European Society Past and Present (IS-123)

European Society Past and Present (IS-123)

Westmont College, Europe Semester Fall 2018

European Society Past and Present (IS-123)

Wednesdays 4:30-6:30pm; Guest lectures TBA

Instructor: Jesse Covington

Classrooms:Athens, Rome, Madrid, London, Paris

Office Hours: Varied; by appointment


European Society Past and Presentexplores the societies ofour hostcultures on Westmont in Europe. The course introduces students to social inquiry in general, including methods, assumptions, difficulties, and joys—and more particularly to the societies of Greece, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, and France. It aims to increase students’ understanding of European societies in both historical and contemporary contexts, through study, analysis, debate, and observation of political, economic, religious, social, and cultural controversies and concerns.Diverse guest lectures will providedepth and theoretical insights that help to explain historical and contemporary social issues in each country.Studentwill be required to engage with host contexts with breadth and depth, with reading, research,and debates focusingon matters of pressing public concern.Students will maintain journals documenting and analyzing how their own observations and interpersonal exchanges relate to their readings and classroom learning.

Course Learning Outcomes

-Students will identify basic features that characterize the societies of contemporary European nations (summer reading& quizzes).

-Students will debate and evaluate major social controversies in contemporary Europe. (debates)

-Students will record and interpret their own social and cultural observations as they reside in contemporary European cities (discussion, journals).

-Students will communicate ideas clearly in written work (journals, position papers).

Required Course Texts (All Kindle Editions):

The Economist, “Europe” section especially—required reading during the summer prior to our travel and during the trip itself.

A major, daily, global newspaper of your choice—The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, etc. (Ask if you are unsure what qualifies.)

Buhayer, Constantine. Greece –Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture. London, UK: Kuperard press. 2018.

Meaney, Marian and Belén Aguado Viguer.Spain - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture Kuperard press. 2016.

Tomalin, Barry. France - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture Kuperard press. 2013.

Tomalin, Barry. Italy - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture. London, UK: Kuperard press. 2016.

Handouts (Canvas)

Role in the General Education Curriculum:

  • This course aims to satisfy the “Common Inquiries: Understanding Society”general education requirement.This aspect of the GE curriculum seeks to “develop students’ understanding of society, culture, economics, and/or politics.” The General Education Certification Criteria for this area stipulate that students in such courses will:[1]
  • 1) “identify foundational theories that offer explanations of social, political, economic, and/or cultural phenomena;
  • 2) “apply foundational theories to analyze contemporary problems or controversies;
  • 3) “make personal and social application of various theories—informed by a biblical perspective.”
  • This course introduces students to European society with close attention to:
  • Historical and contemporary accounts of major social and cultural influences in European societies, including religion, politics, and economics, per #1, above.
  • Firsthand observation of contemporary European urban centers, identifying points of continuity and discontinuity with the accounts of society and culture, per #2 above.
  • Contemporary events and controversies facing European nations, asking students to think critically about multiple perspectives on these issues and debating how best to solve them, per #s 2 and 3, above.

Course Requirements: What You Commit To

Summer Preparation Reading & Quizzes—20%

  • Summer reading assignments are a substantial portion of the course and constitute essential preparation for our time in Europe. These readings will orient students to social science inquiry, begin initiating students to the cultures where we’ll be living and learning, and will introduce them to current events in the relevant countries.

