Fall 2010 HoST [HHS130E]: Class Policies


Thumbnail Description of the Constitution of Your Grade


25% Attendance

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


25% Regular Homework and Essays (Things that you turn in.)


-Everyone is required to do the "homework" assignments. 

-Homework could be an extremely short assignment that just requires that you jot down a few thoughts or it could be an elaborate presentation.

-All homework will be described on the weekly assignment page.

-Some homework will be worth just a few points, and other homework assignments will be worth more.  I'll let you know as it is assigned. 


-Every week there will be an "essay" assignment described on the weekly assignment page. 

-You must do 2 short form "essays" and 2 long form "essays."  [That is 4 essays in total.  You can choose which ones you want to do.]

-Short form essays need to address that week's readings and need to be one page, single-spaced or the equivalent.  [Shoot for about 600 words in the body of the essay.]

-Long form essays need to do what short form essays do, plus they need to incorporate an additional reading that I'll post on the weekly assignment page.  These should be at least two pages, single spaced. 

-Everyone must do at least one short and one long by the midterm exam.  [This is for your own good, so that you don't end up doing all 4 in the last 4 weeks.]


-Homework and Essays must be turned in by the class period for which they were assigned (usually meaning on a Thursday].  Late homework will be penalized.


25% Exams

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


25% Projects

            These will be described around the midterm. 


Further Details Pertaining to the 4 elements of your grade


Attendance will be taken at the beginning of each 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 evaluated.  [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.  However, I do not know if there is a causal relationship.  Does sitting in the back cause poor preparation and lackluster participation?  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 determine your attendance grade for that day.


     If you will not be able to make it to class for any reason what-so-ever, contact me in advance (preferably by email: host@mifami.org) 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 a job.  When you cannot get to work you call your boss.  ThatÕs me. 

Homework and Essay assignments will be described in the weekly assignment links. 

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 and refer to the assigned readings.  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.

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 something was done.  Get inside the head of a thinker.  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 history of science and technology.  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.  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, ÒI really didnÕt understand how X came up with his theory of Y, but here is my take on it.Ó  Real scholarship requires some risk taking and some humility. 

When I ask that you write a one page, single-spaced essay of about 600 words, that is a usually just a guideline.  If you put a lot of work in on an illustration or a short movie or something similar, use your own judgment as to whether you put in about 600 words worth of work.  I like getting stuff that isn't just an essay, so don't get all anxious about whether or not you did enough.  You should be able to tell if you are doing enough. 

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.  DonÕt be afraid to go out on a limb.  Homework and essays are not published, so if you do something wacky or just plain wrong, it is not a big deal. Make your mistakes in the homework and essays. Make them big, make them bold. Experiment. Find your strengths and weaknesses.  Find your voice.  I reward enthusiasm and creativity even if it doesnÕt work out to a publishable essay. 

And another thing, all homework should cite sources even if it is from our textbook 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 with some page numbers.  I try to put bibliographical information for all of our readings in the assignment pages, but sometimes I forget.  When I do, it is your responsibility to make a reasonable citation. This has been the number one reason for deductions in past classes.  No citations or inadequate citations automatically reduces your score.  [How would you like it if somebody presented your ideas without giving you some credit?]

URLs are not enough for citations.  At the very least, make any citation what-so-ever have the following:

author or similar


title: book or journal or similar

publisher or organization


page numbers or similar

and then a URL if it is a web source


If a source doesn't give all of this information, you should immediately be suspicious.  If you want me to accept web sources you need to make them look respectable.  Be especially suspicious of .com. 

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 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 reference frames. IÕm teaching history so that you can figure out strategies for finding out who you and 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.


Most short essays should get an 8 or 9 out of 10 if they do what I asked.  I will give 10s to the really special ones.  I am particularly impressed if you read more than what I assign.  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 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. 


Exams: 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 8.5Ó x 11Ó paper with absolutely anything you want written or printed or drawn on it. 

Projects: These will be described about half way through the term. 

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 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 do. 


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


This is the official course description from the CAL web site:

HHS 130

"A historical survey of science and technology. Principal topics include science and technology in prehistory, Egyptian and Babylonian science and culture, Greek science, Medieval technology and science, the Scientific Revolution, the making of the modern physical science, Darwin, and the Darwinian Revolution."

Consult the registrarÕs website (http://www.stevens.edu/sit/registrar/) 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...


Official 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: ÒI pledge my honor that I have abided by the Stevens Honor System.Ó


My 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 that warrant 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.  Talk to me.


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.