • Make sure you get enough sleep: You don’t want to be half-asleep while you are supposed to be rapidly firing off answers to trick historiographical questions.
  • Show up early: You don’t want to begin your exam sweaty as hell from having to run from the subway to the department in five minutes flat.
  • Don’t panic: It may feel like this as you enter the examination room but before you know it will feel like this.
  • Have a drink (or two): After you’ve passed the exam, of course. 🙂

If you’ve made it this far this wall of text, hopefully something from the above will be able to help you pull through. May the Force be with you!