Instructor: Jean L. Potuchek
Office: Glatfelter 008
Office Hours: M 1-3:30; T 1:30-3:00; W & F 10-noon; and by appointment
All of us are experts, of sorts, on the family; we have lived in families, observed family dynamics, and compared our own family experiences with those of others. Families have been at the center of our personal and emotional lives. This course will provide an opportunity to look at something familiar (the family) in a new way. We will focus on the family as a social institution – a set of structured social arrangements for meeting certain human needs – and we will examine the larger social forces that shape those structures. We will use a comparative approach to families, emphasizing their diversity both across time and space and within present-day U.S. society, and paying particular attention to how social inequality shapes family experiences. By the end of the semester, you should be able to place your own personal experience of families in a larger social context and you should have developed a socio-historical understanding of the forces shaping families in modern industrial and post-industrial societies.
No course stands alone, and you are encouraged to make connections between this course and the rest of your education. A Gettysburg College education is organized around four major goals – learning how to look at the world from multiple perspectives (multiple inquiries), learning how to combine different perspectives into a deeper understanding (integrative thinking), learning how to share knowledge and understanding with others (effective communication), and learning how to use what you know to make a contribution to communal life (local and global citizenship). This course addresses all of these goals: This course is officially designated as “cluster-friendly,” meaning that you are encouraged to create an interdisciplinary experience for yourself by combining this course with a course on a related topic. (Courses in other disciplines that focus on the industrial revolution and its consequences, family relations, or gender would all be appropriate candidates for creating a cluster with this course.) In addition, this course will help to deepen your understanding of social science as a mode of inquiry; it will provide an opportunity for you to improve your skills in discussion, research, and writing; and, in its foci on social inequality and on public policy, it will help to prepare you for citizenship.
The following required readings for the course are either available for purchase at the College Store or on reserve:
Books to Purchase:
Susan J. Ferguson (editor), Shifting the Center: Understanding Contemporary Families (2nd edition) (Ferguson)
Laurel Ulrich, A Midwife's Tale (Ulrich)
Annette Lareau, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life (Lareau)
Ann Goetting, Getting Out: Life Stories of Women Who Left Abusive Men (Goetting)
Anita Ilta Garey, Weaving Work & Motherhood (Garey)
Claudia Goldin, “Family Strategies and the Family Economy in the Late Nineteenth Century: The Role of Secondary Workers,” pp. 277-310 in Theodore Hershberg (ed.), Philadelphia: Work, Space, Family, and Group Experience in the 19th Century (Goldin)
Tamara Hareven and Randolph Langenbach, Amoskeag: Life and Work in an American Factory City (excerpts) (Hareven & Langenbach)
Periodically throughout the course, we will organize our class discussion around a film. Films will always come at the end of a unit of the course, and film discussions will be used to tie together key themes from that unit. Students will be responsible for seeing each film before the class discussion, either at a scheduled screening or on their own. (All films are on reserve at Musselman Library.) The following is the schedule of film screenings and discussions:
Because both research on how people learn and my own experience indicate that most people learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process, this course is designed to emphasize active student involvement and participatory learning. Normally, on Monday of each week, I will give a lecture that sets out the issues and provides a theoretical framework for the week's class sessions; Wednesday and Friday classes will be devoted primarily to discussion. As a general rule, Wednesday discussions will be organized around discussion questions prepared by class members and Friday discussions will focus on developing a group analysis and consolidating your understanding of the week’s material.
Because you cannot participate if you are not present, students are expected to attend all class sessions, and any absences will lower the grade for class participation. In order to discourage absences just before and after school breaks, absence on Friday, March 6, Monday or March 16 will count as two absences.
Assignments and Exams
Each student in the class will complete a major written assignment, a 14-16 page term paper. This paper will pose a very specific sociological research question about families and analyze the available research evidence to develop an answer to that question. Because this is a different kind of research paper than many students are used to writing, the assignment is divided into a sequence of steps to guard against procrastination and to provide extra help and guidance along the way.
In lieu of a mid-term exam, each student will write an "integrative essay," designed to help you think about and integrate course material. The integrative essay will be 5-7 typed pages (1200-1800 words), will cover Parts 1 and 2 of the course and is due on Monday, March 2. The topic for the essay is as follows:
In The Sociological Imagination, C. Wright Mills described sociology as the intersection of biography and history and defined the “sociological imagination” as the ability to see the connections between individual experiences (biography) and the larger socio-historical context of those experiences (history). This essay asks you to exercise your sociological imagination by placing your own family experience in its larger socio-historical context. How have its cultural and historical contexts influenced your family’s priorities, the organization of family life, and the division of family roles? Be sure to consider your family in relation to Tilly and Scott’s theory and to the Cult of True Womanhood. Good essays will go beyond vague generalizations and use specific references to course materials and concrete examples from your family experiences to support your analysis.
Daily assignments are designed to ensure the high quality of class discussion (and of the learning that takes place through those discussions) by helping students to prepare for discussion. Each student will prepare some type of daily assignments for each discussion class (see details below; exceptions to these guidelines will be noted in class).
Monday – Lecture day – no daily assignment
Wednesday – Discussion Paper
Each discussion paper will be 1-2 pages long (typed double-spaced); it will pose a question for class discussion in the first paragraph and will develop a tentative answer to the question or suggest ways of thinking about the question in the remainder of the paper. The discussion questions posed in these papers should be questions that will help the class to connect the reading (or film) for Wednesday with the Monday lecture material and/or with important course themes and concepts. Discussion questions will be written on the board at the beginning of class and will be used to guide the class discussion.
Friday – Weekly Analysis Paper
The goal of the weekly analysis paper is to identify one or two key themes or ideas from the Monday lecture and Wednesday discussion and to develop these ideas further using examples from the Friday reading (or film). The weekly analysis paper should be 1-2 pages long (typed, double-spaced) and will be scored as 0 if it is not done or if it does not draw on both course ideas and course readings, 1 if it links the Friday reading to any previous course material, and 2 if it uses both Friday readings and ideas from Wednesday discussion to further develop an idea presented in the Monday lecture.
News Analysis (Optional)
On any day that either a discussion paper or a weekly analysis paper is due, you may choose to substitute an analysis of family issues in the news. If you choose to do this, you must choose a news item about family issues that appeared during the past seven days in any major news outlet (newspaper, news magazine, broadcast news, or news website) and write a 1-2 page analysis that relates this news item to course material. Students are limited to no more than two news analyses during the semester.
All daily assignments will be graded as 0 (not done or not meeting minimum requirements), 1 (adequate-good), or 2 (very good-excellent). Total scores will be converted to a semester grade on all daily assignments as follows: A range – 35+; B range – 29-34; C range – 21-28; D range – 12-20; F – 0-11.
All daily assignments must be typed and must be completed by class time. Daily Assignments are never accepted late. However, each student may miss four daily assignments during the semester without penalty.
The final exam for this course is a take-home exam. The questions will be handed out on the last day of class, and finished exams will be due in at the exam time designated for the course by the registrar (4:30 p.m., Friday, May 8).
Due Dates and Lateness Policies:
All assignments are due in at 9:00 a.m. on the date noted on the syllabus. However, for Integrative Essay or Term Paper assignments, those who are in class on that date are granted an automatic extension until 5:00 p.m. In addition, each member of the class begins the semester with two "late points” — each of which may be used for up to 24 hours of lateness on an Integrative Essay or Term Paper assignment. Other extensions will be granted only in extraordinary circumstances and must be arranged with me before the time when the assignment is due. No late points or extensions are ever granted for use with daily assignments.
Final grades for the course will be computed as follows: