and Politics in America:
Sociology 300RN/580G (Fall 2004)
204C Haag Hall
and Thursday, 3:30-4:30;
|Class Time||Tuesday and Thursday, 2:00-3:15|
|Class Location||Royall Hall 404|
Kenneth D. Wald, Religion and Politics in the United States (4th edition).
Students will be expected to read at least one newspaper each day, as well as local and/or national broadcast news. This is extremely important, since we will be referring to current events throughout the course and using these events as the data to which we apply analysis in class.
course description | assignments |syllabus | attendance policy | academic honesty | graduate students
While some students may be surprised at the subtitle of this course—"A Sociology of the Sacred and the Profane"—few will be unfamiliar with the old adage that "religion and politics should never be mixed," or at least never discussed together at the dinner table. In this course, we will bring religious and political discourse together into each class session, and discover that not only should they be talked about together, but talking about one all but inevitably requires talking about the other. This course comes at a particularly serendipitous time—the 2004 general elections—and much of our conversations in class will use these events in these elections as a starting point.
Despite claims that religious influence in social life is on the decline, the United States remains a very religious nation—though religious in considerably different ways, perhaps, than it was even a few decades ago. Not surprisingly, religious sentiment and belief have influenced in significant ways the shape and tenor, as well as the direction, of political life in America.
assignments and evaluation
1) Two in-class quizzes (30% total)
Quizzes will take place on the days noted in the syllabus. Students late to class on those days will not be permitted to take the quiz.
2) Three two-page current events analyses on religion and politics. (30% total)
Current event analyses are two pages, single-spaced. Each analysis should compare and contrast the information contained in at least two newspaper articles (from two different newspapers) related to the same story about some aspect of religion and politics. During the course, Prof. Cowan will give detailed instructions on how to conduct a current event analysis. The purpose of this exercise is to sharpen your skills at detecting the differences (or lack thereof) in the information you receive via the media. These analyses will form a significant portion of class discussion on the weeks they are due, and I will be drawing on class members to share insights from their analyses. For an example of an extended analysis, see Douglas E. Cowan, "Media War on the Truth," online at http://www.kciraqtaskforce.org/report-cowankosovo.htm.
Current event analyses are due at the beginning of class on September 21; October 19; and November 30.
3) 2,500-word research paper (40% total)
Papers are due in Haag Hall 204 by 3:00 pm, December 10. Late papers will be penalized 5% per day, and email submissions are not permitted.
A note about using the Internet. While students are permitted to use the Internet to conduct research, citation of the Internet in research papers is permissible only under the following conditions: (1) Primary research sources are Internet-based and only available online—for example, you are writing about the Internet. (2) Secondary research sources are available online; this includes newspaper articles accessed through Lexis-Nexis, online peer-reviewed journals, and full-text articles from peer-reviewed journals accessed through databases such as JSTOR and ATLA. (3) If secondary research sources are simply from Web sites, secondary print sources, whether scholarly or corroborative, must be used in the presentation and the research paper. For example, do not cite online versions of the Ante-Nicene Patristics; I expect you to go to the library and cite book, chapter, and page number(s). While the Internet is a tremendous boon to scholarship, it is also responsible for creating one of the laziest generations of students and scholars in the history of higher education. Failure to abide by these conditions will seriously affect the student's evaluation. If you are in any doubt about the acceptability of an Internet resource, do one or both of these: go offline, or see me for an evaluation of the source.
Click here to see my grading scale, and here to see a written presentation rubric on which assessment is based.
All readings from Wald, Religion and Politics in the United States, should be prepared for the Tuesday class of each week, though we may not refer to them explicitly until Thusday. Please note that I reserve the right to adjust the schedule of readings and topics should such adjustment serve the pedagogical purposes of the course.
Introduction to the course
"Dangerous Religion," Sojourners (Sept-Oct 2003); handout
is also available online at:
|Aug 31-Sept 2||The Persistence of Religion||Wald, Religion and Politics in the United States, ch. 1|
|Sept 7-9||Understanding Religion and Politics||Wald, Religion and Politics in the United States, ch. 2|
Religion and Culture
|Wald, Religion and Politics in the United States, ch. 3|
Current event analyses
|Sept 28-30||Religion and the State||Wald, Religion and Politics in the United States, ch. 4|
|Oct 5-7||Religion and Public Policy||Wald, Religion and Politics in the United States, ch. 5-6|
Current event analyses
|Oct 26-28||Election 2000: Religion, Politics, and the Race for Florida||Wald, Religion and Politics in the United States, ch. 7|
Election 2004: Religion, Politics, and the American Electorate
Religion and Public Life I
|Wald, Religion and Politics in the United States, ch. 9|
|Nov 16-23||Religion and Public Life II||"Matters of Faith: Religion in American Public Life" (handout)|
No class November 25. Have a good Thanksgiving holiday.
|Nov 30-Dec 2||
Current event analyses
Students are expected to attend and participate in all class sessions. Only excused absences which have been arranged in advance with Prof. Cowan, or which are substantiated by medical documentation, will be accepted. As well, class will begin promptly at 2:00 and students are expected to be on time. Any more than two unexcused absences will result in a grade penalty of .5 % per missed class. If you come in late and are not present when attendance is taken, you will be counted as absent. This policy is based on long experience and empirical evidence which demonstrates clearly that students who attend class achieve far better command of the material than those who do not. What a surprise!
Prof. Cowan has a zero-tolerance policy for plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty, and is very good at finding it. Academic dishonesty will result in a "0" for the assignment in question, and the consequences of this can range from course failure (for undergraduate students) to a request for official dismissal from the program in which a student is enrolled (for graduate students). If you are unclear about what constitutes plagiarism, click here.
If you would like to know under what circumstances Prof. Cowan will exhibit leniency towards plagiarism, click here.
If students are taking this course for graduate credit (i.e., you are registered in Sociology 580G), there will be an increased workload. The essay portion of in-class tests will be graded at a graduate level; you will be expected to write four-page current event analyses; generate a literature review related to a specific research question on religion and politics, and graduate research papers are to be no less than 5,000 words long. The literature review should serve as initial research for your term paper. Doctoral students will follow the paper format designated by Prof. Cowan for doctoral seminars.
Douglas E. Cowan