WRAC 130

American Radical Thought

Michigan State University

Fall 2013 - Dr. Ramona Fernandez

Office: 284 Bessey Hall

Home phone: 517-367-6060

Office phone: 517-353-2945

You may call me at home after 9 am and before 9 pm,

7 days a week. 

I prefer a phone call to an email


Professor’s web page: http://www.msu.edu/user/ramona 

Course outline and class web page: https://www.msu.edu/course/wra/130/fernandez/

Syllabus: https://www.msu.edu/course/wra/130/fernandez/syllabus.130.fall.2013.htm

MSU Google Apps Link: http://googleapps.msu.edu/

D2L: https://d2l.msu.edu/

Professor’s E-mail: ramona@msu.edu


Section 4 meets TTh   10:20 AM - 12:10 PM -- 310 Ernst Bessey Hall 

Section 5 meets TTh   3:00 PM - 4:50 PM -- 310 Ernst Bessey Hall 


Prerequisites: placement/assessment

Go to our Writing Center linked here but most importantly, communicate with me.


Office Hours:  1-3pm TTh and by appointment at other times


Individual assistance is always available with or without an appointment.  I look forward to seeing you during office hours.  Please stop in and have a discussion with me.  We all need help at some point.  If you find yourself not understanding readings, concepts, lectures and/or assignments, please come to my office.  I have other times available if you schedule ahead.  Also, lunch and ‘coffee’ breaks are sometimes possible before or after class.


Required Textbooks

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.  7th edition. ISBN: 9781603290241 (paperback) Publication Date: 2009.  ISBN: 0-87352-986-3. List Price: $22.00.  If you purchase a new copy, you will have on-line access to the full text.  Please return your used copy if you got one.  It is worth it to have on-line access anywhere, anytime.

This book is a basic reference work which will be stocked in all the local bookstores.


Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.  Picador: 1st edition (June 24, 2008)


Eisenstein, Charles. Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition. Evolver Editions, 2011. Print. 


This book is also available on line for free.  However, I strongly recommend you buy the book so you can access its concepts easily and quickly, especially in class as the web version loads slowly and awkwardly.  Also, the author has been homeless in the past and still has generously given his book away for free.  It would be nice if we could all send him a few pennies. 


Lietaer, Bernard A, and Jacqui Dunne. Rethinking Money: How New Currencies Turn Scarcity into Prosperity. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2013. Print.


Professor's Biography

I was born seven miles from Manhattan in Northern New Jersey. After earning my Bachelor’s Degree at the State University of New York, College at Old Westbury, I completed a Master’s at the University of Arizona where I began teaching freshman English as a graduate student.  I earned my Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the History of Consciousness program. I taught for nearly twenty five years at Sacramento City College in California and have taught college for over four decades. My book Imagining Literacy: Rhizomes of Knowledge in American Culture and Literature was one of two finalists for the Frederick W. Ness Book Award from the Association of American Colleges and Universities.  I am a former Ford Foundation and a Smithsonian Fellow.  My scholarly work focuses on race and gender, especially in popular culture via science fiction and representations of the body as they relate to race and gender.  I have multiple invisible handicaps. 

Professor’s Teaching Philosophy

There are very few things I enjoy more than learning.  Without books, films and art, the world would be a narrow, dismal place.  I always enjoyed stretching myself and consider this to be the foundation of any good educational experience.  By definition, education is about finding out new things.  If you don’t come out of a class with a different perspective and a new set of ideas, why sign up?  Just fulfilling requirements is certainly not enough.  I care a great deal about what you learn.  My goals for what the course will teach you go deeper than the course description, the course outline and the syllabus.  My goals recognize that education involves the deep recesses of human mind and emotions. 


Required Technologies

1.     Google Docs, via the Google Apps page connected to your MSU account at: http://googleapps.msu.edu/

2.     D2L system for your reading/class quizzes  

3.     Install multiple browsers on your personal computer so that you can use Zotero and other programs as I use them. Do not use Internet Explorer for our classwork.   If you are an ESL student using a browser in your native language, set one browser to default to English and use that browser for all your work for this class.  I will be switching from a PC to a Macbook in the first few weeks of class.  I plan for us all to use Chrome when that happens.  There are technical problems when you use one browser and I use another, and we are looking at your essays on line. 

