Fall 1999, Th 5:30 – 8:10, 415 PH
Dr P. S. Leighton
Office: 712 Pray Harrold, x 0194 Hours: M Th 3:30 – 5:30 & by
Please feel free to approach me & ask a question when I am in the Mudd
House coffee shop, or drop me an e-mail
This class was designed to provide a forum for starting to discuss many of
the issues concerning high levels of violence in society in a way that will not
foster student alienation, cynicism or depression. In fact, many profess the
belief that social change begins with yourself, so the first task is to examine
the morality of inflicting suffering and death in a wide variety of contexts
from abortion to poverty to the environment. (Students are not required to
believe any specific positions on these issues; the exercise is to discuss
personal ethics and reason through a consistent position.) Since one recurring
response to violence is increased use of capital punishment, this seminar will
address whether we should respond to violence by taking another life and the
justice of how we do so. A third set of topics relate to violence as
entertainment, including the effects of media violence and what – other than
censorship – can be done. Given the closeness of this seminar to the year
2000, we will also be examining apocalyptic violence and millennium rage, which
could provide an unfortunate backdrop to the semester. Lastly, the seminar will
review a wide range of possible constructive responses to mass violence – from
truth commissions to war crime trials.
- Sister Helen Prejean. Dead Man Walking. Vintage. 0679751319
- Peter Singer. Practical Ethics, 2nd ed. Cambridge U
- Phil Lamy. Millennium Rage. Plenum. 0306454092.
- Sissela Bok. Mayhem: Violence as Public Entertainment. Perseus
- Martha Minnow. Between vengeance & Forgiveness. Beacon.
- Grossman. On Killing. Little, Brown & Co. 0316330116.
- Diaz. Making A Killing: The Business of Guns. New Press.
- Moeller. Compassion Fatigue. Routledge. 0415920973.
- 30% Attendance & Participation (including regular papers)
- 10% Paper on Singer
- 10% Death Penalty paper
- 50% Term Project
- 20% Links
- 5% Commentary
- 25% Storyboard
Regular papers should be about one full typewritten page that contains
two or three of the quotes from the reading you found most provocative along
with several sentences of commentary about that quote that interested you. The
narrative with the quote can also include any questions you had as you were
reading. The idea of this paper is to ensure students have done the reading and
some level of reflection on it as preparation for class. Thus, it is important
to have them ready at the start of class and turn them in ON TIME. As the
quality of this seminar rests on participation and everyone is expected to be a
co-teacher, attendance is crucial.
Paper on Singer should be 3-5 pages on a topic where you found yourself
in strongest disagreement with Singer on a major topic. Concisely and accurately
state his argument, then review a thoughtful article that takes a similar view,
but elaborates on Singer (many of these can be found in the Notes, references
& Further Reading at the end of the book). State your principled
disagreement with their position, making sure to provide supporting arguments
and evidence where necessary (and drawing on additional research to support your
position if you would like). The idea is to challenge yourself to learn the
other side of an important moral question that involves violence, suffering and
Death penalty paper: You are the head of a Pardons Board hearing the
clemency petition of a condemned man. This will be your last case before you set
down, so you feel total freedom to speak your mind and do what you believe is
right. In the first two pages, lay down your opinion about what should be done
in the Robert Willie case and why. Make sure to deal with the basic issue of the
legitimacy of capital punishment as laid out in Dead Man Walking:
"if we believe that murder is wrong and not admissible in our society, then
it has to be wrong for everyone, not just individuals but governments as well…
subject as [they are] to every imaginable form of inefficiency and
corruption" (p 130). In the next 3-4 pages, invent questions from people at
the hearing and answer them. Question come from: Sister Helen Prejean, the
District Attorney, the Defense Attorney, the victim’s family and the condemned
man’s family. There are no shortage of difficult and penetrating questions
with respect to murder and capital punishment – make sure they are reflected
in your paper rather than fluff questions with easy answers.
The term project is put to together a packet of information about
violence that can be used to build an web page – one that I will take final
responsibility for assembling with the appropriate software, but for which the
class will be identified as contributing the work. There will be several stages
to this final project.
1. On 11/4, everyone needs to turn in a list of 10 – 15 quality
internet sites. Links to good critical analysis of violence in society is
acceptable, but an emphasis on solutions is better still. Good topics include,
but are not limited to: conflict resolution, mediation, non-violence education,
restorative justice, peacemaking and non-repressive responses to school
violence. For each link, your paper should include the address of the site, the
title or name of the site, and a one paragraph description of what is in it.
