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Humanities Semester 2 Syllabus


Humanities Syllabus Spring 2020 Semester Two:  Truth and Knowledge                               

Course Description:

  This Humanities course will focus on the careful reading and writing in a critical examination of literature through the varied lenses of history, philosophy, mathematics, natural and human sciences, music, theater, art, and film. Reading beyond the literary texts will be required to help students place and contextualize their understanding and to find some common vocabulary for our conversation. Examples of this reading will include novels and drama as well as nonfictional works such as (but not be limited to) sociolinguistic studies, treatises on the analysis of beauty throughout time, philosophical and psychological TED Talks, and the background on the development of intelligence testing.  Through this multidimensional approach, students will have the opportunity to identify, analyze, and write about the societal constructs that shape and define the individual in today’s world.  The class centers on essential questions for four key units:  Power, Beauty, Knowledge, and Truth.  Materials may also include various genres: drama, short story, novel, poetry, essays, letters, and journals where appropriate to teaching objectives and student interest.  We will organize most daily activities as a seminar with whole class and small group discussions, lectures, debates, student presentations, projects, and dramatizations.  We are here as fellow learners and questioners, and we hope to learn a great deal from each other.  This is only possible if we are willing to take some risks to trust and respect each member of the group.  The success of this class depends significantly on sharing questions, insights, observations, and examples of our writing as we help each other to find answers, no matter how tentative, to the profound topics we discuss and write about.            

      Writing is of course an integral part of this course, as it was originally conceived to be a class to extend student study beyond AP Language and AP Literature and the AP examinations.  In relation to UConn’s course catalogue, “Writing Through Literature” (English 1011) is “to introduce students to the work of the university through cross-disciplinary reading and writing. Students engage in inquiry-driven cycles of reading, dialogue, drafting, and revision:” Each seminar has reflective writing, drafting, conferencing, revising and information on literacy components: “Because writing is emergent—its qualities arising from a process of trial and reflection—much of the most significant work happens in revision, once students have taken the first steps of drafting a specific writing project. Feedback includes the comments an instructor makes on each draft but includes, too, the various ways that student work circulates beyond the instructor-student dyad. Class time can be directed toward this reflection on the work that students have done as peer review, various forms of conferencing, the work shopping of specific examples, and so on. Students may also provide feedback as out-of-class assigned work” (ECE English Handbook).   As part of all writing assignments, the set of skills to recognize when information is needed and the ability locate, evaluate, and effectively use the needed information will be a necessary part of the class: “Information Literacy, an explicit component of UConn’s General Education requirements, addresses making, not just receiving, knowledge and includes direct instruction in some elements of library research” (ECE Handbook).  Because of the escalating complexity of our environment, individuals are faced with diverse, abundant information choices--in their academic studies, in the workplace, and in their personal lives.  Through working with our district coordinator, UConn’s library and databases, and resource personnel, students will learn to make stronger choices about their sources.  Reflective writing, which includes “characterizing, reconsidering, or qualifying one’s work,” fosters awareness and metacognition about writing (and not just writing processes), is an ongoing activity that need not be graded. Reflective forms include: process notes, in-class reflections on (or presentations of) projects, other kinds of metatexts, including placing of one’s work within the context of others’ work, introductory texts, and more” (ECE Handbook).

Late Work:

       I do not accept late work. UConn doesn't accept late work.  As college professors rarely accept late work, and this is a class modeled on college expectations, it only makes sense to introduce you to some of the challenges you will be facing next year.  Time management is vital to your success in life.  Learn how to work with a yearlong syllabus and plan ahead to ensure your academic success. Please contact me by email, make an appointment, or talk to me after school if you are having trouble with an assignment before that assignment becomes due.


     All written assignments are submitted to the teacher via  All grading (both rough and final drafts) is also done on under the GradeMark feature.  As you all know, is also a plagiarism prevention site that will automatically run all your work through an originality check.  Students who plagiarize will receive failing grades on their work as well as being required to attend a meeting with your parents and an administrator.  You will also be required to rewrite the paper of course.


     The instructor reserves the right to make changes in the syllabus when necessary in order to meet learning objectives and to cover emergency schedule changes (like last year’s hurricane and blizzard in October).  Students will be notified of these changes in class as well as through the school web site or email features. Students are responsible for all material covered in class and for all classroom announcements.

Required Texts for Semester Two:

Akutagawa, Ryunosuke.  “In a Grove.”

Auburn, David.  Proof.

Joyce, James.  Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man or a bildungsroman novel of choice that is college appropriate

Russell, Bertrand.  The History of Western Philosophy. (Assorted Readings)

Shakespeare, William.  Hamlet.  (Optional)

Stoppard, Thomas.  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. (Optional)

Assorted essays/articles from scientific/philosophical/artistic theorists on truth and knowledge

  Required Work:  

  The four critical essays (one for each quarter) are to be approached as a complete writing process.  That means each student must submit a rough draft, participate in peer editing activities on and in class, conference with the teacher, write a reflection on proposed revisions, and submit a final draft. Students who neglect to fulfill any part of the writing process will receive a failing grade on that particular essay.  Due dates for each of these components are given on the syllabus that follows.  With essays and other writing assignments, we will follow the 30 pages of polished prose that the University of Connecticut Freshman English Program requires.  (However, you should be aware that we will be writing a great deal more than 30 pages in order to get that “polished prose”)

As Humanities is an interdisciplinary subject, the best way to incorporate your personal interests is through the quarterly Creative Project.  For each unit you will use class discussions, independent reading, and your own talent, skill sets, and thinking processes to demonstrate your new learning through a discipline of your choice.  Students are expected to pursue projects that will extend their learning, not simply to demonstrate something you already do well.  Intellectual risk taking is always appreciated.  Please keep an hourly work log to demonstrate your investment of time.  This assignment is also accompanied by a written reflection with open-ended prompts (on class web site under “Creative Projects”) to help guide you in self-assessment of your learning.  Art, filmmaking and film review, creative writing, poetry, dance choreography and performance, photography, acting, music composition and performance, and architecture have all been successfully used to demonstrate impressive mastery of curriculum objectives.

  In-class writing assignments and homework assignments consist of prompts for short writing exercises (1-2 pages) and journaling designed to free write and brainstorm and to organize and develop your thinking for the reading and discussions as we work toward the longer papers.  

 Humanities Semester Two Syllabus 2020: 

Unit #3  "What is Knowledge?" Essential Questions:

1.  How do we know what we know?  How is knowledge gained?  How is it measured?

2.  What role does personal experience play in the formation of knowledge definitions and measurements?

Literature:        David Auburn, Proof.

                        James Joyce, Portrait of An Artist as a Young Man or other college appropriate bildungsroman

                        Plato, “Allegory of the Cave” (Russell 124-132)

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Civilization (assorted readings as appropriate to student choice)

                        Research on IQ testing and theories of knowledge, human development, and education (choices listed specifically on web site)

Date:                                            Topics, Activities, and Homework:

1/21-24 Essential Questions for "What is Knowledge" Unit

1/27-31         Student Choice Bildungsroman and Learning Styles Quiz 

2/3-7 David Auburn.  Proof  Discussion  DIRT

2/10-14                 Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" and Socrates (Russell)

Library Research on Learning Styles                           

2/19-21             James Joyce Portrait of an Artist Due DIRT 


Student Choice of a College Level Novel about Knowledge 

Whole Class Discussion on Bildungsroman

2/24-28 Knowledge Paper Prompt HERE

2/24                  Rough Draft Knowledge Paper Due on

Common Core State Standards Assignments           

   (Small Group Discussion with Whole Class Share)  

3/2                                                  *Peer Editing Due for Knowledge Paper

3/4-6                   Pleasantville Viewing

Guest Speaker:  Mrs. Krepzul on IQ    

3/9-1         "Araby" and James Joyce Analysis

3/12:                               * Education and Growth Paper Final Paper Due

Knowledge Seminar Paper Assignment:  

Writing Process on

                                    Rough Draft 2/24

                                                         Peer Editing Due 3/2

                                                                 Final Draft:  3/12

3/16-22                            Creative Projects Reflections Due 3/18

3/20-22         3rd Quarter Ends Somewhere here depending on Snow Days and other acts of Fate.

Unit #4:  "What is Truth?" Essential Questions:

1.  Presented with a belief system of a community of knowers, how can we decide what we personally believe to be true?

2.  What are the differences among the following:  information, fact, data, belief, faith, opinion, knowledge, and wisdom?            

 Literature:      William Shakespeare, Hamlet (Optional)

  Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead  (Optional)

                        Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “In a Grove”  (Handout)

                        Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, Sophists)

                        Choice Reading on Creation Myths

                        OED Research with Truth/Knowledge Assessment Terms

OR Students design their own Truth unit based on their interests, curiosity, and motivation. 

 Date:                                     Topics, Activities,and Homework:                         

3/30- 4/3     Catch Up Creative Projects until completed.

Dates may then change.

4/1-12 Theories of Truth (Russell) Correspondence, Coherence, and Pragmatic theories of Truth

Ryunosuke Akutagawa “In a Grove”  

Truth Proposals Due  Period A:  April 6

4/13-17 SpringVacation

4/20-24 Independent Studies Exploration

OED Research Project on Terms for Truth

The Sophists (Russell) or Individual Truth Projects begin Poetry on Truth 

4/24 Reflections Due (Truth Paper) 

4/24-5/1           *Independent Projects Researched and Organized

Truth Creative Projects Due

5/4-15        Presentations as desired.                                                   

5/20/17     SEE Projects Begin

                                              Happy Graduation!             

 Suggested Readings in Russell (For help with schools/philosophy of eduction)

            St. Augustine (p352-365)

            Thomas Aquinas (p 452-463)

           Francis Bacon (p 5431-545)

            John Locke (p 604-616)

            Rene Descartes (p 557-568)

            Spinoza (p 569 -580)

            Leibniz (p 581-596)

           George Berkley (p 647-659)

            David Hume (p 659-674)

            Immanuel Kant (p 701-718)

            Nietzche (p 760-773)

            Henri Bergson (p 791-810)

            William James (p 811-818)           

            John Dewey (p 819-828)

Individual Research on theories of knowledge and/or human development (Help with Critical Paper):

    John Dewey

    Eric Erikson 

    Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed

    Sigmund Freud 

    Friedrich Wilhelm August Fröbel

    Herb Gardener (Multiple Intelligences)

    Carl Jung 

    Maria Montessori

         Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi

    Jean Piaget


    B.F. Skinner

           Philip Zimbardo 

Truth and Knowledge Links:

Unit:  Truth

Introductory Information and Definitions:


  Topic: Art

Egyptian Art Powerpoint:

Egyptian Art.ppt 

Topic:  Photography/Photo Documentaries

Photography Powerpoint: 

Truth- Documentary Photography.ppt 

Dorothea Lange: 

Gordon Parks: 

Walker Evans: 

  Unit:  Knowledge

  Topic: Problem-Solving

Mr. Rodier's Problem-Solving From an Engineer's Perspective PowerPoint: Final Engineering Powerpoint.ppt 

Ms. Dani Capalbo's Problem-solving from an Investigative Reporter's Perspective

Topic:  Brain Research:

History of Neuroscience Research: 

PBS 3-D Brain "Tour":

PBS Mind Illusions (Perception):

Literature on Brain Research:

Classroom applications:

Articles and News about Brain Research: 

Interactive Atlas:  

Interactive Tour of the Brain:  

Whole Brain Atlas (Harvard Medical School): 

Topic:  Einstein:


  Topic:  IQ History and Measurements: (mensa test:

Topic:  Proof:  Madness and High ("Genius" ) IQ:

Daily Mail Article:

Psychology Today: