AMERICAN ETHNIC STUDIES: SYLLABUS
| KEY QUESTIONS |
Over one hundred years
ago, the astute French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville pointed
out that the American majority "exercise a prodigious actual authority,
and a power of opinion which is nearly as great; no obstacles exist which
can impede or even retard its progress, so as to make it heed the complaints
of those whom it crushes upon its path. This state of things is harmful
in itself, and dangerous for the future..."1
The basis of our class, American Ethnic Studies, is to see how de Tocqueville's
warning manifests itself today and give voice to those minorities in America
that the majority has attempted to silence. Instead of tradition lecture,
the students will be presented with bold questions for discussion that
involve society today in the political, social, economic, or religious
fields (often combining these fields). These questions will all concern
some aspect of minority aspiration, condemnation, or admonition the majority
Since the nature of these questions are, by definition, controversial
(i.e., threatening to the majority), I will strive not to be an authority
of the content of the course. I will allow the de Tocqueville's, the Du
Bois's, the Chavez's and the Eminem's of the world to do the talking.
But I will do my utmost to teach proper logic and utilize Socratic method
to challenge the students as I hope they will me. In good faith, I present
the following major questions we plan to address in this course:
Day 10: What exactly is an American?
Day 11: Who is a majority in America and who is in the minority?
Day 12: What defines white in America?
Day 13: Do former minorities discriminate more, less, or equally against
Day 14: What unrecognized privileges do majority members receive from
Day 15-17: What methods are employed to discriminate against a minority?
Day 18: Do the ideas and actions of the members of the American majority
conform more to extremists than the minority? For example, who do average
white Americans identify with more: Black Americans or KKK members?
Day 19: Is ethnic diversity important?
Day 21: Are Native Americans Americans, Indians, or something else?
Day 22: Should America eliminate the holiday of Thanksgiving?
Day 23-25: Can and do you really own your land?
Day 26: Why do non-Native Americans often link Native Americans with buffalo,
teepees, and pottery?
Day 27: Should American government dissolve all treaties with Native Americans
and end the reservation system?
Day 28: Do American state governments encourage vice and demean Native
Americans by allowing them to own casinos?
Day 29: Should sports teams change their Native American-inspired mascots?
Day 31: Should America pay reparations to all black Americans for slavery?
Day 32: Does Du Bois's concept of double-consciousness prevent blacks
from ever becoming Americans?
Day 33: Will Martin Luther King, Jr's dream ever be realized?
Day 34: Do police expect black Americans to commit crime? Is the death
Day 35: Should America eliminate affirmation action?
Day 36: Is the American majority drawn to black entertainment because
they find it alluringly dangerous since non-blacks fear black Americans?
Day 37: Should gangsta rap be eliminated because it glorifies violence,
gangbanging, and sexist attitudes?
Day 38: Is entertainment the only avenue America will allow black Americans
to gain social capital?
Day 39: Who's world does Eminem belong to? Does any part of America really
Day 40-42: Will white Americans always be racist?
Day 44: What is the difference between Hispanic and Latino?
Day 45: Should all Americans be required to speak English?
Day 46: Should America be more aggressive in the prevention of immigration
of illegal aliens?
Day 47: Are IQ tests biased against racial minorities?
Day 48: Should Mexicans be able to live in Mexico, but cross the border
into America to work?
Day 49: Should the U.S. lift the embargo on Cuba?
Day 50: Do the Homies figurines glorify gang life and stereotype Latino
Day 51: Should America pay reparations for the evacuation and internment
of the Japanese Americans in WWII?
Day 52: Should Asian immigrants and refugees who reject American cultural
norms be allowed to stay in America?
Day 53: How will U.S. schools teach refugees who do not speak English?
Day 54-57: Has Disney perpetuated racial stereotypes and ruthlessly Americanized
characters in their films to appeal to the majority American assumptions?
(examples- Mulan, Lady and the Tramp, Aladdin, Pocahontas)
Day 58-60: How has stereotyping actually helped Asian Americans, if at
Day 62: Which is best for America: Pluralism,
Establishmentarianism, or Atheism?
Day 63: Should there be separation of Church and State?
Day 64-65: Should religion be allowed in public school?
Day 66: Is Jewishness a race, religion, ethnicity, or some combination
Day 67: Is American Islam damaged by 9/11, Iraq War, or Afghanistan War?
Day 68: How do minority religions survive?
Day 69-71: What is the difference between minority religions and cults?
1 De Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America.
New York: Mentor Books, 1984; p. 113.