Economic Thought & Religious Values Office: Simons 248
Fall 2014 Office Hours:
1:00-2 p.m. (M/W/F)
& by appointment or chance
Economics as a discipline provides an overall picture of the economy, from which flow convictions, attitudes, and even values concerning economic life. How economic life ought to be conducted has long been a concern of religious people, based on both moral norms and some view of what is actually happening in the economy. This course will examine various visions of economic life held by religious people in the West, focusing on the understanding of economic life in Christianity: from roots in the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament, through the early church, the middle ages, the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment, up to contemporary debates about free markets, liberation theology, feminism, and the social teaching of the Roman Catholic Church today.
Students enrolled in this course must have completed Econ 111 (Intro to Economics) and Theo 111 (The Biblical Tradition).
There are five principal objectives of this course.
The first objective is to help you become familiar with the history of thinking about economic life by Christians in the Western world. These roots of religious thought and moral teaching on economic life extend three thousand years deep into the soil of Christian and Jewish history. The course cannot even come close to covering all of this tradition, but it covers a representative sample of the persons and arguments involved. In this process you will come to understand how a living religious tradition develops over time, periodically altering its concrete teachings (e.g., on slavery) in order to remain true to more fundamental faith commitments.
The second objective is to assist you to learn how to approach and analyze a text, particularly a text written from a perspective quite different from your own. For example, a "rule of life" written 1500 years ago for a community of lay monks may seem as foreign to you as knuckle bumps would be to a Buddhist monk today. The historical context in which each text appears is critical to your understanding of it.
The third objective is to help you examine your own values, in particular those involved in economic relationships with other people and with the political and economic structures within which you live. You will be encouraged to re-think your values in the light of your interactions with the readings and with others in the class. Rethinking your values doesn’t mean you have to change your beliefs, but it does mean you’re open to change.
The fourth objective is to assist you in analyzing contemporary economic issues, particularly those over which people today are in disagreement. In fact, Christians on the political left and right disagree so basically on what the Christian tradition should mean for economic life today that you will need to develop the skills to understand each position on its own terms, to compare the competing claims of different perspectives concerning what the common good requires today, and to take your own position on how best to advocate for the common good in economic life.
The fifth objective is to help you to improve your writing, the most underrated form of communication in American culture today. Some students wonder why strong liberal arts colleges stress writing so much. The answer is that, whatever you do in life after college, the ability to write clear, engaging, and persuasive prose will not only require better thinking on your part but it will deepen and broaden the influence you will have on those around you. Whether in the student government committee you serve on now or in your job twenty years in the future, the most influential person in the group is often the one who volunteers to write up a summary of the deliberations or to compose a first draft of that proposal the group will send on to others. How well you write will affect both how much good you will be able to do and how many leadership roles you will be invited to take on.
The following books are required for the course:
Benedict of Nursia. St. Benedict's Rule for Monasteries (c. 540 A.D.). Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.
Finn, Daniel, editor. Christianity and Economic Life: A Book of Supplemental Readings, St. John's University, 2010.
U.S. Catholic Bishops. Economic Justice for All: Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Catholic Conference, 1986.
PREPARATIONS FOR IN-CLASS DISCUSSIONS
Social scientists who study the process of teaching and learning have long known that the key to good learning is an active learner. Sounds obvious, but it's important to keep that in mind.
Because you will only learn well if you stay active as a learner, the primary method of our class will be discussion, sometimes with the whole group, sometimes in small groups of two or three. Researchers have found that students learn faster and retain their knowledge longer if they express what they are learning to someone else. The act of discussing our common readings, then, is an ideal method for this, since it not only leads you to express what you know about the texts but it also gives each student the opportunity to be questioned about the issues involved.
To assist in the preparation for class discussions, there are two different kinds of assignments:
1. Each day, each student in the class will need to write a one-paragraph, written response to "the question of the day," a question handed in before class. These must be typed, double-spaced in 12 point font and should be no longer than half a sheet of paper (twelve lines maximum). They will be graded. Over the semester, such assignments will be worth about 20% of your final grade.
Each question of the day will be worth 10 points. Because they are intended to improve your learning during class, an automatic 3 point lateness penalty will be assessed for any questions not handed in at the start of class. An additional 2 point penalty will be assessed if it is not handed in by the start of the next class period.
2. Five particular persons will be designated for the reading for each day to help begin our discussion by answering one of the following questions:
News reporter: Summarize an economic/business news item and identify a moral issue involved. (See below for more information.)
Service Learning: Ask a significant question about the causes or effects of poverty that has arisen out of your service learning experiences. (This will begin in mid-September).
Summarizer: Summarize in one sentence the overall "message" of the reading? What is the most important thing the author is trying to convince the reader to believe?
Detailer: What are the (3 to 5?) most important things that the author is trying to convince the reader to believe? Do not use quotations from the reading (always put them in your own words), but provide short summaries of the central points.
Starter: What is the most difficult idea to understand (the one most needing clarification) and what is the most controversial thing the author is saying?
The people assigned to do this that day will need to arrive five minutes early and write their results on the board before class starts. On the days when you are assigned one of these roles, type up your contribution on the bottom of your question of the day in addition to putting it on the board prior to class.
During the semester, all students will rotate through each of these roles. Performance in these roles and in the class discussion will count toward your final grade. Such performance will be particularly influential for those whose grades are "on the fence" between two grades when all other factors have been taken into consideration.
ETHICS, ECONOMICS, & THE DAILY NEWS
In order to clarify the relevance of the course to events today, each student is expected to read a daily financial newspaper and to explicitly look for moral issues in the daily economic news. (The Wall Street Journal is suggested because of the breadth of its coverage, but others such as the Financial Times or even the business pages of the New York Times or the Washington Post will do.) Students should subscribe to one of these papers or plan to otherwise get access to one of them several times per week on-line. In addition, for eight weeks of the term, students will be expected to keep a "journal" where they make 2 entries per week. Each "entry" is a short statement explaining:
1. A factual business or economic issue treated in the paper, stating which newspaper, date, page # (2-3 sentences are sufficient).
2. The moral question you see involved stated in one sentence. Be perceptive. Everyone knows that the company dumping toxic wastes in the river is wrong. Look for subtle, interesting moral questions in business.
3. Your own judgment about what should happen and why you think so (2-3 sentences).
4. The date you wrote this entry.
The requirement will begin about the third week of the semester and each student's entries must be submitted on Moodle by midnight every second Sunday during the eight weeks of the assignment.
THE RESEARCH PROJECT
During this course you will choose one of two possible research projects, which will count for a significant part of your final grade.
The first possibility is a research paper. The format of this paper will entail your investigating a particular debate about an economic issue from the perspective of conflicting viewpoints within Christian analysis of the topic. Not all interesting issues will work. All topics will need approval by the instructor. Each paper will be 15-20 pages long. More information will be forthcoming.
The second possibility will be your involvement in "service learning" in St. Cloud. Service learning is a technique designed to give students firsthand experience of a situation by providing a service which those involved in that situation actually need. The academic component of the service learning project is not the service itself (though that's always good to do). The academic element is that you will be attempting to learn something important in the midst of the service project. For this course, the issue is "What is poverty and what are poor people really like?" The process begins with your choosing a preferred site by means of the Service Learning Fair, which will occur from 12:45-2:45 p.m. on Thursday September 3rd in Gorecki 204B.
There will be three tests during the term. There will be no final exam.
HOW TO STUDY IN THIS COURSE
The following steps are the most effective ways to learn the materials in this course:
1. Read the assigned readings twice and take some action to personalize the material, either highlighting the book or developing your own set of reading notes or using any other method which aids you. But do not just read passively.
2. Do not wait until "the last minute" to read! Plan to finish reading early. It may be helpful to develop a list of questions that arise from reading the text in this manner.
3. Think about your statement of the day long before you write it. Don’t write it at the last minute. When you write, plan on three or more electronic "drafts."
4. Take notes in class (and, if it is helpful to you, redraft them after class).
5. Ask questions in class when you don't understand something. Participate actively in discussions.
6. Optionally, work with a partner outside of class on a regular basis. All will benefit through learning more from this cooperation.
IMPROVE YOUR WRITING
Some students view writing in college as simply a chore. Others understand that college is the best place to become a better writer. Tutors are available in the Writing Centers to offer advice about improving your written work. You can get more information about services, hours, tutors, and appointments by visiting the Writing Centers website on the CSB/SJU homepage. http://www.csbsju.edu/writingcenters/. To see the appointment schedule, make an appointment, click on “online scheduler.” Then look for “First time here? Click here to register.” If you have any difficulty, call 5499 at CSB or 2711 at SJU. The Writing Centers are located at CSB in HAB 103 at SJU in Quad 263.
You are expected to attend all class sessions. Many of the readings are difficult to understand and our discussions in class will often be crucial to your grasping the analysis in the reading. It is likely that you may be expected to attend additional events, for example, relevant lectures on one of the campuses.
You are expected
to be well prepared for each class,
to be ready to answer questions when called on, and
to initiate questions and comments in class.
Earning an “A” for your participation grade requires excellent performance in all three areas.
Grading will be based on the A-F scheme unless you request S-U grading by the deadline listed below. See the CSB/SJU Catalog for rules governing S-U grading.
Your final grade will be determined in approximately the following manner:
Question of the day (10 pts. each) 20.0% 300 points
5 roles participation 6.5% 100 points
3 Tests (260 points each) 53.0% 780 points
Daily news assignments (25 each) 6.5% 100 points
Research Project 14.0% 200 points
Total 100.0% 1480 points
Conversion of points earned during the semester into letter grades will be approximately as follows:
90% or above A
59% or below F
There is no "curve" for the grading. Everyone can earn an "A" — or any other grade — depending on the points earned during the term.
November 12 Last day to withdraw from a semester-long course with the
grade of "W". After that you cannot drop the course and the
professor must give you the grade you earn in the course.
November 12 Last day to request S/U grading in this course.
Course Schedule-Econ 327/Theo 349
Read all pages of any chapter or section listed below unless there are specific page numbers noted, then you are required to read only those and are free to skip the other pages in that section or chapter. (A lower case "a" below indicates first quarter of a page, "b" the second, etc.