Vijay Prashad’s most excellent course rubric


(1) 300 level course. This is a 300 level course. That means that its purpose is to push you beyond introductions to this or that part of the world, and into an investigation of how to theorize the world, how to do an analysis of problems and opportunities in the world. I expect very high standards from students. You will be expected to do all the work on time, to miss no classes and to allow yourself to be challenged, and to allow yourself to challenge each other (and me).

(2) Regular attendance. If you miss even one class without prior permission, you are liable to fail the course. I am ruthless about this point. Please make sure that you send me an email at least an hour before class (so that I have time to get back to you with my assent). If you have to miss a class (even for health reasons), I expect, by the Wednesday following the class, to have a ten-page paper that lays out the main analytical points in the reading for the Monday you missed. This is non-negotiable. If I do not hear from you before class that you are missing class, or if you fail to get me this paper by Wednesday, you will get an F grade for the course.

(3) Regular reading. I will call on you at will to discuss the reading. If you have not done the day’s reading, I recommend you simply say that you have not done so at the start of class (please hand me a note with your name on it – this will count against your grade, but it will count less if I ask you a question and you have no idea what I’m talking about). If you hand me the card with your name on it, and you do not wish it to count against your grade, you may write a five-page analytical essay on the reading (delivered to me by Wednesday). The reading is not easy. Please be prepared to study hard, and to learn vast amounts. Some of what I assign will need to be read twice. So bear that in mind. Take notes. Be prepared to discuss the readings. Come with questions.

• “Even in a seminar class it seems a little silly to require participation. Some students who are cripplingly shy, or who can’t always formulate their best thoughts and questions in the rapid back-and-forth of a group discussion, are nevertheless good and serious students. On the other hand, as Prof — points out supra, our class can’t really function if there isn’t student participation—it will become just me giving a half-assed ad-lib lecture for 90 minutes, which (trust me) will be horrible in all kinds of ways.” David Foster Wallace (1962-2008).

(4) Regular writing. I will ask you to write about the books and class discussions periodically. You will be given a few days to do these assignments. I do not take kindly to complaints about the volume of work, so be prepared in advance and do not be surprised by my assignments. Every class I teach is a writing intensive class, so please be prepared. If you email me a paper, I won’t read it. I only accept papers in hardcopy, given to me in class (not left outside my office: unless we make special arrangements).

There are four (max. 10 page) papers due for this class on Feb. 24, Mar. 15, April 12, and May 3. You will never get an extension. That I have informed you now of the due dates is all the extension you require. When you hand in a paper, I expect to see alongside it (stapled to it really) the notes you made not for class or for the reading but in drafting the paper. One of the lessons I’ve long learned in trying to express my opinion is to make extensive notes on paper (not on the computer). I would like to see these notes with the final paper. They will help me get a handle on how you have been thinking about the question, and the material in general.

• “If you are used to whipping off papers the night before they’re due, running them quickly through the computer’s Spellchecker, handing them in full of high-school errors and sentences that make no sense and having the professor accept them ‘because the ideas are good’ or something, please be informed that I draw no distinction between the quality of one’s ideas and the quality of those ideas’ verbal expression, and I will not accept sloppy, rough-draftish, or semiliterate college writing. Again, I am absolutely not kidding.” David Foster Wallace.

(5) Regular Speaking. Each student will be asked to write and deliver a “philosophical tantrum” in the manner of Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Each of you will be assigned a section of the reading for the day, in rotation, and then asked to write and deliver in class the tantrum based on the reading, the events of the time, and your own core values. The list for the tantrums will be created before the second class, so that we can begin our intellectual fiesta straight away.

(6) No Electronics at all. My classroom is an electronics free zone. No cellphones to be brought out, no texting, no computers on the desk. If you bring out any electronic equipment, I am given license to borrow it for the week, and you shall get it back on the following Monday. This time, I’m absolutely not kidding.”

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