Ecology and social change


Peter Taylor

Freshman writing seminar (S&TS/ B&Soc 114)
Spring 1995.

The central question of this seminar is: What ecological and social principles can guide our interventions (with)in nature? Students begin with a research and advocacy paper of their own choosing. Subsequent readings, writing assignments and discussions will be designed in the light of the proposals presented and how students argue for them. In order to revise the original papers and develop students╣ thinking, we will examine fundamental ecological ideas, e.g., webs of interconnection, stability and disturbance, and social ideas, e.g., society, crisis, mankind, self-interest. We will consider the ways these ideas have been drawn into discussions of issues related to the environment, e.g., desertification, rainforest destruction, global warming, economic growth, and colonialism. In the last part of the course students will return to their research projects, rework their papers, and make a public presentation.

Texts: Elbow, P. (1981). Writing with power. New York: Oxford University Press -- Campus store or Triangle Bookstore.

Assessment: Written assignments and revisions 75%
Class participation and presentations 25%

All assignments and revisions with my comments must be kept and submitted as a "portfolio" with the final paper. The lowest fifth of the grades will be dropped.

The course is intended to be co-operative and involves lots of in-class writing-related exercises, so attendance is required for all classes. Each unexplained absence above the first two will drop the participation grade two points.

Course process
The course will consist of several strands (subject to revision):
1. Directed freewriting (usually first 10 minutes of class) and other in-class, "low stakes" writing.
2. Exploration of writing issues and tools, informed by Elbow's book (the focus of Tuesday classes).
3. Research projects and research/ advocacy papers (the focus of Thursday classes in the first and third parts of the semester) = "high stakes" writing.
4. Middle third of course: readings, writing assignments and discussions designed in the light of the proposals presented in the first version of the papers.
5. Workbooks (the use of these will be explained in class).
6. Compilation of a class list of writing issues and solutions (contributed by students; emailed to me).
7. Compilation and revision of a list of themes or "heuristics" for thinking about ecology and social change.
8. Class presentations by students (some scheduled; some volunteered on the spot).
9. Peer groups, established in week 3, in which to share your work and criticize that of the others. These will meet regularly at scheduled times.
10. One-on-one conferences with me.
11. On-going evaluation of the course. (Although I have taught this seminar before the readings and the format are quite different this time. I see teaching writing as an on-going learning experience/ experiment, and I expect students to be my co-learners/teachers.)