(Since you will be discussing what is in a site, please do list the same site
more than once.) On this day, you will be responsible for bringing a copy of
your paper for each member of class, so everyone has the chance to see what is
out there and start to think about how to put it together into a usable web
page. If you cannot be here on this day, make sure I receive enough copies of
your paper to distribute. Late papers will be penalized.
2. On 11/18, everyone needs to come to class with a 2-3 page paper with
enough copies to share with the entire class. This paper should (1) give some
thoughts and commentary on the collection of links reported by the class –
what seems good, are there some irrelevant links, should we try to expand in
certain areas, etc? (2) identify some of the basic issues that need to be
considered in designing a web page (eg audience, navigability, etc). I’d
suggest consulting some of the information at
3. On 12/16, your part of the final project is due. You should turn in a
package to me that includes:
a diskette, labeled with your name, containing a file bearing your
last name in which is an electronic copy of the links [address, title
and description]. Please do not turn in your entire packet on
diskette – just the links.
a paper copy of the file on your diskette
a copy of the 2-3 page paper you wrote for 11/18
a paper addressing your final thoughts on the main considerations
about web page design and your conception of how all the information
will be arranged. I will share with you a ‘storyboard’ for a web
page, but the basic idea is to indicate what the opening page would say
and what links it would contain. For each link from page one, describe
what information that page will contain and what links, etc. The
storyboard is a way of creating an outline and using subheadings to
organize information, just in a way that’s appropriate to a web page
rather than a linear paper (with pages 1 – 10).
The idea of this final paper is to turn in all the components so that they
can be most efficiently turned into a quality web page. So, following the
directions above is important and deviations will be penalized. To this end, the
links and the commentary on them should be concise, helpful, informative, with
proper grammar, spelling and syntax. As passing on a computer virus is both rude
and potentially quite destructive, anyone who has a virus on the diskette they
give me will be docked a letter grade on their final project. The storyboard
will not be graded on graphic design, but on an understanding of the important
issues to consider when trying to organize information in non-linear forms and
creating a knowledge or information architecture that reflects those principles.
Finally, education involves not just getting a degree but a search for truth,
which requires honesty and personal integrity. Thus, students at all times will
behave in accordance with EMU’s policy on Academic Integrity forbidding
such activities as plagiarism, fraud, cheating and knowingly assisting another
student who is engaged in one of these acts. Penalties can affect both your
grade in this class and your continued presence at the university.
SCHEDULE OF CLASSES & READING
Sept 2 Introduction & Greeting
Sept 9 Singer 1 – 4
Regular weekly paper due. Make sure to list the interests Singer means when
he refers to ‘equal consideration of interests’
Sept 16 Singer 5 - 8
Regular weekly paper due
Sept 23 Singer 9 – 12 & Appendix
Regular weekly paper due ; Singer paper due
Sept 30 Bok, Part 1; Prejean, ch 1 - 2
Regular weekly paper due
Oct 7 Prejean, ch 3 - 5
Regular weekly paper due. In addition, explore the information that interests
Write up a page or so about what you found and be prepared to share this
information with the class.
Oct 14 Prejean, ch 7 – 10
Regular weekly paper due.
Recommended: United Nations Report of the Special Rapporteur on
Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions
Oct 21 Prejean, finish; Bok, finish
Regular weekly paper due ; Death penalty paper due
Oct 28 Lamy 1 – 3
Regular weekly paper due. In addition, do a search on the internet using a
key word like: Revelations, apocalypse, or eschatology (final events in
history). Describe what you find, with special attention to what counts as
evidence or signs & what’s going to happen.
Nov 4 Lamy 4 - 6
Regular weekly paper due; Stage 1 of term project due (bring enough copies
for everyone in the class).
Nov 11 Lamy 7 - 9
Regular weekly paper due
Nov 18 Lamy, finish
Regular weekly paper due; stage 2 of term project due (bring enough copies
for everyone in the class).
Nov 25 THANKSGIVING
Dec 2 Minow, ch 1 - 4
Regular weekly paper due
Dec 9 Minow, finish
Regular weekly paper due; visit the Dept of Energy’s Human Radiation
Experiment Site. Write up a page or so about the experiments focusing on your
reaction to how the Dept of Energy’s openness negotiates the ground between
vengeance and forgiveness.
(I would suggest the ‘roadmap’ as your next stop).
Dec 16 FINAL DUE