Skip Navigation
UT wordmark
College of Liberal Arts wordmark
plan2 masthead
Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2009

T C 357 • Managing Human Differences in an Adversarial World - W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
42840 M
5:00 PM-8:00 PM
CRD 007A
Perlmutter

Course Description

People are easy to get along with until two or more of us get together. From boudoir to boardroom, from war room to courtroom, managing human differences is an omnipresent and enduring challenge. Too often, when dealing with conflicting beliefs, wants and aspirations, humans default to adversarialismCin law, international relations, business, politics, and even religion. So pervasive is the aggressive mindset, according to Deborah Tannen, that American society has become the Aargument culture. Yet, as we've seen in the recent presidential election, even the best cooperative intentions can be obliterated by the argument culture; sometimes we must fight fire with fire to avoid being consumed. This course will help you make the choice of whether to cooperate or to compete and improve your ability to do both.

Because managing human differences is multifaceted, we'll delve into psychology, communication, game theory, logic, complexity and chaos for insights on the operation, costs and benefits of the strategies we pursue in dealing with our differences.

To address our Aargument culture, it's not enough to advise others on what they must do: we've all got to get better. For that reason, while it is valuable and perhaps most comfortable to engage in detached exploration, you will not be allowed to stop there. You will be challenged to not only engage your intellect but to explore your whole self as you relate to the readings and to your classmates. Through immersion in games, exercises, and discussions, you will experience the principles about which you will be reading.

There is nothing more critical to managing differences than your ability to communicate, both orally and in writing. For that reason, we'll have two individual oral presentations and one group presentation. You'll learn how to communicate more powerfully than you've previously imagined, and, if need be, to overcome the natural anxiety that accompanies oral presentations.

This class will be limited to 15 students and, if there's full enrollment, will be divided into groups of three students. Some of your graded work will be a group product. What better way to explore human differences than to participate in group activities in which you must take advantage of your diversity without letting it become a hindrance?

This course will also require that you have the courage to be honest and emotionally vulnerable. If you can't do that, this is not the course for you. Please discuss any personal reservations with the professor before enrolling.

This course is approved as a substantial writing component course.

Grading Policy

I hope you will find my description of the course requirements to be clear, sensible, and humane. They are designed to make clear my expectations, to encourage your best work in all aspects of the course, and to avoid destructive competition among class members and promote a mutually supportive learning environment.

Class attendance and participation. Because the most important lessons of this course will arise from your actual experience in class, if you miss more than two classes you will presumptively fail. The only exceptions will be where all of your absences are both approved and made up. Approval will be given only if the reasons for absences rise to the level of your illness or death of loved ones, or for interscholastic competitions. If you have a question as to whether an excuse for an absence you're planning will be approved, contact me in advance. Moreover, you must attend the first class and attend an individual meeting with the professor during the first week of classes. The purpose of this meeting is for me to get a sense of how to tune the course to the particular interests and needs of the class members. I will evaluate class participation on the quality, not the quantity of participation. Being very present is more important than being very vocal.

Oral Presentations. You will make two, short, individual oral presentations as well as one group presentation. The individual presentations will focus on persuasion. In the first individual presentation, we'll zero in on your analysis and personal credibility. The objective of the second will be emotional impact. The group presentation will afford an opportunity to explore your courage.

Written Assignments. Before each class begins, you will need to turn in a one-page maximum written critical reaction to one of the readings for that class, and a one to two sentence comment on each of the others that tells me how you expect what you learned from that reading to make a difference in your behavior or in how you see the world. Your reactions should be double spaced and may not exceed one page. In addition, I'm requiring a short, 3B5 page, midterm research paper. This paper should start out at least six or seven pages and be edited down. Each paper must be written individually and edited by your group. Each small group will receive the grade of its weakest paper. I will also require a final research paper of 13B17 pages in length. It, too, should start out longer and be edited down. The first paper should be incorporated into the final paper.

You will receive an A if your work in each of the categories below is satisfactory in my sole discretion. For the work to be satisfactory, it must represent your best efforts and comply with the grading criteria that Ill tell you about with each assignment. I will score each assignment. For each area in which your work is not satisfactory, your grade may drop at least one letter grade, depending the weighting of the category and the extent of the deficiency.

My grading philosophy is based on what will make you successful in life rather than on an objective evaluation of how your work compares to others or some other standard of excellence. The reason for this grading system is that success in life is rarely based on being naturally good at any one skill, but rather, your overall competence. Competence depends on (1) accurately assessing your own skills and passions; (2) finding work that takes advantage of those attributes; (3) finding work that either (i) motivates you to learn to overcome your weaknesses, (ii) doesn't require skills in your areas of weakness, or (iii) allows you to rely on others to supply those skills; (4) hard work; and (5) pursuing mastery of whatever you do.

To help you assess your own skills, I'll provide feedback and a score (up to a maximum as indicated respectively) in each of the following areas:
Class participation

Texts

The primary course references will be Trimble, Writing with Style; Spence, How to Argue and Win Every Time; and Perlmutter, Why Lawyers (and the rest of us) Lie and Engage in Other Repugnant Behavior. I think you'll find these to be eminently readable.

In addition, we'll read a number of short pieces and excerpts such as:
-A.J. Schuler, Hardball Negotiations.
-Callahan, The Cheating Culture.
-Feldman, Iran and the Bomb. New York Times Magazine.
-Fisher and Ury, Getting to Yes. Excerpts on principle-based negotiation.
-Fukuyama, Trust. Excerpts on societal implications of course issues.
-Gleick, Chaos. Lessons on sensitive dependence on initial conditions.
-Kane, Through the Moral Maze. Chapters on AThe Spirits of the Times,@ AThe Ends Principle, and A Public and Private Morality
-Kiersey and Bates, Please Understand Me.
-Tannen, Deborah, The Argument Culture. Excerpts on the societal impact of individual strategies.
-Toulmin et. al., An Introduction to Reasoning. Excerpts on proofs and logical fallacies.
-Winter, A Clearing in the Forest. Excerpts on the relationship between brain function and modes of reasoning.

About the Professor

Mark Perlmutter is a certified civil trial lawyer with Perlmutter & Schuelke in Austin, Texas, and an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Texas School of Law. His private practice focuses on professional negligence, business disputes, class actions and serious injury cases, as well as mediation. He has lectured extensively for the State Bar of Texas, University of Houston, University of Texas, and South Texas law schools, helped write the Texas Lawyers Creed, and is a former President of the Travis County Bar and Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas. He served as chair of the State Bar of Texas Professionalism Committee, co-produced Lifetime Television's Scared Silent, a movie based on one of his cases, and is currently serving on the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct Committee. Honored as a legal innovator by The Texas Lawyer and as a ASuperlawyer by Texas Monthly Magazine, Perlmutter continues to speak on his book, Why Lawyers (and the rest of us) Lie and Engage in Other Repugnant Behavior. His education includes a bachelors degree in communication from Northwestern University and a law degree from the University of Texas.

back

bottom border