4.     Course Web site

5.     Zotero, a research and bibliographic tool created especially for academics. It works astoundingly well. – It is free and available for download here: http://www.zotero.org/

6.     A fully functional laptop which connects IN CLASS.  A course earmarked computer assisted means that your computer must function in class. 

You are expected to use multiple technologies.  Become a wizard!  If you have problems, contact me immediately. Don't wait. I can help you with most computer issues but not all.

Banned Technologies

Student’s cell phones must be turned off during class.  Your professor’s stays on.  If you use yours, you will be asked to leave for the day and will earn an unexcused absence.

Your laptop is central to success in this class; however, if you misuse it in any way, you will be asked to leave for the day and will earn an unexcused absence. I know that many of you are used to surfing, texting, etc., etc., during class. You get one warning about all this. Consider this your warning.

If you misuse any of the relevant technologies at any time, you will be required to have an in person meeting with me prior to attending class again.

Course Objectives

Goal 1 – Improving Reading, Writing, Analytical Skills and Oral Articulation of Concepts

This course is designed to help you improve your reading, writing and analytical skills while you explore the development of American culture and the history of American ideas. You need to know how to speak in a college classroom, so oral participation counts. Just saying something is not positive oral participation. Saying something that responds directly to the course content is what we are after.  All your learning connects to how well you read and write.  Reading widely and deeply is especially important to learning.  Writing well is a powerful tool for success in all areas of life, not just professionally, but also as a citizen, a consumer and even in one’s personal life.  Being able to express yourself well is one key to a better life, not just in school and at work, but also in terms of just appreciating the world and having fun.

Goal 2 – Writing a Formal Essay in MLA format

You will develop your composition skills through expository writing practice. You will be expected to draft, revise and edit your compositions. The major instructional topics regarding the writing process and critical thinking include: generating ideas, defining audiences, creating a thesis and argument, organizing information, drafting and revising, editing for standard usage, researching library materials, and using and documenting sources.

You will write five major essays, three of those essays will be formal and include research.  You will also practice writing in a discussion forum.  The formal, major essays will be submitted in stages, but these stages will change depending on how we have succeeded in mastering various skills. Your first essay will be informal and will serve as both a writing sample and a record of your skills and perspective at the beginning of the course.  You will be asked to review to this initial essay at the end of the course by rewriting it from your new perspective and with your updated skills.

Goal 3 – Understanding Concepts

The major goals of the cultural emphasis of this course will include but not be limited to: understanding the positions of a number of American radical philosophers and intellectuals, especially, Naomi Klein and Charles Eisenstein.  We will also look at a number of other thinkers in an effort to understand how radical thinking in America is related over the decades and centuries.  Your essays will be based on American historical, social and cultural texts and relevant connections outside North America.  What used to be called right wing radical thinking is now mainstream thinking.  Knowledge of left wing ideas is essentially zero in our culture at the moment.  We are in an aberrational moment in American history.

What are these virtually invisible radical thinkers telling us that we need to know?  Figuring out the alternatives we have available to us concerning how justice and a reasonably, healthy life might be fostered are at the bedrock of understanding radical thought.  Can you imagine radically different ways of constructing a viable society and global culture?   Klein has explained to us how we got where we are today as a result of about three decades of American policies while Eisenstein has postulated a radically different world must and is emerging right now.


Goal 4 – Learning How to do College Level Research


Learn research methods appropriate to college level work.  Do not, do not, expect web surfing to qualify as research.  You will learn Modern Language Association documentation style. Your professor will not review all the details of MLA style because to do that would take the entire semester, but you will be provided with an introduction and a review of the basics. You will be responsible for checking the MLA handbook for the details of the style.  

