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Course Syllabus

Queens College 

City University of New York 

College Writing

English 110, Section 8T4RC, Spring 2010

Tues/Thurs  8:15AM-10:05AM

Room HH 08

Instructor: Steven Alvarez


Office: KP 330

Phone: 646-549-6516

Office Hours: Thurs 12:15-2:00 PM or by appointment


Course Introduction

Individuals in their transcendent unity are the affair of higher education.  That begins in adolescence and is given concurrently with advanced elementary education.  [. . .]  We begin [. . .] by assessing the differences.  Precisely who or what, anatomically, biochemically and psychologically, is this child?  In the organic hierarchy, which takes precedence—his [sic] gut, his muscles, or his nervous system?  How near does he stand to the three polar extremes?  How harmonious or how disharmonious is the mixture of his component elements, physical and mental?  How great is his inborn wish to dominate, or to be sociable, or to retreat into his inner world?  And how does he do his thinking and perceiving and remembering?  Is he a visualizer or a nonvisualizer?  Does his mind work with images or with words, with both at once, or with neither?  How close to the surface is his storytelling faculty?  Does he see the world as Wordsworth and Traherne saw it when they were children?  And, if so, what can be done to prevent the glory and the freshness from fading into the light of common day?  Or, in more general terms, how can we educate children on the conceptual level without killing their capacity for intense nonverbal experience?  How can we reconcile analysis with vision?  And there are dozens of other questions that must be asked and answered.  For example, does this child absorb all the vitamins in his food or is he subject to some chronic deficiency that, if it isn’t recognized and treated, will lower his vitality, darken his mood, make him see ugliness, feel boredom and think foolishness or malice?  And what about his blood sugar?  What about his breathing?  What about his posture and the way he uses his organism when he’s working, playing, studying?  And there are all the questions that have to do with special gifts.  Does he show signs of having a talent for music, for mathematics, for handling words, for observing accurately and for thinking logically and imaginatively about what he has observed?  And finally how suggestible is he going to be when he grows up? (249-250)

Huxley, Aldous.  Island.  New York: Harper & Row, 1962.

One of the best indicators of whether a child will one day graduate from college is whether his or her [!] parents are college graduates.  Of course, relations of this sort are not absolute: Perhaps two-thirds of the members of society ultimately reproduce their parents’ level of educational attainment, while about one-third take a different path.  Still, there is no question that we live in a society characterized by considerable gaps in resources or, put differently, by substantial inequality. (8)

Lareau, Annette. Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family

            Life. Berkeley: U California P: 2003.

The two quotes above ask us to consider education, indeed our own educations, in functionalist and economic frameworks in order to be assessed—as students in Huxley’s 1960s utopic vision, and as categories of finance, of have and have not.  For Huxley, the school’s responsibility is to identify certain psychological, biological, and anatomical character traits, and to distribute students slotted for each group based on their physical and mental capabilities as varyingly conceived.  Assessment of ability and potential no doubt happens via standardized tests and student performance in classes at schools, but we also know that schools segregate students to “special” or remedial courses, such as English as a second language, or as separate spaces for disabled students in particular, or to “different” classes, some better others worse.  As students we expect inequality, as it is inherent in the institutional organization.  Yet as Americans we understand the cultural importance of competition, or intuiting the social games that structure society because we live this.  This is why we know that some don’t attend college, and why some of us go to college . . .

In this class, our special focus will be on inequality in education, and critical analyses of what we have experienced in our years as students.  We will consider whether or not we are of that “one-third” of American society who does not reproduce its parents’ levels of educational attainment, and whether or not that actually matters.

Lareau’s quote will come back to us this semester as we explore via ethnographic methodologies our own educational genealogies.  This class will chart individual research upon 12+ years of being a student.  The goal is to come to a better understanding of schools as socializing institutions and class differences, but also critical analysis of cultural forms.  For example, Do you think the school examined you the way Huxley claims it should have?  How well did your schools prepare you for college?  What do you expect from college?  These are some of the first questions we’ll deal with to begin to formulate an analysis.  Again, using the critical tools we learn from Unequal Childhoods, and through studied analyses of transcripts and records, along with memories, and some secondary source research material, students will practice various compositional techniques that will without a doubt improve writing, while critically examining structured inequalities existing in institutionalized education.

