Reinventing the University

Course Description:

The university isn’t just a collection of classrooms. It’s also a living space, an employer, a sports industry, a site of student resistance, and an institution contested by many different interests, from students to faculty to administration to workers to politicians to locals. In this class, we’ll read and write about the history, present, and future of universities, reflecting on what a college education means in our own lives and in the world at large.


This course has two goals: to encourage you to think critically about education and its institutions, and to help you improve your writing skills. It is a composition class, so please be prepared to do a lot of writing, in both formal assignments and informal in-class exercises. There will also be reading assignments and discussions for every class meeting, so please come to class prepared and ready to talk.


Course Requirements:

Reading Reports: 15% (5% each)

Personal Narrative: 10%

Analytical Paper: 15%

Oral History Report: 15%

Argumentative Paper: 20%

Quizzes: 10%

            Participation: 10%

Peer Review Participation: 5%


Course Schedule:

M 6/2


T 6/3


Personal narratives


W 6/4

Peter Elbow, “The Believing Game—Methodological Believing”

Th 6/5

Amy Tan, “Mother Tongue”

Malcolm X, “Literacy Behind Bars”

F 6/6

Personal narrative first draft due

Peer review workshop

M 6/9

Syllabus quiz

Alexandra Robbins, excerpt from The Overachievers

T 6/10

Personal narrative due

Mark Bauerlein, excerpt from The Dumbest Generation

W 6/11

Reading Report 1


Th 6/12

Marc Bousquet, excerpt from How the University Works


F 6/13

Analytical paper first draft due

Peer review workshop

M 6/16

Benjamin Houston, excerpt from The Nashville Way

T 6/17

Analytical paper due

Nashville Public Library field trip

W 6/18

Work on oral history reports

Th 6/19

Reading Report 2

Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein Graff, They Say, I Say, ch. 4, 7

F 6/20

Oral history report first draft due

Peer review workshop

M 6/23

Gerald Graff, “Hidden Intellectualism”

Bill Pennington, “Catching On After a Last Chance”

T 6/24

Oral history report due

Brad Wolverton, “The Education of Dasmine Cathey”

W 6/25

Taylor Branch, “The Shame of College Sports” (pp. 1-4)

Th 6/26

Taylor Branch, “The Shame of College Sports” (pp. 5-7)

Reading Report 3

F 6/27

Brian Phillips, “The Northwestern Decision: An Explainer”

M 6/30

Argumentative paper first draft due

Peer review session


T 7/1

Cathy Davidson, excerpt from Now You See It

W 7/2

Ken Bain, What the Best College Students Do, pp. 1-31

Th 7/3

Argumentative paper due

Reading Report 4

Course evaluations

Last day of class

F 7/4

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