Saturday, July 31, 2010

Senior Seminar Course Syllabus, Fall '10

Brooklyn College Senior Seminar
Syllabus Business 4200W
Fall 2010
Professor Mitchell Langbert


What do pundits believe that you need to do in order to succeed in light of varying interpretations of the role of the individual in society?  Two basic currents concerning success are the self- and the socially- oriented.  These two currents may be incompatible, although some, like Stephen Covey and Stanley and Danko, argue that the most successful people in American life are able to balance them. Others, like Reinhard Bendix, argue that popular interpretations of how to succeed reflect managerial ideology or power of the capitalist or managerial class and that they are irrelevant to the substantive requirements to succeed, which are class-based.  Others would argue that markets drive the determinants of success, and that the best we can to do to succeed is to anticipate what markets will demand. 


This is a writing intensive course and therefore three five-page papers will be required.  Written assignments must be handed in on the due date via SafeAssignment in the “Assignments” section of Blackboard on or before the due date by 12:00 midnight. No papers may be e-mailed. No late papers will be accepted.

For the first five-page paper students must analyze Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom.

            For any of the readings it is critical to develop a thesis concerning the reading that you defend.  In other words, you need to pretend that you are the professor and give yourself an assignment. The broad answer to the assignment is your thesis.  You should start your paper by stating your thesis.  Then, in the rest of the paper you should defend it.  Details concerning how your papers will be graded are in Appendix I.

            For the second of the papers you must compare the characters of Henry David Thoreau, as he depicts himself in Civil Disobedience and James Farmer, Jr., the great debater in the film The Great Debaters starring Denzel Washington as Professor Melvin B. Tolson and Denzel Whitaker as James Farmer, Jr.  Melvin Tolson and James Farmer, Jr. were real life figures.  Farmer co-founded the Congress of Racial Equality and was considered one of the four most prominent civil rights leaders between the late 1940s to the 1960s. Tolson was a professor at Wiley College.  In real life the 1935 Wiley debating team defeated the University of Southern California, not Harvard.  There were additional inaccuracies in the film, but they are unimportant for our subject.

In comparing Thoreau and Farmer you need to focus your thesis on how Thoreau’s and Farmer’s views of success in America differed or were similar.  What did success with respect to American society mean to James Farmer, Jr. and also Professor Tolson, and what did success with respect to American society mean to Henry David Thoreau?  Are the different perspectives entirely due to the socio-economic advantages that Thoreau enjoyed and discrimination that Farmer and Tolson suffered?

            For the third of the papers you must analyze the character of Howard Roark in Ayn Rand’s FountainheadAmong the questions that your thesis might ask are (your thesis can include a broader range of questions):

-Does Howard Roark offer a realistic role model for graduates who aim to succeed?
-What value system does Howard Roark represent?
-Which interpretation of success would be most consistent with Howard Roark’s approach?
-In the real world, who would be more likely to succeed, Howard Roark or Peter Keating?


In addition, there will be a series of quizzes consisting of three multiple choice questions each.  No make-ups are given for the quizzes.

Attendance and Punctuality Grade

            Attendance is expected and counts ten percent toward your grade.  The attendance grade is computed by taking the ratio of times present to the number of times attendance was recorded.  Punctuality is also expected and also counts ten percent toward your grade. It is computed as an attendance/punctuality grade.  The attendance/punctuality grade is computed by taking the ratio of times present at the time roll is called to the number of times roll call was called.  If you are absent, you receive zero credit for both attendance and punctuality.  

Punctuality and attendance are mandatory and will be monitored.  If a student cannot regularly attend class and arrive to class on time, s/he should not take this course.  Your grade will be reduced for each absence and for each time that you are late.  If you have a personal obligation that will interfere with your punctuality or attendance, such as a health issue, child care or any other serious personal matter, you should consider taking this class at a different time when you can attend every class on time. You will be marked late or absent regardless of any excuse.  In other words, excuses, including medical and child care excuses, are not accepted.  For example, if parking presents a problem because it is difficult to find a space, you need to come early to find parking or take the class during a time when parking does not pose a problem to your arriving on time.
 Web-Enhanced Course

This is a web-enhanced course.  All students are expected to log onto blackboard on occasion and to participate in several discussion board discussions. (The discussion board is accessed by going to “communications” under “course tools” and then to “discussion board”.)    Participation in discussion board discussions will count as attendance credits, and you will lose attendance credits if you fail to participate.

Also, you must submit your skill application and goal setting exercises via SafeAssignment in the “Assignments” section of Blackboard.

You must have an active e-mail account entered on the Brooklyn College portal (web and you must have access to your blackboard account by the first day of class.

3 5-page papers     40 points
Quizzes                  40 points
Attendance and Punctuality   20 points

Required Sources

Friedrich Hayek, “The Use of Knowledge in Society” at
*Reinhard Bendix, Work and Authority in Industry
*David McClelland, Achieving Society
**Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom 
**Benjamin Franklin, Way to Wealth
*Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience
**Elbert Hubbard, Message to Garcia 
**Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich
*David Riesman with Nathan Glazer and Reuel Denney, Lonely Crowd
**Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People
**Stephen R. Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,
**Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko, Millionaire Next Door
**Ayn Rand, Fountainhead
*Course packet
**Available at Shakespeare & Co. on Hillel Place next to McDonald’s, not at the campus bookstore.

Lesson Plan

            You should read 65 pages of Fountainhead each week.  Each quiz will include a question on Fountainhead reading for the week.  We will discuss Fountainhead each week.

  1. 8/29. Managerial Ideology and the Success Literature. Reading from Reinhard Bendix, Work and Authority in Industry and Friedrich Hayek, “Use of Knowledge in Society.” Quiz on “Use of Knowledge in Society”
  2. Labor Day, No class 9/5.
  3. 9/12. Capitalism and Freedom, chapters 1-4. Quiz on Bendix.
  4. 9/19. Capitalism and Freedom continued. Quiz on Friedman.
  5. 9/26. Capitalism and Freedom, continued.  Quiz on Friedman.
  6. 10/3. Business and ethics.  Read Benjamin Franklin, Way to Wealth. The first paper is due this class. Quiz on Franklin.
  7. 10/10. Individualism and Its Discontents.  Read Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience. Quiz on Thoreau.
  8. 10/17. Psychological success.  Read Napoleon Hill, Elbert Hubbard. Film: The Great Debaters.  No quiz
  9. 10/24. Managerial theories of success.  Read Riesmann. Quiz on Hill, Hubbard and Riesmann.
  10. 10/31. Skill-based theories of success. Read Covey, chapters 1-3, McClelland. Optional: Rick Boyatzis, The Competent Manager.  Quiz on Covey.
  11. 11/7. Skill-based theories of success continued. Read Stanley and Danko, first 75 pages.  Quiz on Stanley and Danko.  Paper on Thoreau and Farmer is due.
  12.  11/14. Ethics and Wealth.  Video: Warren Buffet Interview
  13.  11/21. Ayn Rand, the Fountainhead.
  14.  11/28. No class, Thanksgiving.
  15.  12/5.  Paper on Howard Roark is due.

Appendix:  Grading Criteria for Paper

Assessment Category
Characteristics of Assignment

Better than good enough
 Student thinks critically about all print sources
1.       Student relies on sources beyond those required
2.       The thesis reflects critical thinking about all sources
3.       The thesis is clearly stated
4.       The thesis integrates theories and concepts discussed in class
5.       The discussion is clear
6.       The discussion is targeted at supporting the thesis
7.       Facts are recounted merely to support the thesis
8.       Discussion reflects understanding of the situation and of theoretical perspectives discussed in class
Good Enough
             1. The thesis is clearly stated
2. The thesis integrates theories and concepts discussed in class
3. The discussion is clear
4. The discussion is targeted at supporting the thesis
5. Facts are recounted merely to support the thesis
            6. Discussion reflects understanding of the situation
           and  of theoretical perspectives discussed in class

Not good enough
 Thesis not clearly stated or no thesis
1.       Failure to integrate theory and concepts from the course
2.       Poorly written; unclear discussion
3.       The discussion meanders or does not support the thesis
4.       Facts are recounted without bearing on the thesis and theoretical elaboration
5.       Discussion does not suggest grasp of the theoretical perspectives discussed in class


Pinni said...

Sounds like a really great course. Looking forward to reading some of the books you listed.

Mitchell Langbert said...

Audit it!

Pinni said...

Tempting.... Wish I was still at Brooklyn College!