NOTE: English 110 is a required course at Queens, and at all CUNY—though sometimes disguised as 101.  This course will require a great deal of informal writing, building toward three more “final” projects, and culminating in your semester portfolio, which are last copies of two longer essays, your research essay and your final education essay.

Course Goals

Three goals compose the semester:  First 1) Reading and discussing various media using these media, especially blogged responses to blogs, of which you regularly shall respond to for your comrades here in class.  Secondly 2) You will also write three formal papers that you will develop through informal and/or in-class writing, drafting, sharing, research, interviews, and peer-review—which you will compose with the help of a group, and which will deal with a subject you choose.  And thirdly, 3) you will learn how to research and cite correctly in order to widen the scope of conversations and to develop scholarly technique and voice.  To do this, we will spend a good deal of time with the library’s website so I encourage you to bring your laptop if you have one.


Course Structure

We meet twice a week for roughly two hours a session.  Some meetings will be broken into two sections with a short break in the middle.  There are a few days announced in advance when class may be cancelled, but always noted in advance.


We’ll be seeing a lot of one another.  Therefore I hope we will come to respect one another as members of a shared academic community.  In order to foster that sense of community, there are a few rules that I expect everyone to follow:

RESPECT: In this class we’ll encounter new ideas and different ways of thinking and reading things, in addition to practicing new and demanding skills.  In order for us to be a successful community of scholars, we need to be respectful of each other’s learning.  It is imperative that we treat one another with courtesy.  Talking over your classmates or myself, sleeping, text messaging, not having the necessary materials, surfing websites you shouldn’t be surfing during class, or not having done the assignment, are all manifestations of disrespect and will be noted (in that catch-all “Participation Points” I record).  Turn off cellular phones before you enter the classroom—AND PLEASE NO TEXTING DURING CLASS.  And please don’t make dramatic sighs, sigh.

Be aware that grades for participation are not only based on how much you talk in class but also how respectful you are to your classmates, to me, and to your work.  Also note that the quizzes conducted at the beginning of class may not be made up, so being to class on time is certainly in your best interest.

ATTENDANCE:  We meet at 8:15AM—not 8:16, not 8:20, certainly not 8:30.  I do not tolerate tardiness, and I find it disrespectful.  If you have problems with the early morning demand of this course, I suggest finding another section that better suits your schedule.

Again, more than four missed classes will result in significant loss in your quiz grade (mark the heavy emphasis on quizzes for your grade).  The more classes you miss, the more your grade suffers because, naturally, I don’t give “make-up” quizzes.  More importantly, our discussions and our in-class writings are an integral part of the graded assignments.

And by the way: there is no such thing as an excused absence—your lack of physical presence does not excuse you from turning in your work.  Therefore, it is your responsibility to miss no more than four classes or accept your grade.  You are responsible for all the work we do in class and out of class even if you are not in attendance.  Find a classmate from whom you can get any missed information.  My email and telephone number are at the top of the syllabus.  Feel free to contact me—in your best standard English please.

LATE WORK: The assignments in this class build upon one another and culminate in your final portfolio-project.  It is necessary for you, then, to complete each assignment before the next is begun.  Late or skipped assignments will seriously hinder the process.  I RESERVE THE RIGHT NOT TO ACCEPT LATE ESSAYS.  That’s in bold and caps so you get my emphasis, dig?  If you feel that you will not be able to make a deadline, or if you must miss class on the day the essay is due, you must contact me in advance so we can work something out.  If your essay is not posted by the time I get to where I ask you to post it online, I will skip you.  Don’t take the chance my friends.

PEER REVIEW:  On a peer-review day, you must bring TWO PAPER COPIES of your essay to class with you.  Failure to do so will mean that I will assign you a taxing and awful (and I mean AWFUL) writing assignment to do instead, and you will lose points on your paper’s final grade.

PLAGIARISM: Plagiarism is the most disrespectful act of an academic citizen and carries the largest reprimand.  The English Department policy on plagiarism is as follows: “A student who has plagiarized will automatically fail the paper and possibly fail the class.  The student will also be listed on a departmental record that will be maintained for the duration of the student’s enrollment at the College and reported to the Dean of Students who may decide to take further action.  A student who plagiarizes the second time will automatically fail the course.  Plagiarists may be subject to further penalties to be determined by the Faculty-Student Disciplinary Committee or the Dean of Students, including notation on the student’s permanent record, suspension, or dismissal from the college.”

