Class Policies For HHS123 - Fall 2009

Daniel Newsome Presiding

You may be quizzed on this.


Thumbnail Description of the Constitution of Your Grade


25% Attendance

Show up, pay attention, and play along and get full credit.


25% Homework

-There will be 13 "essays" assigned over the course of the term. 

-You need to do 5 of them.  That means that you donÕt have to do 8 of them. 

- 3 must be done by Week #7. [This means that you must have done at least 3 "essays" in total by midterm.]  This restriction is for your own good.  Procrastinators will thank me later. The remaining 2 will be done after midterm. 

-Homework must be turned in by the class period for which it was assigned.  Late homework will be penalized.

-Along with these "essay" assignments, I may assign additional homework that the entire class must do.  This will be explained as it arises in the assignment links on the main syllabus web page. [I put "essay" in quotation marks because it may not always, strictly speaking, be an essay.]


25% Exams

            There will be 2 or 3 exams depending on how things progress in class.


10% Class Presentation[s]

            Every student will do a little teaching/demonstrating/lecturing on topics that I will assign.


15% Final Paper

There will be a final paper on a topic that we will come up with together.  This paper will be up to bibliographical standards consistent with a scholarly journal or similar professional guidelines. See below for further information. 



Further Details Pertaining to the 5 elements of your grade


25% - Attendance will be taken at the beginning of each class.  Please remind me to pass around the attendance sheet as I am prone to forget and it is in you interest, if you are in class, to get credit for being in class.  Once in class your job will be to pay attention and participate.  This means ask questions, make comments, disagree with my conclusions, make a tasty topical joke here and there, Éwhatever.  Class participation will be rewarded.  [Stray observation: I have noticed that people who sit in the back of the room tend to participate less and to be less prepared for class in general. This is not a hard and fast rule, but I have noticed a strong trend to this effect.  I do not know if there is a causal relationship.  Does sitting in the back cause poor preparation and lackluster participation or is it the result of poor preparation?  Would variable seating be of any use? Feel free to experiment with this idea.]

            I will occasionally give a quiz on the assigned readings which will be factored into your attendance credit for that day. If you miss every question you will get 50% for you attendance grade.  ItÕs one thing to be in class, itÕs another to be prepared and in class.

            IMPORTANT: If you will not be able to make it to class for any reason what-so-ever, contact me in advance (preferable by email) and tell me. You may tell me why if you want, but you donÕt have to. This will get you partial attendance credit. If you have an official document (or equivalent) to go with your absence, you will get full attendance credit.  Think of class like it is a job.  When you cannot get to work you call your boss.  ThatÕs me. For some reason, some students do not take advantage of this incredibly easy way to get some credit for an absence. 

25% - The 13 "essay" assignments will be described in the weekly assignment links. 

You must do 5 of the standard "essay" assignments in total.  [Be aware that I may assign additional homework assignments above and beyond these.] All assignments must make reference to the readings assigned.  If you write an essay which digresses significantly from the readings, explain in the essay or in footnotes how you got to your topic of digression and refer to the assigned readings in some way.  The homework is not just an exercise in writing, it is also a way for me to know whether you are engaging the readings or not.  You need to prove to me that you are engaging the specific readings.  If it is clear that the readings were not utilized, the assignment will be given a poor grade.

That being said, I like to see people reinventing the wheel as much as they can.  This means I like to see you figuring out how or why something was done.  Get inside the head of a particular historical figure.  Compare old techniques to newer ones or draw diagrams and graphs if it seems appropriate.  My job is to explain to you my observations and thoughts as clearly as I can in relation to the topics we are examining.  My presentation of this material is conceived with my abilities and deficiencies in mind.  I tend to avoid my deficiencies and emphasize my abilities. I come off better that way. Your job is essentially the same.  Explain to me what you have observed and thought in relation to the readings assigned.  If you are fluent in ancient Greek, use that skill if you see a way to apply it.  Let me in on your thought process and use your personal strengths and skills to your advantage.  If you are uncertain about what you are writing, let me know in the writing.  I am perfectly happy to read, ŌI really didnÕt understand how or why X decided to do Y.  I can imagine that X came to his/her conclusion becauseÉĶ  Confusion is a sign of engagement.  Real scholarship requires some risk taking and some humility. 

And another thing, try not to fall into that god-voice that sounds like the narrator to a History Channel documentary or football highlights with the military music blaring to slow-motion tackles.  "Egypt, Dawn of Civilization.  The Final Frontier.  The Greatest, the strongest, fastest, smartest... etc.   Bla, bla, bla."  Write in your own voice.  DonÕt be afraid to go out on a limb.  Homework is not published, so if you do something wacky or just plain wrong, it is not a big deal. Make your mistakes in the homework. Make them big, make them bold. Experiment in the homework. Find your strengths and weaknesses in the homework. I reward enthusiasm and creativity even if it doesnÕt work out to a publishable essay.  If the reading reminds you of something, go with it and tell me about why you think a bell went off in your head. Frequently I have found that students donÕt write down the really good stuff that they think of because they mistake their good ideas with stupidity or bad manners or they think their thoughts are too elementary or too casual or too profane.  If you read something and a voice in the back of your head keeps saying, ŌGive me a break, this is totally absurd!Ķ or ŌHow dumb can they be?Ķ listen to those voices.  They are telling you that something does not compute and should be investigated further. That is your brain telling you that something is missing or something doesn't smell right.  If you are still hearing those voices after musing on the reading, try to figure out alternative explanations or imagine the writer is a Martian or a robot or a whale and see if that change in perspective helps.  [If the voices persist, perhaps you should consider a career in prophecy.]  Write about your thoughts and the voice or voices in your head.  If you arenÕt confused by much of this material then you probably arenÕt engaging it enough.  The first step in understanding tends to be confusion and then curiosity.  Many of the best questions donÕt have definitive answers, so get used to mystery and theory and speculation.


And another thing, all homework should cite sources even if it is from our textbook, or PDF reading or from one of my lectures. Cite everything.  ItÕs a good habit to get into.  Every assignment will require at least a bibliographical entry or footnote citing the source reading.  As a general rule, if there is not one citation on a homework, it will be given a lower grade.  I try to put bibliographical information for all of our readings in the assignment pages.  Let me know if I miss anything.  This has been the number one reason for deductions in past classes.

And now, a word about internet sources.   URLs by themselves are not citations.  DonÕt make me type in a URL to check it out.  That is automatically a deduction.  If you cite a web source make it follow the general form of a book citation.  Find the author, title,  journal or similar,  publisher or organization,  year or date, page numbers (or similar), and then the URL. If you cannot find an author, you very likely may have an unreliable source.  If the URL is Ō.comĶ you may be in unreliable territory.  If it is unclear what organization is sponsoring the site then beware.  If you want me to accept web sources you need to make them look respectable and you need to go the extra distance to research their origins.  Generally good web sources make the citations pretty easy to figure out by being transparent.

Wikipedia is a source, but it is still under suspicion by academia.  I donÕt mind that you use it (anybody who says that they donÕt is probably lying), but use it for background research or to look up a specific fact like when so-and-so died or where the town of Cosenza is. IÕm not teaching Wiki-history filled with facts and chronologies so donÕt expect me to be impressed if you can regurgitate Wiki-history in your essays.  My ultimate aim in this class is more about perspective and our human relationship to the world, using history as a medium to demonstrate what is innate and what is not innate in various frames of reference. IÕm teaching history so that you can figure out strategies for finding out who you are and who we are, not simply a chronology of events. The chronology is still important, for it exemplifies time and our relationship to it. But the chronologies I will discuss are arbitrary, chosen for their narrative interest and their relevance to our current location in space and time and the fact that this class was named by a higher authority than myself (the History Department at Stevens).  I basically want to see your mind at work in the homework assignments.

Most homework done to the standards outlined above should get an 8 or 9 out of 10.  I will give 10s to the really special ones.  I am particularly impressed if you read more than what I assign.  Frequently I will provide links or references to articles in the eLibrary which go above and beyond the assigned readings.  Using these is a pretty good way to get a 9 or 10, but they are not a sufficient or a necessary condition for a 10É but they are certainly an indication that you are headed in the right direction. I donÕt give out many 10s, so if you get one you should write home about it.  I will give 5s, 6s, and 7s to those that look lazy or hastily prepared or lack proper citations or clearly donÕt refer to the readings enough or lack full explanations.  Please donÕt turn in anything that makes me have to explain a 1 through 5.  For that matter, please donÕt turn in anything that will get a 6 or 7.

