Anderson Issues

Commentary on the Zeitgeist

Contemporary Issues

Mr. Earhart

Phone: (512)-841-1590,

Room: 235


Website: htttp://

Grading The instructor reserves the right to alter the grading policy. 


Attendance (50%)  Some folks say that half of life is just showin’ up.  Contemporary Issues will side with said folks.  I can’t dock for excused absences, but unexcused absences will result in a grade reduction of 5% for each day missed.  This 5% will be applied to the attendance portion of your grade, which counts as ½ of your grade.  Basically, your overall grade will be lowered 2.5% for each unexcused absence (three tardies equal an absence).

Six Weeks Projects (20%) Every six weeks a project will be assigned.  Don’t flip out.  These projects may be a bit challenging, but most will be enjoyable.  Significant class time will be allocated for project development.

Website Interaction (15%) Students are required to be active contributors to the “Anderson Issues” website.  Active contribution entails consistently monitoring the website and commenting on posts when a student feels compelled to do such.  Additionally, students are required to generate a post once per six weeks.  This post will be assessed via a rubric, and will account for 10% of a student’s grade.  Students will be encouraged to post frequently, but ALL students must post at least once per six weeks for assessment purposes.  Additionally, students are responsible for at least one SUBSTANTIVE comment PER WEEK.

Participation (10%)  This grade is subject to the instructor’s discretion.  If the instructor asks a student to read an assignment, post a comment on the CI Blog, watch a film, work in a small group, etc.; the student must do it.  There will be no numerical grades assigned to a worksheet that goes with a reading, a written review of a film, a Socratic seminar on a political issue, etc.  A participation grade is assigned for being… well… “participatory”.  Once again, this course is not a gotcha’ game.  But if a student wishes to sit in Contemporary Issues and do her math homework or text, said student will lose 10% points (of the participation grade) for doing such on each occurrence.  Basically, for each occurrence, a student will sacrifice 1% of her six weeks grade.

Cultural Events (5%)  Each student will be expected to attend AT LEAST one pre-approved cultural event each six week grading period.  The instructor has the ultimate authority to accept or reject student choices of cultural events as credit worthy, and the instructor has similar authority in evaluating documentation and proof of student attendance at approved cultural events.

With the above being said, let it be clear that the instructor is not out to play a sadistic game of gotcha’!  The purpose of this course is to challenge, accentuate, and develop a student’s cultural literacy.  Students will be encouraged to attend a variety of cultural events.  Additionally students will be required to attend events that expand upon and heighten their cultural literacy.  An example:

If a student is already a “regular” at the Blanton Art Museum and never misses an exhibit, this student will be required to attend a different cultural event for course credit.       

 Semester Final (25% of semester grade): Each semester a project will be assigned, and this project will count as the semester final. These projects are comprehensive and will require significant work.  That said, these projects are designed to teach students to navigate the modern media (1st semester) and to become civically competent in relation to the electoral process (2nd semester).  These projects will be useful.

Remember, this class has no textbooks, tests, quizzes, or rigid curriculum.  Let’s have a great year and abide by the only rule for this course: have an insatiable, intellectual curiosity.

 If you’re curious as to where we are headed over the course of the year.  Below you’ll find a tentative schdule.  This schedule will change many times, but, at the very least, the focus of the six-week grading period should remain.  it’s encouraged that you read-up on issues prior to and during course time allocated to said issues.  Hopefully, this schedule will help you in that pursuit.

1st Six Weeks

  • The Media

○     A course on Contemporary Issues would be remiss if it failed to address the current state of the media.  We will begin our course by exploring productive avenues for analysis of all things current, with a significant exploration of the troubles facing modern journalism’s evolution in a digital world.  Your semester final will be assessed in the form of a project that requires one to follow a current issue through varied news sources over a period of time.

  • Legacy of 9/11 and US Foreign Policy in relation to the Middle East

○     As we approach the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, we will examine the impact this historic event has had, and continues to have, on the world in which we live. The significance of 9/11 cannot be overemphasized when examining US foreign policy (and, for that matter, domestic policy) in the last decade.  America continues to partake in two wars (Afghanistan and Iraq), as well as meddle in the developments of several Middle Eastern countries.  To delve into this topic, we will have to take a moment to examine the historic relations of Israel and her neighbors, and the recent populist movements in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and a host of other countries that have had more limited success in their attempts to overthrow (or receive concessions in the form of democratic reforms from) oppressive regimes.

Tentative Schedule of Topics

  1. Intro to Course,  Anderson Issues, Twitter
  2. Intro to Mr. Earhart, 1st Six Weeks Project, and Anderson Issues (cont.)
  3. Film: Unknown White Male
  4. Finish Film via Slate article, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Heroification
  5. Intro to the Media: Economist Article, Vice Travel Guide to Liberia: Opportunity Cost of Sensationalist Journalism
  6. Searching for the Roots of 9/11
  7. Israel and the Arabs
  8. Afghanistan: Guest Speaker, Derrick Crowe of Rethink Afghanistan
  9. Follow-up discussion on Derrick Crowe and Afghanistan (4 Corners)
  10. Intro to Iraq via Heavy Metal in Baghdad
  11. Finish Film; Current state of Iraq
  12. Tunisia and Egypt
  13. Libya, Lions, Tigers, and Bears
  14. Intro to Mix-Tape Project via Mr. Earhart’s Autobiographical Journey into Music
  15. Film: Instrument       

2nd Six Weeks

  • Life and Liberty

○     Those pesky founding fathers just had to include diametrically opposing principles in our founding documents.  So we’ll spend time delving into those hot button issues that continue to trouble our populace.  Topics to be addressed include the death penalty, abortion, gay marriage/civil unions, and physician assisted suicide.  Sparks are sure to fly this six weeks!

Tentative Schedule

  1. Jefferson, Mason, and Madison: The Consequences of Word Choice
  2. Intro to the Death Penalty and Begin Film: At the Death House Door
  3. Finish Film w/ Discussion
  4. Abortion (4 Corners)
  5. Guest Speaker?
  6. Gay Marriage and Civil Unions (4 Corners)
  7. Physician Assisted Suicide: Film: How to Die in Oregon
  8. Finish Film w/ Discussion
  9. War on Drugs – History and 4 Corners
  10. Computer Lab Time to Finalize Semester Project
  11. Computer Lab Time to Finalize Semester Project
  12. Final Day of Preparation for Semester Project Showcase
  13. Semester Project Showcase – Gallery Event in Library

 3rd Six Weeks

  •  Rights and Responsibilities:  The Individual v. The Greater Good

○     This six weeks we’ll examine the role of government in relation to fiscal policy and humanitarian issues.  Long after their deaths, the dueling philosophies of Smith and Marx continue to haunt our political discourse.  We must weigh the freedom of the individual against the needs of the many – and decisions must be made.

  1. What is the role of government?  Group Activity, Marx v. Smith,  FDR’s Four Freedoms
  2. Welfare and Health Care
  3. Guest Speaker: What is Obamacare?
  4. Follow-up Discussion on Obamacare and Healthcare/Welfare
  5. The Current Recession: What happened?   The Housing Bubble.
  6. Debt, Taxes, and Income Inequality (The Problems)
  7. The Corporation via The Company Men
  8. Finish Film w. Discussion
  9. Case Study: IBM and the Holocaust
  10. The Earhart-Crabtree Economic Conundrum
  11. Where does all of this stuff come-from?  Where does it go?  The Lorax: What happened to the moral lessons of all those children’s books we read?
  12. Manufactured Landscapes
  13. Finish Film: Discuss Environmental and Humanitarian Consequences Consumption
  14. Guest Speaker: Libertarian Party Representative

 4th Six Weeks

  • Politics, Politics, Politics

○     Last year’s CI students left specific feedback that expressed frustration with the amount of political coverage in this course.  Students argued that too much time was spent in examining the complexities of the American political system.  I’ll do my best to make my presentation of politics more engaging, but I must point-out that one cannot merely debate the legal and ethical issues of health care, abortion, the death penalty, etc., without spending some time on methods for social action in relation to these ideological issues.  I understand student frustrations with politics; for lack of better phrasing: politics sucks.  Politics often seems to be a rather destructive force, running counter to the purpose of governments role of serving the interests of its citizens.  But we can’t ignore the system we have in place, and, if we wish to change this absurd system, we must first understand it.  Luckily for us, the most significant political event in our modern system will be occurring during the 4th and 5th six weeks: the primary.   And your semester project (which will count as 30% of yur semester grade) will involve following a primary race and reporting its results.  Doggett v. Castro should provide plenty of fireworks.

  • Crimes Against Humanity

○     This six weeks we will explore the dark side of humanity, taking a glance at some of the more egregious acts of the 20th Century and the modern world.  Topics to be addressed include genocide, human trafficking, school shootings, and the violence  currently plaguing Northern Mexico.

Tentative Schedule

  1. The Political Spectrum, Introduction to The Onion Project
  2. Problems with our Current Political System
    1. HowtoTurnRepublicansandDemocratsintoAmericans by Mickey Edwards
    2. Chunk the Article
  3. Gerrymandering and other issues (Guest Speaker)
  4. Introduction to Semester Project and Computer Lab research
  5. Computer Lab Research (cont.)
  6. Historic Episodes of Genocide
  7. Night and Fog and Police Battalion 101
  8. Power of the Situation: The Psychology of the Holocaust
  9. Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship by Hannah Arendt
  10. Human Trafficking Intro
    1. Film: Born Into Brothels
  11. Finish Film w/ Discussion
  12. Northern Mexico and the Cartels: Defining the Problems
    1. Tamaulipas Incident
  13. Immigration – Film: Which Way Home
  14. Finish Film w/ Discussion
  15. War on Drugs – History and 4 Corners
  16. Northern Mexico and the Cartels: Solutions
  17. School Shootings
    1. Charles Whitman and the UT Tower Incident
    2. Columbine: Harris and Kleibold
  18. Culture and Guns
    1. Bowling for Columbine
  19. Finish Film w/ Discussion

 5th Six Weeks

  • Education – Education Policy  – State Board, Teachers, Structure of School(s)

  • Race, Ethnicity and Gender – Protest Song Project –

    • 4 Corners – Socio Economic Status is the most significant indicator of student performance.
    • Barry and Breakthrough
    • Donna Houser
    • Little Rock High School: 50 Years Later
    • Austin Segregation Lesson
    • Race and Ethnicity and Gender6th – Who knows?  Solutions?  P“`hilosophy?  What can I do?  What can you do?  “Ideas Without Action are Worthless” says Helen Keller.

 6th Six Weeks: So What?

One Response to “Contemporary Issues”

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