ASSISTANCE: You are always welcome to come see me during office hours for help either with your writing or to discuss the readings.  Also be aware of the Writing Center (Kiely 229) and the Reading Lab (Kiely 131), which conduct free classes, individual tutoring sessions, and drop-in advising.  You can also get help over the internet at


Course Requirements

            Maintaining your qwriting account ( will be your first priority throughout the semester.  Using primarily your journal-blog, I will be grading you on QUANTITY.  My hope is that the production of a vast amount of writing will lead to improvements in the QUALITY of your work.  This said, the full 22% of this grade for the class will go to the individual who blogs the most.  The person who blogs second most receives 21%, the third 20%, and so on down to the last person(s).  I suppose if you all conspired and refused to blog together, forming a critics’ syndicate of anti-establishment solidarity, that I’d be impressed and would consider giving everyone a good grade, so we’ll leave that option on the table.


Qwriting Access and sign up for

This is a portfolio-based class, which means that at the end of the semester you will be required to electronically post an electronic portfolio, which will include your “final” essay of the semester, and copies of your most formal drafts of your previous essays.

The sequence of assignments is laid out in the schedule of assignments, but the major writing assignments will be given as we approach them.  As we near them, we will go over the requirements and expectations for each piece of writing.  Briefly, you will be responsible for three formal essays and all the preparatory work leading to them, as well as all the steps of the research process: a proposed topic for your research paper, an annotated bibliography, a first-draft, an outline, a second draft, and a final draft.

All essays must be typed, double-spaced, and in Times New Roman 12-point font.

You may be required to attend either individual conferences with me or short electronic-chat conversations throughout the semester.  Potential conference days will be announced in advance.



All assignments will be given a point grade and not a letter grade.

Quizzes:                      50 POINTS

(25 x 2 points)

Qwriting Blog             22 POINTS


Essays:                       23 POINTS

Essay 1                        5 points

Essay 2                        8 points[1]

Essay 3                        10 points

Participation                 5 POINTS

Queens College Grade Equivalencies:

A         93-100

A-        90-92

B+       87-89

B          83-86

B-        80-82

C+       77-79

C         73-76

C-        70-72

D+       67-69

D         60-66

F          0-59


Textbook and Required Materials

Lareau, Annette. Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life. Berkeley: U

California P: 2003.

Schedule of Classes—of which I have to right to revise.  Therefore if you miss class email me in case I do make changes.  Also available at

 Jan 28—Distribution of syllabus, signing up for Qwriting, and demonstration of New York Times historical database.  Free writing if time.

Homework: Read the wikipedia entry for CUNY and Queens College,_City_University_of_New_York and be prepared for a quiz next class.  ALSO create your account:  Once you’ve created your account, you’ll join the class blog.  Post a blog about the ease or difficulty of doing this, in order to see what problems are common for people in class.


Feb 2— MEET IN LIBRARY at 8:15 in courtyard/lobby inside building, and we’ll head to the room downstairs together.

Homework: Download an article from the New York Times Historical database from the late 60s or early 70s about Queens College or CUNY, one that also includes images.  You will turn this in, in paper form, as a homework assignment next class.  Blog: what’s the best way to “train kids”?  How were you trained?  What worked best?  What didn’t?  Try to give a specific example in your experience illustrating your point.

Feb 4—Quiz over reading.  Tour Purdue OWL and how to cite the article you found in MLA style conventions.  Navigation questions.  Analyzing your experiences as a student—discipline and reward.  In-class writing, and various youtube clips (if time the dog whisperer).  Also introduction to library databases.  Also how to check the group site, and how to upload images and videos to your entries.  In-class writing exercise: using detail.

Homework: Read chapter 1 (pp. 1-13) from Unequal Childhoods.  Be prepared for a quiz at the beginning of next class.  Blog a short response to the reading, its difficulty, and any questions you might have about the text.

Feb 9—Collecting your homework, or printed versions of the Times article.  Quiz over reading and Lareau’s social classifications.  Discussion of opportunity and school as a means of attaining upward mobility.  Various youtube clips and reading together one NY Times QC article in class.  In-class:

Homework: Blog: Best educational moment—what and when.  Describe the scene in detail—be specific, use specific details.  Why was the moment so special?  What did it teach you? 

Also, read over some of the responses to the ABC News story:

Feb 11—Examining some of the heated responses to the ABC News story.  In-class writing about your hopes for college, and discussion of what college has been thus far.

Homework: Look up your high school online and see what you find out.  Take any interesting notes that you thing might be worth free-writing about for next class.  Follow any leads that interest you.  Also be sure to be keeping up on your blogging.  Also be sure to be adding media to your blogs.  If you have nothing else to write about, post a youtube video and respond to it.  Also read (and respond to if you wish) the following editorial: and also  Also read the Times article “F.B.I. Inquiry Ordered” (23 Jun 1964, pg. 13).

Feb 16—Quiz over reading.  Examining the argument of our QC reporters, and also connecting to the Times civil rights pdf.

Homework:  Read about KIPP  And also read chapters 2 and 3 (pp. 14-65) in Unequal ChildhoodsBlog: If you had children how would—or if you have children, how do—you choose schools for them?  What educational rearing would—do—you do?  Why do you think KIPP is or is not too strict?  How do different students react to such discipline?  Why do the children seemed brainwashed?  BE SURE TO HAVE A PRINTED VERSION OF THE KIPP ARTICLE TO READ IN CLASS.

Feb 18—NO CLASS: classes follow Monday schedule.

Feb 23—Discussion of chapters: social class and child rearing, and identified how you were reared.  Also reading together the KIPP article and looking for connections to Lareau’s theories.

Homework:  Read the following article and see how you can possibly connect it to Lareau’s, or the KIPP article’s, ideas in a blog—this  could take some stretching, but consider organizing leisure time . . . .  Also read the following Times articles: “2 of Missing Men Feared for Lives” (25 Jun 1964, p. 18) and “Mississippi Drags River in Search for Rights Aides” (28 Jun 1964, p. 1), two articles continuing with Goodman in history.

Feb 25—Quiz over reading.  In-class: review KIPP website.  Further reviewing KIPP article together in class.  Also class distinctions, further.

Homework: Read and evaluate the following websites , and ,

Also read the following NY Times article 

Blog: Write a journal entry about what you notice about the truth each site represents, what you find the credibility or believability of the sites to be.  How reliable would each be as a source for conducting research?  Which of these sites present legitimate knowledge? 

Mar 2—Quiz over reading.  Also practice interviewing, and looking for plot in narratives with the example of “Grab”’s story.

Homework: Find a person to interview about either “The Time I Almost Died” or their “Fight Story.”  Be sure to transcribe the interview into separated numbered sentences.  BRING YOUR TRANSCRIPT TO CLASS.  With no transcript, you will be marked absent and also kindly asked to leave.

Mar 4—Quiz over reading. Working with narratives, looking for elements of narrative.  Analysis practice.  Free-writing in class.  Group work with transcripts.  Interviewing classmates about their education and how they think they were “reared” to be students.  Reviewing Unequal Childhoods thus far, what you think.

Homework:  Read the pdf transcript “with a Puerto Rican dealer in Harlem” by Philippe Bourgois, and take note at the detail that the transcriber takes in creating the scene and also the characters.  We will read the article together next class.

Mar 9—Quiz over reading.  In-class group analysis of the social situations creating the drug dealers Bourgois profiles.  Also: in-class film “A Girl Like Me” and working with Bourdieu as a theoretical framework—PIE.

Homework: Think about the doll test in A Girl Like Me.

Mar 11—Quiz over reading.  In-class reading of “Homeless in El Barrio” by Bourgois, and discussion over the ethnographer’s analyses.  Questions about PIE.

Homework: Read chapter 3 in Unequal Childhoods (pp. 66-81).  Practice writing a PIE paragraph to the film.  Be prepared to turn in next class—no late versions, no emailed copies.  Paper copy only.

Mar 16—Quiz over readings.  Review of theoretical models of domination and hegemony.  Reading boyd together in-class.

Homework:  Read the two articles about the civil rights workers, “Dr. King Exhorts Queens Students” (14 May 1965, p. 23) and “Ask the Children: Is Mississippi Still Burning?” (2 Mar 1989, p. B1).  Blog: how could the writing you do at school be more like the writing you do outside of school?

 Blog a response about your thoughts of MLK visiting QC, and how important the visit is for you historically.  Read the next two chapters in Unequal Childhoods (pp. 83-133). 

Mar 18—NO CLASS 

Mar 23—Quiz over reading.  In-class writing, and clip from Mississippi Burning.

Homework: Continue your blogging.  Also review the following clips:,,, and from Clinton’s visit to Queens College

Mar 25—Quiz over videos.  Discussion of essay drafts due and analyzing your experiences with social class.