Goal 5 – Collaborating with Other Students in Group Work, Class Discussion and Discussion Form

You will edit/respond to each other’s essays in writing groups using Google Drive and exchange ideas in the Discussion Forum

Written Assignments

Posting/Submitting Assignments: Submitting essays and other writing will always be done via http://googleapps.msu.edu/ or inside of D2L in the case of quizzes. 

Formatting Assignments:  Please submit all your formal assignments in 12 point typeface, Times New Roman and according to the MLA Style sheet.  A template of that style is available through your professor for the first written assignment.  Students who do not use the correct format as outlined in the MLA Handbook will lose a minimum of ten points from their grade for the assignment.  Many of the basic MLA formatting styles are available on line, but some are not. I do not memorize these details. I cannot answer them without the MLA handbook. Strange and wonderful things books: they memorize stuff we do not need to bother our brains with.

You must learn how to use Google Drive immediately so that you will be ready to submit your assignments via this system. 

You must access Google Drive via MSU’s Google Apps.  This is very important.  Many of you already have a Google account.  Do not use your regular Google Account to access this service for MSU work.  You must access Google Apps through the MSU portal.  Anything you put in your personal Google account will not be accessible in your MSU Google Apps location.

Your written assignments are due to your Google Drive folder just previous to the beginning of class.  You must invite me to the folder using my email address: ramona@msu.edu

Your basic Google Docs applications are available here: http://googleapps.msu.edu/ using your MSU User ID and password. 

Once you access Google Apps and go to the documents section, create a folder titled: WRAC 130-your section number plus "your last name, your first name" and invite me to share it.  Once you do this, anything you put in that folder will be immediately accessible to me.  If you put your assignment anywhere outside your folder, I will not see it even if you invite me to it.  It will be hidden in literally thousands of documents I have been invited to.  Google Drive does not automatically put your document into this folder.  You must drag the document into the folder.

Composing in Google Drive is actually easier than using MS Word; however, there are some stumbling blocks when we address Works Cited formatting.  You can compose your basic doc in MS Word and cut and paste into a Google Drive document.  Or you can work directly in Google Drive and download your docs for safekeeping onto your own computer. Google does not normally lose documents; however, students sometimes stumble around and lose work despite this. Google Drive automatically saves for you; however, you must understand how Google’s file structure works in order to put your docs in the right place and find them again.

Documents I cannot find may be downgraded 5 points for each difficulty I encounter, i.e. if you forget to post, if you post incorrectly, if you mistitle your assignment so that I cannot find it easily, etc. This will be at my option and discretion.  In other words, be careful and systematic about your docs so that we both do not have tremendous problems later.

Late Assignments

Your written assignments are due to your Google Docs folder just previous to the beginning of class.  If are ill or have an emergency, contact me as soon as possible.   Unfortunately, illnesses, a death in the family or other emergencies are a part of life.  In general, I do not accept late assignments, but if you have such an emergency, I will find some way of accommodating you; however, you need to alert me as soon as possible. 

Reading/Class/Film Quizzes

It is absolutely critical that students read the texts required for this course.  To that end, this course will require that each student demonstrate his/her absorption of the reading material via electronic reading quizzes which will be available, generally, for 48 hours previous to the next class meeting.  It is your responsibility to check for quizzes.  You will find reminders of quizzes in your Syllabus and via email from me.  Quizzes may include questions on films and/or discussions we have in class.   

Written Work Standards

You will write in Standard Written English and following the explicit standards set out by your professor. In all cases, the language in these writing assignments will reflect respect for the issues addressed and the collective college environment.

Discussion Forum

The purpose of this forum is for you to think through issues regarding the course material informally, serving as a preliminary step in your formal writing.  I may or may not respond to post you make, but the posts will serve as a way to uncover issues which may not yet have come up in class discussion and expand our thinking on various topics.  They also serve as writing practice.  I will be posting questions and instructions on a weekly/biweekly basis.  You must participate in the Forum consistently throughout the semester in a meaningful way.  I will award one star when you post as a place maker which will alert you to the fact that I read the post.  If your post is particularly good, I will award more stars.  I will expect a total of 45 posts throughout the semester.  That is three a week.  Your final grade on the Forum will be a combination of the number of posts times the quality of posts. 


