American Studies A303, section 4868 (3 cr.)

Fall 2010

Tom Marvin

Office: Cavanaugh 501J

Hours: Tuesday 3-5 / Wednesday 10-12 and by appointment.

Phone & Voice Mail: 274-9844 / Fax: 274-2347

E-mail address:

In this course we will study the social movements of the past and meet the activists who are working for social justice today. We will learn about the history of American protest from pre-Revolutionary days to the present in order to understand how mass organizations are created and how they can be used to realize the American ideals of liberty, equality, justice, peace, and opportunity for all. Originally designed as the centerpiece for the first year of the Sam Masarachia Scholars Program, this seminar is now open to all who are interested in social action organizing, especially with regard to labor, seniors, and communities.

Emphasis throughout is on bridging the academic perspective of the classroom with the practical concerns of different communities. This will be a “traveling seminar,” moving between the classroom and the community. At several points during the semester, the seminar will meet at the site of a labor, senior, or other community organization, hosted by a representative of that organization. At other times community or faculty members will make guest presentations to the seminar.

Our central question will be: what can the social action organizations of the past and present teach us about the possibilities for progressive social change in our world today?

OBJECTIVES: This course is designed to help students achieve the goals outlined in IUPUI’s Principles of Undergraduate Learning, with a special emphasis on the first:

Core Communication Skills: Regular written assignments will give students ample opportunity to demonstrate their ability to read and analyze challenging texts. Class discussions and presentations will develop oral communication skills.

Critical Thinking: Students will be encouraged to examine the assumptions that underlie the viewpoints expressed in the assigned readings. They will be asked to compare and contrast the ideas of various authors, to question what they read, and to come to their own conclusions.

Integration and Application of Knowledge: This interdisciplinary course is intended to help students see the connections between the humanities and the social sciences and to apply what they have learned about American culture and society to their everyday lives.

Understanding Society and Culture: We will study texts and artifacts that represent a wide range of American cultures as a way of appreciating American diversity and better understanding our own culturally based assumptions.

Values and Ethics: Students will be encouraged to compare their values with those of the people we read about and evaluate the consequences of various ethical positions.

REQUIREMENTS: In most classes we will discuss assigned readings, so thorough preparation and active participation are essential to your success in the course. To help you prepare for class, record your reactions to these assignments in a READING JOURNAL, which you will submit to the appropriate oncourse forum before noon on the day before we discuss the reading. Begin each entry with the author, title, and date of the assignment. The journal may include your notes on important points in the reading, but I’ll be more interested in your own thoughts. Include these three perspectives on each assigned reading:

Each journal entry must include at least two questions that you would like us to discuss in class. The questions can be designed to clarify a point you found confusing, or they can be questions that you think would lead to an interesting discussion. Each entry should be at least 500 words (two standard pages), but if you have more to say, by all means go for it! Please submit your journal via the assignments feature on oncourse by 9:00 a.m. on the day we discuss the reading. I like to read your journals before coming to class, and I encourage you to read your classmates’ journals, so post your response as soon as it’s ready to get the discussion going before we meet in class.

Because the journals are a vital part of preparing for class discussions, late journals will not be accepted. However, because anyone can have a bad week, you may submit two journals after the due date, as long as you get them in by December 10. The Reading Journals are worth a whopping 40% of your final grade, so don’t blow them off.

TERM PROJECT: Another 40% of your final grade will depend on a term project chosen from one of the following options. Both options have similar deadlines and include an oral report to the class on the last day.

Service learning: If you decide to do a service-learning project, you will work with a labor, senior, or community organization and reflect on how the experience has contributed to your understanding of course themes. I will provide a list of service-learning opportunities, and invite representatives of the organizations to visit the class. The project will begin with a contract, signed by you and by your supervisor at the organization and due September 24. The contract will specify your work hours (usually 3-4 per week for 8-10 weeks) and the specific duties you will perform. These duties must be directly related to the mission of the organization and the goals of this class. Routine office work (typing, filing, etc.) is not appropriate for a service-learning project. You will complete two service journals (10% each), which link your service experiences with course themes and issues. Like the reading journals, service journals should be a minimum of 500 words, but more information is welcome. On the last day of class, you will give a brief oral report (20%) on how your experience relates to the course. A final reflective paper (5-7 pages, worth 60%) will summarize what you have learned about organizing by completing the service-learning project.

Research Paper: You can follow up on an interesting topic from the assigned reading, by investigating the Ludlow massacre or the IWW for example, or you may design your own project, as long as it is related to the history and/or practice of social action organizing. A brief description of a potential research topic is due on September 24. A detailed proposal (10%), including a potential thesis, a description of the topic, a review of research already conducted, and plans for the future, will be due on October 15. An annotated bibliography (10%) will be due on November 5, and on the last day you will give an oral report (20%) to the class and turn in a 4-5,000 word (15-20 page) paper (60%).