Homework: Have a first draft completed (at least four pages), in paper form, ready for peer review next class.  If you don’t have a copy, you will be marked absent.  Also read chapter 7 in Unequal Childhoods (pp. 134-160).

Mar 30—NO CLASS: Spring Break.

Apr 1—NO CLASS: Spring Break.

Apr 6—Quiz over reading.  Drafting Essay 1.

Homework: Revise your drafts.  Be sure to note all the corrections to be made, including making your MLA formatting perfect, and also your works cited.  Also be sure to revise out as much “to be” as possible. 

Apr 8—Quiz over reading.  Using quotes in your writing, citation, PIE.

Homework: Final version of essay 1 in paper form (at least six pages) due next class.  Your essay must have at least THREE PIE paragraphs.

Apr 13—Quiz over reading.  Essay 1 due.  Practice interviewing: listening, allowing your interviewee to speak, and trying not to interrupt.  Asking open-ended questions.

Homework: Begin asking your parents and guardians questions about your schooling and upbringing in order to alert them to participating in your research.

Apr 15—Quiz over reading.  Begin in-class film Mardi-Gras Made in China.

Homework: Blog a response to the film.  What do you notice about how discipline is displayed in the film?  What about the differences in class and how they are lived?  What kinds or connections can you make between the film and Lareau’s or Bourdieu’s theories of social reality?

Apr 20—Quiz over film.  Continue film.  Discussion human rights and class, and structured inequality.  Also discussion of interviews and any questions you have.

Homework: Field notes for your final version of Essay 2, in paper form due.

The next step for this essay you just turned in is to interview (if possible) those who reared you, and to have a discussion about what you have learned from Unequal Childhoods about the differences between concerted cultivation and natural growth, and to learn about how your interviewee (ideally a parent or guardian) was raised.  Be sure to record the conversation, and to transcribe the record—again imagine how valuable the transcript will be later.

For next class submit a typed copy of your ten-minute timed writing (typing) after conducting the interview.

Apr 22—Quiz over film.  Essay 2 field notes due. Timed writing also due.

Homework: Finish typing up your transcript, and post this as a blog by April 30, 12PMRead Unequal Childhoods (pp.161-197).   

Apr 27—Exchanging notes.  Discussion of how to incorporate quotes or structure essay.  How to narrate situations.  In-class video: social class.

Homework: Bring typed transcript to class in paper form next class.

Apr 29—Quiz over reading.  Further discussion of Lareau and your essays.  In groups, reviewing transcripts in class, looking for “good quotes” and analysis of concerted cultivation and/or natural growth.

Homework: Watch the QC clip:   Work on incorporating quotes from your transcript in the revision of your research.  A copy of your revision (in paper form) is due next class.  Also begin adding your archive of images and/or videos to your blog.  Read Unequal Childhoods (pp. 198-232).

May 4—Quiz over reading.  In-class writing workshop.  Also thinking about “institutional analysis” and what Queens might discipline its students for?  In-class reading:  Also reading classmates’ writing.  In-class review of Queens College Office of Scholarships website, and beginning to draft your scholarship essay, and working on your wiki.

Homework: Turn in your research revisions next class.  To be posted on your qwriting blog.  Please respond to three of the essays you read in class, and offer further ideas for your classmates.

May 6—In-class, working on scholarship essays.  Good points to note for scholarship committees.  Brainstorming your merits.  Also short film about “school culture.”  Examples of personal statements from previous students.

Homework: Work on your personal statements.  Have two paper drafts ready for next class, one to turn in to me, and one for comments from your classmates.

May 11—Quiz over reading.  Reviewing the politics of language use, educational linguistic standardization, and social-symbolic power.  Also questions about your scholarship essay.  Example of personal statements from previous students.

Homework: Continue to work on your scholarship essays. Read Unequal Childhoods (pp. 233-258)

May 13—LAST CLASS.  Review of scholarship drafts, also discussion of essay form, and examples from previous students.

Final portfolio (latest versions of your essays) due 12PM May 24—all posted on Qwriting.  Final day to blog: May 27 12PM.  Also please include the one-page class response as your “cover letter”.  Have a wonderful summer.

[1] Research Process:                                8 POINTS—as Essay 2

Statement of interest                 1 points

First draft                                       1 points


Bibliography                                  1 points

Outline                                             1 points

Second draft                                   1 points

Final draft                                       3 points

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