Attendance is extremely important.  I understand that extenuating circumstances arise that can make this difficult, please let me know via email if something prevents your attendance. 

You may accumulate two unexplained absences.  Additional absences will be excused on a case by case basis. Please keep a personal record of all your absences and the circumstances surrounding them.   It is easy enough to note the classes you miss in your daily class notes (Obviously, you should be keeping a notebook of some sort for this class).  Absences over the maximum of two will require supporting documentation (e.g. A receipt from Olin Health Center will be sufficient evidence that you were ill.  I do not require an actual doctor’s note unless you have an extended absence.).  Documentation does not automatically result in an excused absence. Your allotted absences should cover illness, extreme problems and emergencies.  However, students should not come to class when they are ill.  It is not necessary; it jeopardizes the individual student and the rest of the class.  Extended illness will be excused with medical documentation. Anyone who does not attend the final class session (i.e. the final exam time) will have his/her final grade lowered 1.0 point.  If you have more than two unexcused absences, your grade will be lowered, sometimes substantially, depending on circumstance.

Students are expected to come to class on time.  Coming late disrupts other students and your professor.  If you have a problem once in a while, this is not serious.  If you routinely come late, that is a problem.  If you are late more than four times, your semester average will be reduced one half point for each late occurrence. If you fall asleep in class, you will be asked to leave and will be counted absent for that day. 


Classroom Behavior and Your Responsibilities as a Student


A college classroom is a formal environment. This does not mean it must be uncomfortable. It does mean that starting now: you are in a professional space.   Use appropriate verbal and body language. Side conversations should end once the class session begins. This means only one person speaks at a time. Respect yourself, your classmates, your professor and any visitors.

A professional is a person with a high degree of knowledge or skill in a particular field who exhibits a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace. In addition . . .

1.     Professionals complete all work on a timely basis. This means that for all class meetings class participants expect that you have read the materials and performed the assigned problems. Keeping up with materials will help your performance in this class. Suggested study time is no less than 3 times the number of credit hours or 12 hours per week for this class. This standard has been applied for more than half a century.

2.     Professionals attend meetings on time as entering meetings late disturbs others.

3.     Professionals understand underlying concepts and theories, and do not just memorize facts. While it is important to understand new terminology and concepts for quizzes, formal evaluation will require you to apply concepts.

4.     Professionals fill gaps in their own knowledge by: (1) seeking help from peers by forming study groups, discussing assigned readings, and working together on homework assignments, (2) asking questions in class, and (3) contacting the instructor during posted office hours for questions that cannot be resolved through their own research or discussion with classmates.

Intellectual discussion can be intense and even emotional, but it does not involve commentary on others in the room. For example, if someone makes a sexist, racist or heterosexist remark or other inappropriate comment, s/he should be challenged on a content level but never attacked personally.

Never put your head on the desk.  If you fall asleep, expect to be asked to leave the classroom and earn an unexcused absence. Sometimes students fall asleep because they are ill. Do not come to class when you are ill. It is never necessary.  It is simply inappropriate behavior.  If you are ill, excuse yourself. 




1. Essays -- You will write: Two informal essays and three formal essays (two in formal first draft) composed in Standard Written English and following the explicit standards set out by the Department and the instructor. In all cases, the language in these writing assignments will reflect respect for the issues addressed and the collective college environment.

The body of your essay (minus outlines and works cites pages) should be a minimum length (there are no maximums) according to the instructions posted for the assignment.  An average page in 12 point typeface will be 250 words.  Headings, works cited, etc. do not count towards length requirements.

These essays will be graded on a 100 point scale. The assumption is that your final formal essay will be your best essay. Pre-writing steps are part of the essay process. Each essay must include outside sources and cite them in MLA format. Essay grades will be awarded on a 100 point scale. 90+ = 4.0; 85+=3.5; 80+=3.0; 75+=2.5; 70+=2.0; 65+=1.5; 60+=1.0.  Each succeeding essay will be graded more stringently.  