One more thing.  Presentation is important.  Make it look good.  Pay attention to format and layout and organization.  DonÕt use graphics unless you discuss the graphic. [This simple rule is broken all over the place in textbooks.  Most textbooks are horrible examples of scholarship and should be burned on sight.]  Graphics (pictures, graphs, chartsÉ etc.) are worth a thousand words only if you engage the illustration and write down some of those 1000 words.  Graphics generally shouldnÕt be used as decoration.  They may be decorative, but that should be the secondary not the primary reason for the graphic.  DonÕt put a head shot of Isaac Newton in an essay unless you intend to discuss it.  Analysis of period graphics can make for a very interesting essay. I heartily encourage the use of graphics, but not fluff. 


Let me state one more time that I may assign more homework above and beyond the "essays." These will be posted on the assignment pages as I see fit.  If ever you have a question, ask me.

Be aware that each "essay" is worth 5% of your grade. 

25% - Exams (2 or 3 totaling 25%): My exams are not hard if you have kept up with the readings and come to class. You are generally allowed to bring to an exam a single sheet of 8.5Ķ x 11Ķ paper with absolutely anything you want written or printed or drawn on it.  We will discuss them in more detail later in the term.

10% - Class Presentations:  Every student will present a special topic to the class which I will assign.  I'll try to customize the topics to the student, but that may not always be possible.  Presentations should use whatever media that seems appropriate.  This will often mean PowerPoint presentations.  Make sure you know how to hook your computer up to an external monitor and how to adjust display resolutions and such. Feel free to use my computer if you have a flash drive or similar, only make sure before hand that my computer can see your storage media... I'm on a Mac.  It usually works just fine, but sometimes it doesn't. 

     These presentations should be about 10 minutes long and should be focused on the most interesting aspects of the topic.  Try to be entertaining and informative at the same time.  Figure out what your point is going to be and then go for it.  I will interject frequently to ask questions and tell stories here and there.  Don't be alarmed by this.  These can be scripted or not.  It's your choice.  They can use computers, or etch-a-sketches, or pianos, or whatever gets your point across, which could also just be you talking.  Stay in the 10 minute realm.  Some students like to overdo everything and regurgitate information in public, sort of an intellectual exhibitionist. This can be really boring.  Your ability to hone your topic down to the essentials will be an important part of your grade.  The point is to educate your fellow classmates, not to impress me with a bunch of boring detail.  Be aware of your audience, not just yourself.  Making presentations to peers and superiors is part of life.  Get good at it. 

            You will be graded on content and presentation. 


15% - Final Paper (I modified this description slightly on Nov. 5, 2009 - I shortened the page requirement and simplified the procedure.)

You and I will come up with a topic.  The paper should be 5 to 7 pages long [1" margins, 12pt font, double-spaced].  This means 5 to 7 pages (not 4.7) of text not including title pages, bibliography, or those gigantic headers that some of you like to use.   [About 1500+- words.]

The paper will have footnotes [or endnotes if you prefer] AND an annotated bibliography.  Annotated means that you write a few thoughts about the sources you used along with the standard bibliographical information.  [All web citations must have author, organization, URL, date, and other information that is relevant.  If you can't find all of this information, address this issue in the annotation.  E.g. No author was listed, but the information provided seemed credible because it was from the University of Toronto Classics Department.] 

The final paper doesn't have to be simply a 5 to 7 page paper.  It could also be some other sort of project (subject to approval) like a movie or a photo essay, or a graphic historical novel, or an interpretive dance or a musical composition or a screen play or a comedy routine, or a painting or an installation or a giant body tattoo.... If you go this alternative route, you will still have to do some writing and a bibliography.  For the more unusual proposals, you and I can figure out how this will be done on a case-by-case basis.

Papers are to be submitted to me on or before the 21st of December.  Late papers will be penalized 33% for every day they are late.  Papers handed in early will receive a small bonus.

Finally, this word of cautionÉ and some sage advice.


I am generally a friendly guy and am usually amiable to all who choose to talk to me.  I hold no grudges against those who are not doing the homework or have poor attendance records or those who flunk my exams. IÕve been a bad student and I know how it works.  That being said, do not confuse my friendliness with an A or a B.  IÕll flunk those who donÕt do the work and IÕll do it with a friendly, though sad, demeanor.  ItÕs not some sort of creepy schadenfreude [look it up] on my part. I just find that it is much more fulfilling not to get too wrapped up in the drama of your grades or to take your bad grade as some sort of affront to me or my abilities as a teacher. Some students are not ready to take this class for whatever reason. It took me 17 years to graduate from college and it wasnÕt because my teachers were no good, it was because of me and my priorities and my choices. If you choose to take 7 classes in a term and cannot keep up with the readings, that is your problem.  If you choose to take 4 classes and cannot keep up with the readings, this is also your problem. If you choose to be in co-op and canÕt keep upÉ, againÉ, your problem.  This isnÕt high school and I am not here to make you do anything you donÕt want to doÉ. but donÕt expect a good grade for bad or incomplete work.


At this level you mostly teach yourself.  My job is to guide you through the materials with some commentary. 


From the CAL course description:

HHS 123

"This course and HHS 124, 223, 224 investigate the social, economic, intellectual, political and cultural trends in Europe..."  [Helpful this is not.]

Consult the registrarÕs website ( for information re: add/drop policies.


Goals for this course as they are stated by CAL and endorsed by this instructor:

1)    Promote ethical responsibility and awareness of the societal impact of oneÕs future profession.

2)    Promote a fuller understanding of the traditional humanities and social sciences via history.

3)    Increase awareness of cultures and societies other than oneÕs own.

4)    Improve writing and/or public speaking skills.

5)    Increase oneÕs love of learning for its own sake.

6)    Develop leadership and team skills.


Course objectives:  I want students to appreciate that history is not simply what happened when.  Although who-what-when-where-why is the framework upon which most historical conversations will take place it is not necessarily the final goal.  History is the study of the world, of cultures, governments, militaries, and of individuals, ourselves, and even of inanimate objects and ideas.  One of the great things about history is that it is everything.  It can be extracted from art, music, science, conquest, religion, mud, and chemistry, to name just a few.  Questions I tend to stress are:

Is there an innate state of human-ness? 

How do people from the past differ from us? 

How does a particular worldview affect one's actions?

What is progress?

How can the good be evaluated and is it relative to context?  [issues of moral relativism]

When does history start and stop?

How do history and anthropology relate?

Who wrote the text, does s/he have an agenda?  [for primary and secondary sources]

Can history be studied as a "social science" (stressing the word "science")?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of a metahistorical program?

How do history and narrative relate to one another?

... and many more...


Stevens Honor Board Policies:

Enrollment into the undergraduate class of Stevens Institute of Technology signifies a studentÕs commitment to the Honor System. It is the responsibility of each student to become acquainted with and to uphold the ideals set forth in the Honor System Constitution. Specific student responsibilities include: Maintaining honesty and fair play in all aspects of academic life at Stevens; Writing and signing the pledge, in full, on all submitted academic work; Reporting any suspected violations to an Honor Board member or to the Dean of Student Development; Cooperating with the Honor Board during investigations and hearings.


The pledge signifies that the work submitted by a student is indeed his/her own. There is one designated pledge to be used for tests, homework assignments, lab reports, and computer projects. The pledge shall be written in full and signed by the student on all submitted academic work. Any references used (including texts, tutors, classmates, etc.) should be listed below the written pledge: ŌI pledge my honor that I have abided by the Stevens Honor System.Ķ


This instructor's additional thoughts on honor:

I endorse the Stevens Honor Board Policies as outlined above, however I do have some reservations.  Constant repetition of most anything has a tendency to kill meaning, not invigorate it.  [Recall the thousands of times you may have recited the "Pledge of Allegiance" from public school if you went to one.]  If you feel the need to cheat, come and talk to me before you do it.  I realize that sounds like absurd advice, but I'm not kidding.  I would prefer to deal with it before it happens rather than after the fact.  I do not like being played for a chump and I will consider cheating (or any dishonest behavior) grounds warranting serious action.  If you disrespect me, I will treat you will similar contempt.  That being said, I very much admire a student who confronts a problem with courage and honesty and I will try my best to deal with any special situation that may arise.


Students with disabilities:

If you require special accommodations due to a disability, or if you need individual arrangements should the building be evacuated, you must inform the office of Student Counseling and Psychological Services, Dr. Terence Hannigan, Director, in the Howe Center, 7th floor (x5177), and ask that he inform the instructor as early as possible.


Changes in the syllabus:

The instructor may modify or alter the syllabus to make up for lost classes due to weather conditions, health, or other reasons or when he/she feels it would help to attain course objectives, or for any other such reasons.



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