Welcome to FSEM 100n: Economic Inequality

Here is the letter I sent you over the summer to get things going:

Welcome to the University of Mary Washington! In only a few weeks, you’ll be on campus and a few days later, we’ll start classes. The purpose of this email is to introduce you to our class, FSEM 100: Economic Inequality. The class will meet in the conference room inside the front door (the College Avenue entrance) of the ECON House at 9am on Monday, Wednesday & Friday. The ECON House is located at 1004 College Avenue.  You can find it on the campus map here.

First year seminars are very different courses from the others you are likely to be taking this year.  They are not “easier,” but different.  For one thing, the goal is not to cover a specific body of content the way you might in a traditional introductory course, like Principles of Economics.

Rather, the goal is to explore a series of questions about the subject of the course (in our case, economic inequality) to get a deeper understanding of the issues, and in the process, to get an introduction to college-level writing, oral communication and research skills.

There is no single right answer to the questions we will explore.  In other words, the process is as important as the product.  (For this reason, it makes no sense to ask “What do I need to do to get an A?” as if there was a checklist.  You can’t jump to the end without going through the process. Does it make sense to replace a two-week trip to Europe by going directly from the arrival airport to the departure airport?)

I will be assuming that you are in this FSEM because you care about, or are at least curious about, economic inequality. If not, you should probably drop this course and take one you’re more interested in.

We won’t be using textbooks for this course, but rather several short books and many readings.  There are several things you will need to do before the first day of class, and I recommend you do them over the next few weeks because things will get very busy once you arrive at Mary Washington.

First, we will organize our course around the topics you are interested in, so please bring to the first day of class 2 – 3 questions about economic inequality you are particularly interested in exploring.

Second, please read Robert Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. This book is available from Amazon.com as well as other bookstores: https://www.amazon.com/Our-Kids-American-Dream-Crisis-ebook/dp/B00LD1OQLY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1531830545&sr=8-1&keywords=putnam+our+kids Reading this book in advance will allow us to hit the ground running. The book will also provide context for the first paper.  If you are on financial aid, I can help you get the books via the College Bookstore.

Third, please read Horatio Alger, Ragged Dick, Or, Street Life in New York with the Boot-Blacks. This book is available at Amazon.com in a variety of formats including free! (Note that the free version is a little rough.) Ragged Dick is a classic of American Literature, but before you panic and start thinking about Moby Dick, this book is a very easy read and entertaining to boot. You should be able to read the entire book in a couple of hours. We will be discussing Ragged Dick the first week of class, so this would be good to read the weekend before classes start.

Finally, could you please fill out the following survey before our first class?  The survey is at https://goo.gl/forms/jKECEr0Bo2wKRF5p1 . The survey (which is anonymous) is to tell us something about you and to get you thinking about our course. I plan to present the results the first day.

Let me know if you have any questions. I am looking forward to meeting you and working with you this semester.

Best wishes,

  • Steve Greenlaw


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