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Fall 2010 - 60820 - PA325 - Topics in Policy

American Race Policy

Instructor(s): Dorn, Edwin
Unique Number: 60820
Day & Time: TTh 9:30 - 11:00 am
Room: BUR 228
Waitlist Information:For LBJ Students: UT Waitlist Information
Course Overview

These undergraduate elective seminars cover a wide range of public affairs issues. Among recent topics are ethical leadership, modern American social policy, and philanthropy.

Section Description

This seminar traces the evolution of race policy in the United States from the development of the color line, through the current policy of equal opportunity, to alternative forecasts about the role of race in America’s future. Strong emphasis will be placed on understanding the circumstances that led to particular policies and policy changes. Students will be encouraged to read and develop their own interpretations of primary sources, such as Supreme Court cases, rather than to rely solely on the interpretations of scholars.

Early on in the seminar, students will be asked to select book that they can review for the benefit of the class. The book should cover a topic such as:
* Policies and practices in other countries
* Experiences of other (non-black) racial/ethnic groups in the United States, or
* Civil rights policies in specific arenas such as education, housing or employment

Course Outline

The development and evolution of race policy will be followed more-or-less chronologically for the first eight classes. After that, the emphasis each week will depend in large part on the content of students’ research. The principal themes are:

  1. Original Intent. When, how and why did race become such an important component of American society – so important that it was written into the Constitution? Readings include selections from The Federalist Papers and the Dred Scott decision.
  2. Emancipation, Separate-But-Equal, and the Dawn of Protest. How did the Civil War Amendments answer the Dred Scott decision. What did Washington and DuBois disagree about? Readings include Plessy, Washington’s Atlanta Exposition speech, and selections from The Souls of Black Folk.
  3. The Civil Rights Movement. What was the role of the growing black intelligentsia? How was the position of black Americans advanced by the two world wars? Which branch of government proved to be most reliable in the advance of civil rights? Readings include Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters. We also will watch portions of the documentary “Eyes on the Prize” and Lorraine Hansberry’s “Raisin in the Sun.
  4. The New Policy Regime. What did people expect to happen as a result of the new civil rights laws? How effectively did the new policies address discrimination in education, housing and other areas? Why, with so much apparent progress, was there so much frustration? Readings include the 1964 Civil Rights Act, LBJ’s 1965 Howard University speech and selections from The Kerner Commission Report and Carmichael and Hamilton’s Black Power.
  5. Comparisons. How do the experiences of black Americans compare with those of other groups – the internment of Japanese-Americans, for example. How does American race policy compare with that in other countries? Readings include Robert Lieberman’s Shaping Race Policy: The United States in Comparative Perspective.
  6. Outcomes and Controversies. How much better off are African-Americans today than they were before the passage of the civil rights acts? How did affirmative action become such an important part of the policy debate? Readings include the Urban League’s annual State of Black America report, selected Supreme Court cases, the writings of prominent black conservatives such as Shelby Steele and Glenn Loury, and Jennifer Hochschild’s Facing Up to The American Dream.
  7. Forecasts and Policy Options. Where do we go from here? What are the alternative policy paths? Readings include Orlando Patterson’s The Ordeal of Integration.

Course Requirements and Expectations:

Students will be expected to participate in the seminar discussion and to help broaden the class perspective beyond the issues outlined in this seminar. Requirements include:

  1. Class attendance and participation – 20%
  2. Two short papers (2 – 4 pages) – 30%
  3. Two oral presentations – 20%
  4. Book Review (10 to 20 pages) – 30%

Engagement is important. I expect students to be active participants in a process of discovery, not passive recipients of “the truth” as one professor sees it. My responsibilities include getting the conversation started, guiding students to existing knowledge and points of view, and assessing students’ contributions to the class. I place great value on clear, concise writing and speaking, so students will be given ample opportunities to work on their communications skills.

Discussions of race can be intellectually stimulating, but they also can be emotionally challenging. Some issues may turn out to be more complicated than they initially appear. I expect us to show respect for one another’s views, offer constructive criticism, and observe high standards of academic integrity.

Class size: up to 15