Your grade for Essay 1 will be weighted x1, Essay 2 x3, on Essay 3 x5 and on Essay 4 x7 and Essay 5, which is an informal review, x1.


2. Discussion Forum -- The Discussion Forum is required and will be the basis for much of the informal and formal writing we do this semester.  Please take it seriously.  


3. Reading quizzes --  Quizzes on class content (e.g. When we view a film, take the opportunity to actively watch by taking notes and writing down questions about things you might want to bring up during the discussion of the film.) The films we see are often dense and require concentration, film and reading quizzes will be posted in D2L. There is nothing more important than reading your assignments previous to class. That being the case, quizzes will require you to read on time and with comprehension.


4. Oral Participation -- Oral participation (separate from in-class presentations) will be evaluated by the professor. Sophisticated class discussion is central to critical thinking. Your oral participation will be graded and count as an assignment. It will be weighted x2. In other words, as far as your general average, your oral participation will count as one assignment, weighted times two.  Oral participation leads to good writing.  As this grade is necessarily subjective, it is particularly important that you speak to me in my office to establish a rapport between the two of us and allow both of us to communicate better.  


All assignments are graded on a 100 point scale and then weighted as to their importance.  Basically, if all your assignments average to a 70, your final formal essay (essay 4) will determine your final grade.  If your final essay is a 90+, you will earn a 4 point in this class.  In other words, your final formal essay demonstrates the best product you can produce after a semester’s worth of work.  In virtually all instances, the final essay is a reflection of your ongoing effort in the class.  If you work consistently to your capacity, your final essay will represent the best you can achieve.  If you wait until the final essay to put in your best effort, the grade will reflect that.  In other words, it is likely to be a vastly poorer product than it would have been had you put your best effort into everything.  However, completing all assignments on time is your pathway to the best possible product at the end. 


Students who do not complete the minimal requirements for a 2.0 may earn a 0-1.5 based on the professor's best judgment regarding his/her overall efforts.  Most students should be able to do well by following the course instructions faithfully.   If you have issues regarding writing or exams, talking to me is a good idea.  A recent study suggested that just taking a few minutes before an exam to write about your anxieties can radically improve your score.  I encourage you to do this before you take on-line quizzes, etc.  Anxieties about writing are often the result of waiting till the last minute to complete an assignment.  Taking assignments in stages and pre-planning the time you need to complete a major assignment helps.  Ten hours work on a major essay broken into five separate sessions actually produces better quality work than ten hours from 9 pm to 7am and stresses the writing a lot less.

In summary: to earn at least a 2.0

1. Earn an average of 70 on all assignments. In other words, if you skip an assignment, it will not destroy your grade, but it will make it very difficult to earn the highest grades.

2. Make a substantive and careful oral contribution to the class.  Students who do not contribute to class discussion most definitely need to see me in my office for an oral evaluation.

3. Complete all three formal essays and your informal essays absolutely on time (only exceptions are documented illness and family emergency and/or professor's explicit permission).   Research will be part of the final grade on all three essays.

4. Participate meaningfully in the Discussion Forum and in your writing group.

4. Earn at least a 70 on Essay 4

To earn above a 2.0

1. Do all of above

2. To earn above a 2.0, your final formal essay must demonstrate excellence. Basically, your this essay will determine your final grade IF you have earned the minimum 70 average on all other work. Do not delude yourself. If you do not work to your maximum on every assignment, your final essay will not be up to standards. Students ask me what happens if they suddenly bomb on their final essay. In reality, this almost never happens, and when it does, it usually has to do with an emergency. If you have an emergency, you need to talk to me face to face about it. You can email me a notification that you have found yourself in extenuating circumstances and see me in person and in private later.

2. All assignments are graded on the following scale: 90+ = 4.0; 85+=3.5; 80+=3.0; 75+=2.5; 70+=2.0; 65+=1.5; 60+=1.0, less than 60 equal a zero. A 90 is a solid 4.0 in my grading scale. I reserve higher numbers for truly exceptional work.