Debates/Position Papers[2]—20%

  • Debate Overview: Students will be assigned in groups of four (two teams of two for each topic) to debate significant political, financial, social, religious, and/or ethical issues facing the countries in which we’ll be living and learning. Each student will participate in at least one debate over the course of the semester. The issues being debated are such thata reasonable person of good will could support either side. It does not matter, for this assignment, what each student’s own personal position on the question may be. Each is asked to present a well-informed and convincing case for the side of the debate that you have been assigned. The basis for your reasoning should be the facts and perspectives you’ve found expressed in current and back issues of The Economist, at least one major daily newspaper (The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, etc.), and other reputable internet sources, as well as, possibly, your own direct observations formed in the course of travel. In order not to waste the class’s time, you will need to come thoroughly prepared to speak clearly and succinctly to the point, without much small talk, distracting tangents, or apologies. As part of preparation for the debate, each student will write a one-page position paper, detailing in a clearly-structured way the best arguments for his/her position and rebutting the strongest arguments against his/her position. While the papers are submitted at the time of the debate, they do not receive a separate grade. These should be no longer than 500 words in length.
  • Debate Topics (prospective):
  • ATHENS: The Parthenon (Elgin) Marbles should be repatriated to Greece from the British Museum.
  • ATHENS: Greece should resist demands from the EU that it continue to pursue a policy of fiscal austerity to deal with its crippling debt.
  • ROME: Italy should turn away African immigrants who cross the Mediterranean to its shores.
  • ROME: The policies, actions, and symbolism of Pope Francis are dangerous to the health and future of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • MADRID:The Spanish government should recognize the validity ofCatalonia’s referendum declaring independence.
  • MADRID: The Spanish government State should continue to maintain mausoleum/Valle de Los Caídos commemorating former military dictator Francisco Franco.
  • LONDON:The British government should give up its claim to Gibraltar and return it to Spanish control.
  • LONDON: The United Kingdom should continue its planned withdrawal from the European Union.
  • PARIS: France is justified in banning the wearing of face-covering Islamic veils (burqas) in public contexts.
  • PARIS:France should repeal its new law punishing the clients of prostitutes.
  • Debate Format:
  • Round 1: Opening Arguments (20 minutes max)
  • The two speakers on the “Pro” side will have the first chance to speak. Each will be given up to 5 minutes to present a clearly structured argument (they should coordinate ahead of time regarding topics/ coverage).
  • Then the two speakers on the Con side will have a chance to speak for their position, each again for up to 5 minutes.
  • Round 2: Rebuttal (20 minutes max)
  • Then the Pros will have a chance to respond to the Con argument; whoever spoke second the first time will speak first now. Again, each will have up to 5 minutes to speak. And finally, the Con speakers will have the last word, responding to the extemporaneous rebuttal of the Pro side, with, again, the second speaker during the first round going first this time and each speaker speaking for up to five minutes.
  • Round 3: Q & A (20 minutes max)
  • Finally, the whole panel will take on questions and comments directed at them from the audience for the remainder of the time. Each speaker will be evaluated separately for his or her preparation, focus, ability to persuade, ability to respond to challenges, and clarity of thought.

Writing Assignments: Cultural Engagement Journal—25%

  • Most of the writing for this course will consist of “Cultural Engagement Journal” (CEJs) entries that will be part of the program’s ‘Integrated Journal Project’ (IJP) using the DayOne journaling app. These will document your own cultural participation and observations and relate them to readings and guest lectures, as relevant.
  • Each entry should be short—one picture (if possible) and no more than 150 words long. Since entries are so short, please pause and reflect before writing such that you know what you have to say and can say it concisely! Each entry should be written after engaging in some cultural activity, considered broadly (attending a sport/dance/music/worship event, conversing/dining with a non-American, negotiating a purchase, and much, much more). The cultural activity (even if informal) should require you to be “out in” the host culture, interacting with and relating to the people in it. The content of your brief entry should include:
  • What happened? Describe your encounter and relevant observations (event, context, etc.). For example, “What struck me most about the Plaza de Toros in Madrid was not the bullfight itself, but the heat, the stone seating, the smell of cigar smoke, and the sticky, sweet, crème-filled candy I bought from a vendor.”
  • What does it reveal? Explain what the encounter reveals culturally, particularly in light of the major course questions, listed above (see “Course Objectives”) and your readings (CultureSmart, news sources, etc.) and guest lectures, etc. How do your observations relate to your expectations from other sources?
  • How did you respond? What did you like, what didn’t you like, and why? How did you participate in the encounter? To what extent were you an “outsider”? Would you change anything about your participation if you could? What does it reveal about you?
  • NOTE: the last entry in each city should not follow the three-part format described above, but should instead describe key “takeaways” about the society and culture being left behind. What are the most striking things you have learned / been challenged by / appreciated, etc.? Fit as much as you can into 150 words
  • Unless otherwise noted, you should complete two entries per week (pilgrimage and art course weeks excepted). According to the schedule below, you have the opportunity to write 22 entries. However, only 20 are required so you can drop two entries without penalty. Please submit a copy of your journal before departing one of our “hub” cities (Athens, Rome, Madrid, London, Paris).
  • Several additional things:
  • Please add a title (the first line of text) to your entry that includes the course number (IS-123), entry type & number (e.g., “CEJ #16”) and something about the cultural activity.
  • Finally, “Tag” your entry “ESPP” (important!).
  • To submit CEJ entries, follow the “Submitting Work on Europe Semester” guidelines to export the relevant date range of entries in PDF to the appropriate folder.

Reading & Guest lecture quizzes—20%

  • Upon arrival at each major “hub” city, students will take a quiz based primarily on the book assigned as a social and cultural introduction to each countryand recent guest lectures. Major current events may also be included on these quizzes.

Site Reports—5%

  • While in Europe, each student will be responsible foronesiteor city report, which will be delivered prior to our visiting to the city orsite. Each report will last about 5 minutes and will help the rest of the group understand some of what's interesting and important about the social context of that locale; it will include background information and what to look for. (Historical sites should focus on social history; contemporary sites may include some history but should primarily focus on contemporary social context.) The best reports will be those manage to be interesting, entertaining, and memorable at the same time as being reasonably comprehensive and helpful in preparing fellow travelers for the visit. These should be well-researched ahead of time. Students should be prepared to deliver their reports in a variety of contexts: on busses, outdoors, etc.
  • Sites/Cities include (provisional):
  • Athens
  • Corinth
  • Sounion
  • Delphi
  • Rome
  • Pompeii
  • Assisi
  • Florence
  • Venice
  • Madrid
  • Toledo
  • Cordoba
  • Gibraltar
  • London
  • Canterbury
  • Oxford
  • Paris
  • Chartres
  • Versailles
  • Normandy D-Day Beaches
  • Mont Saint-Michel
  • TBA

Preparation, Participation, and Attendance—10%

  • Attendance: given the unique, location-specific nature of our work together, on-time attendance is required at lectures, class meetings, and excursions. In the event of illness or emergency, please maintain clear communication with the professor.
  • Preparation: Your own learning and that of your peers in the class will in large degree depend on your thorough preparation class meetings. Thorough preparation requires completing and digesting all assigned readings.
  • Participation will be important in regular class meetings and especially when we have guest speakers.

Grading Scale—A= 93-100; A- = 90-92; B+ = 88-89; B = 83-87; B- = 80-82; C+ = 78-79; C = 73-77; C- = 70-72; D+ = 68-69; D = 63-67, D- = 60-62; F < 60.

Students with Disabilities: If you have disability-related needs related to your coursework or examinations and have established these with the Office of Disability Services (Sheri Noble, Director of Disability Services, x6186, ), please let me know as soon as possible so that we can come up with a plan that best meets your needs.

Academic Integrity

Each student is expected to maintain honesty in his or her communication and conduct and to submit his or her own work in every context associated with the course, be it papers, examinations, or anything else. Among other things, this means that plagiarism is absolutely prohibited. “Plagiarism” refers to the practice of submitting the work or thinking of someone else as if it is one’s own. This can be as extensive as submitting an entire paper written by someone else, or as little as using an idea without giving credit to its source. Using quotations and interacting with the ideas of others is expected in student writing, but must be rigorously documented by citation and quotation marks (where appropriate). Paraphrasing does not make someone else’s work yours—the ideas must be cited, even if the words are different. When in doubt, always err on the side of caution by citing your sources. Be particularly careful in your use of the Internet. If you use a website to help you on an assignment in any way, be sure to cite it. (There will be times when I indicate that the Internet should not be used at all on an assignment.) You are responsible for knowing Westmont’s plagiarism policy, listed at the web address below If you have questions about it, be sure to ask me.

In cases of inappropriately shared material within the class (e.g., copying test answers, papers, etc.), the student whose work is being copied will be held liable as well.

Failure to maintain academic integrity constitutes both stealing and lying (see Exodus 20:15-16). It violates the policies of Westmont College and is a breach of trust that damages your relationship with me and your relationships with your fellow students. A violation of academic integrity is reported to the administration and will result in serious disciplinary consequences. Don’t do it.

Course Schedule TBA



[2] I am indebted to Randy VanderMey’s “Conflicts and Conversations in Contemporary Europe” syllabus for portions of this course, especially the debate assignment.