Northern Illinois University

          Department of Political Science

                        Spring 2009

                  Political Science 355 - African- American Political Thought

                                                         DU – 461

                                                Tuesday 6:30-9:10 PM

 

Instructor: Bertrand J. Simpson, Jr. Esq.

Office: Swen Parson 151

Phone:  753-9487

E-mail: bsimpson@niu.edu

 

Office Hours: Tuesday  & Thursday

2:30- 4:30pm and by Appointment

 

Course Objectives:

 

  1. To introduce students to the disputes and disagreements that have developed the African-American relationship to American political discourse;

 

  1. To introduce students to the questions and issues that important political ideas play in African-American political life;

 

  1. To help and encourage students to read, think, discuss, and write intelligently, analytically, and critically about African-American social and political discourse, in particular, and the larger American social and political dynamic, in general;

 

  1. To help and encourage students to develop an appreciation for intellectual inquiry, and the search for real knowledge; and to recognize the impact that the pursuit of these two will have on their ideas and judgment;

 

  1. To help and encourage students to develop the ability to relate ideas, knowledge, and modes of thought across traditional academic boundaries.

 

 

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to African-American political and social ideas. Through critical examination of some of the major expressions of that discourse, we hope to arrive at some better understanding of the principles, goals, and strategies developed by African-American men and women.

      Political thought is the practice of theoretical, philosophical, or ideological construction that attempts to say something meaningful about how individuals and groups organize and conduct their lives. African American political ideas reflect an attempt to construct an African American identity and community in response to historical and contemporary structures and processes, which are a result of America’s national character, political culture, and institutional practice.

 

                                                            Text

 

All students are required to purchase their own copy of: (1) W.E.B. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk, (2) Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, (3) Cornel West, Race Matters, (4) Shelby Steele, The Content of Our Character.

 

 

 

 

 

Course Schedule

 

The Week of 1/12 Introduction: What is a liberal education, and how is it fostered by the study of African American political thought? What are the political and social forces, in America, that have shaped the experience of the African Diaspora? What are the major themes and issues that are presented by the readings? What lessons are to be learned from the results of the political and social striving of African-Americans, during the 19th and 20th centuries that may be of use to us in the 21st century?

 

The Weeks of 1/19,1/26.2/2 W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk

 

The Weeks of 2/9, 2/16 2/23, Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

 

The Weeks of 3/2, 3/16, 3/23, Cornel West, Race Matters

 

The Weeks of 3/30, 4/6, Shelby Steele, The Content of Our Character

 

The Weeks of 4/13, 4/20, 4/27, Oral Presentations

 

                                                Policies and Expectations

 

  1. Classroom behavior.  Courtesy and regard for one another should guide classroom behavior. Students are expected to be in class when class begins. Please do not come late to class. Lateness is inconsiderate and disruptive. The instructor will be on time. Please pay him the same courtesy. If it becomes necessary, students who come late may be barred from class. Occasional lapses can happen to anyone and will be over looked presuming an explanation and apology are presented after class.

 

Students are expectance to be attentative to lecture and discussion. Students, who sleep, read the newspaper, persistently talk with other students or are otherwise inattentive to the lecture and discussion will be asked to leave the class and will be subject to being administratively dismissed from the course at the instructor’s request. TURN OFF ALL ELECTRONIC DEVICIESES OF ANY KIND DURING CLASS!!!

 

  1. Attendance. Attendance at each class is both expected and required. Attendance will be taken at all classes after the first day. Being in attendance is operationally defined as being present when attendance is taken at the beginning of class and remaining until class is dismissed. A student will receive 10 points, towards the final grade, for each class attended, and will loose 10 points for each class missed.

 

  1. Class Preparation. The best way to prepare for each class is to do the readings at least once (some require more than one reading) prior to the first day we begin each unit. You will be much better able to participate in and grasp the class discussion if you have done so.

 

  1. Class Participation.  The proper kind of participation in the class is expected, required and rewarded. Participation means that students demonstrate that they are trying to understand the arguments being made both in the readings and in the lectures, by asking questions or making comments that show problems with the arguments and by responding to questions which the instructor raises. Some classes will be mainly lecture and discussion. Others will involve reading and discussing passages from the readings. It is important that you understand the sort of participation expected because some students think that merely talking fulfills this expectation. It does not. The kind of talking that does is that which fulfills the purposes of participation which are threefold: 1) to enable students to raise questions concerning the meaning of the lectures which show that they are following the arguments being made enough to see the difficulties: 2) to show that they have read the text before coming to class and seen enough to identify things that they do not understand or that seem not to “make sense”: 3) to relate different arguments, passages and insights from both texts and lectures to each other. The kind of participation that is expected is one which shows that you are trying to understand what the whole picture looks like, what each part looks like, and how the parts fit into that whole.

 

  1. Grading. Final course grades are based on all of the required work, the regularity and quality of class participation and on attendance. Beginning with the week of January 19 thru the week of April 6 there will be a test at the start of each class; these tests will consist of one short answer question concerning the material covered in the last class meeting, before the test itself. There will also be a final exam, at the scheduled time and place. In addition each student will also be required to make a 5- 10-minute oral presentation to the class pertaining to some aspect or idea chosen from the assigned readings. Your presentation will be graded on weather or not it contributes to your class mates understanding of the material.   The instructor MUST approve the subject of the presentation the week before it is presented. Although the instructor does not give a formal grade or assign a specific percentage of the final grade for class participation, he reserves the right to raise a student’s final grade, if he judges a particular student’s participation to have been exceptionally good. Grades are not lowered merely for lack of active participation. An “A” grade in the class requires regular evidence of having read and seen relationships among parts of the text; raising questions about what the text seems to mean or whether what it seems to mean makes sense, either in itself or in relations to the text’s apparent meaning elsewhere. It also helps to be able to answer, both thoughtfully and to the point, questions put by the professor. Comments not germane to the topic under discussion are discouraged. STUDENTS WILL BE EXPECTED TO BE COMPLETELY CONVERSANT WITH ALL OF THE VOCABULARY PRESENTED BY THE READINGS. MAKE UP EXAMS WILL NOT BE ALLOWED!!!

 

        THE FINAL EXAM WILL BE MAY 5, 2009, FROM 6:00-7:50, IN DU. 461

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Martin L. King Jr.

                                          “ The Purpose of Education”

                                                    Morehouse College

                                                              1948

 

It seems to me that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of men in society: the one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.

Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half-truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point in time, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people does not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and facts from fiction.

The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education, which stops with efficiency, may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals….

Intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living…

 

“ POLITICS IS THE ART OF THE POSSIBLE ”

 

“ MAN IS BY NATURE A POLITICAL ANIMAL ”

 

“ I DON’T MEASURE AMERICA BY ITS ACIVEMENTS, BUT BY ITS POTENTIAL ”

 

“ ONLY THE EDUCATED ARE FREE ”

 

“ EDUCATIONS PURPOSE IS TO REPLACE AN EMPTY MIND WITH AN OPEN ONE ”

 

“ TO AQUIRE KNOWLWDGE ONE MUST STUDY, BUT TO AQUIRE WISDOM, ONE MUST OBSERVE ”

 

“ THEREFORE LET US PRESS ON AND PERSEVERE. THERE REMAINS MORE ON THE ROAD AHEAD, THAN WE PUT BEHIND US; BUT THE GREATER PART OF PROGRESS IS THE DESIRE TO PROGRESS ”

 

“ THERE IS AN ON GOING DEBATE WITHIN THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY OVER THE APPORRIATE STRATEGIES AND TACTICS TO ACHIVE SOCIAL CHANGE”