CLASS PARTICIPATION: I expect you to be prepared to discuss the assigned readings when you come to class. I will give you ample opportunity to participate in discussions. Those who do not participate on their own initiative may be asked to read or summarize their reading responses. Your grade for class participation will depend more on the quality of your contribution to our discussion than on the frequency of your comments. I’m looking for concise, relevant comments and the ability to make connections between the readings. Participation will be worth 20% of your final grade.


A’ work demonstrates mastery of the material and underlying concepts, thoroughly addresses the assigned or chosen question(s), and displays an impressive depth of analysis and critical ability. One reads with excitement and interest, sensing that the writer is in full control of the material. In short, ‘A’ is for excellence.

‘B’ work typically falls short of excellence either in coverage, depth of analysis, or imagination, but with substantial redeeming merit. It may balance excellence in one or two areas with something short of it in other areas. A reader senses that the author understands the subject well, and sees the connections between important ideas and principles.

‘C’ work does an adequate job of discussing some key concepts, but may ignore or give scant coverage to others. It often repeats ideas verbatim rather than analyzing them, and rarely discusses the connections between ideas.

‘D’ work fails to engage the assigned or chosen question, lacks coherence, and/or demonstrates a shaky grasp of basic concepts and the connections between them.

‘F’ work fails to connect in any significant way with the relevant concepts.

Grading Scale: A+=98+ A=94-97 A-=90-93 (B’s and C’s similar) D=65-70 F=64-.

ATTENDANCE: Faithful attendance is vital to your success in this course. However, since emergencies plague even the most diligent, students are permitted to miss one class without penalty, no questions asked or excuses required. Each subsequent absence will cost you ten points off your class participation grade.

A WARNING ABOUT PLAGIARISM: According to the Indiana University Bulletin: “Plagiarism is the offering of the work of someone else as one’s own. Honesty requires that any ideas or materials taken from another source for either written or oral use must be fully acknowledged.” For further information on plagiarism, refer to the IU Code of Student Ethics.

To insure that you understand the nuances of plagiarism, you must complete an online tutorial and test, which can be found at <>. Once you have successfully completed the test, you will be able to print a confirmation certificate. You must turn in your confirmation certificate by September 17 in order to continue in the course.



The schedule is likely to change, especially the appearances of the guest speakers. If you miss a class, check oncourse for updates, including additional readings.


27 Radicalism and Social Action Organizing in the United States.


3 Labor and Capital in Early American History

Read: Zinn, People’s History, chapters 1-5 (1-102).

First reading journal due. In subsequent weeks journals are not noted on the schedule, but they are always due by 9 a.m. Friday.

10 The Struggles of Women, Slaves & Indians in Nineteenth-Century America

Read: Zinn, chapters 6-10 (103-252).

17 Workers in the Industrial Era

Read: Zinn, chapters 11-14 (253-376)

Plagiarism confirmation certificate due.

24 The Industrial Workers of the World: Ancient History or Model for a New Radical Unionism?

Read: Bird, Georgakas and Shaffer, Solidarity Forever (1-124).



1 The IWW, Persecution, and Persistence: A Lesson for Radicals.

Read: Bird, Georgakas and Shaffer, Solidarity Forever (125-226).

8 To Organize or Not to Organize: Movements vs. Organizations.

Read: Zinn, chapter 15 (377-406) for the history of the Great Depression and then read Frances Fox Piven & Richard Cloward, Poor People’s Movements, Introduction & chapters 1-2.

15 Are There Really “Rules” for Radicals?

Read: Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, prologue – chapter five (xii-97).


22 The Education of an Organizer

Read: Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, chapter six – end (98-196).

29 The Industrial Workers Movement and the Civil Rights Movement.

Read: Piven & Cloward, chapters 3-4.

Guest Speaker: Jim Wallihan, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and founding Director of the Sam Masarachia Scholars Program.


5 Labor Organizing Today.

Read: Yates, Why Unions Matter, Intro – chapter 5 (1-103).

Guest speakers: Jade Watts, Service Employees International Union (SEIU).


12 The Future of Organized Labor

Read: Yates, Why Unions Matter, chapter 6 – end (104-52).

Guest speaker: David Williams, Laborer’s Union 120.

19 Community Organizing: Strategies and Tactics

Read: Midwest Academy Manual, chapters 1-12.

Guest speaker: Yvonne Smith Hendricks, Community Organizer for Community Alliance of the Far Eastside (CAFÉ).



3 Labor – Community Coalitions.

Read: Midwest Academy Manual, chapters 13-20.

Thomas Marvin, “Community Organizing for the Union: A Tale of Two Campaigns in Indianapolis,” Oncourse Resources>Readings.

Guest speaker: Becky Smith, Community Organizing and Research, UNITE/HERE.

10 LAST DAY OF CLASS – Term Projects due.

Students present research results to class.