Smc core Curriculum Course Proposal Form

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SMC Core Curriculum Course Proposal Form

  1. Name of Proposer: Michael Barram

  1. Email address:

  1. Department/Program of Proposer: Theology & Religious Studies (TRS)

  1. Name of Department/Program housing the course: TRS

  1. Name(s) of Program Director/Department Chair: Michael Barram

  1. Course Acronym, Number and Title: TRS 117: “Wealth and Poverty in the Bible”

  1. Semester(s) in which course will be offered: Fall or Spring (varies by year)

  1. How often is this course taught? At least once per year

  1. Course Prerequisites (if any): TRS 97: “The Bible and Its Interpretation”

  1. Unit Value of Course: 1.0

  1. Proper Audience for the course (delete those that don’t apply): Sophomores Juniors Seniors (A spring-semester freshman, having completed TRS 97 in the fall, could feasibly take the course.)

  1. The Learning Goals for which the course is being submitted

  • Common Good


A brief narrative (300 words) that explains how the course will guide students toward achieving the Learning Goal. The CCC believes it would be simplest both for the proposer and for the Working Groups if the narrative addressed the Learning Outcomes one by one.

TRS 117: “Wealth and Poverty in the Bible”
1. Articulate, in prose or through another communicative medium, a critical account of just social order.
This course focuses on a wide range of biblical texts (e.g., Pentateuch, Prophets, and Gospels) that pertain to biblical values, assumptions, policies, and teachings related to money, wealth, poverty, and economic justice—and the implied worldviews and social arrangements relative to the “common good” that such texts reflect and seek to engender. We seek to unpack not merely the content and contexts of the biblical texts (and some basic skills requisite for academic biblical interpretation/hermeneutics), but also the anthropological assumptions and religio-ethical and socio-economic values that undergird and inspire the texts. And we reflect carefully and repeatedly on modern issues regarding poverty, wealth, power, and economic diversity/justice as a means to help us explore even more fruitfully biblical texts. In short, we explore throughout the class what a just socio-economic order might look like (beginning with biblical texts and traditions), focusing intently on what biblical values might provide in terms of a point of comparison and dialogue relative to our contemporary economic assumptions, values, and policies. We consider the impact of social location in interpretation, the nature and effect of power differentials in society (e.g., in both economics and religion), social and economic inequities (and their roots and potential remedies), and so forth. Lectures, discussions, and the books we read in the course (in addition to the Bible—i.e., Shipler’s The Working Poor; Labberton’s The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor; and Rieger’s No Rising Tide), as well as videos (e.g., “Isle of Flowers”; “Romero”; “The Story of Stuff”), online readings, and the 1986 U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letter, “Economic Justice for All” (among other resources), provide students with a range of perspectives regarding what a just social order might look like from within the framework of a biblical and/or Judeo-Christian worldview or value system. In the process of learning about the strange world of biblical economic justice, students develop the ability to compare and analyze our own socio-economic perspectives. They end the course well prepared to articulate, in prose and in oral conversation, an analytical account of just social order—in critical dialogue with the course material.
2. Demonstrate a capacity for coherent, principled analysis of concrete social problems.
As part of this course, students must learn a significant amount about both historical and contemporary issues relative to socio-economic inequality and its effects on society as a whole. By the end of the course, they are able to analyze thoughtfully, and in terms of specific principles and values (e.g., gleaned from biblical and theological perspectives explored in the class), a number of concrete social problems, such as the seeming intractability of poverty and how the human community might need to respond, lack of sustainability in much of our current socio-economic model, the ways in which power differentials lead to problems and distortions in both economic and religious contexts, and so forth. David Shipler’s book, The Working Poor, helps students understand some of what is going on, concretely, with regard to poverty in the United States. Mark Labberton’s book, The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor, wrestles with what the author sees as some of the deeply personal roots of injustice (i.e., how we as humans see [or fail to perceive correctly] our world, how we name our world [often incorrectly], and what actions might need to be taken once we begin to see and name our world and others more appropriately). The book is a carefully reasoned a theological reflection on biblical justice, focused specifically on the effects of misguided social categories and assessments. Joerg Rieger’s No Rising Tide is a challenging analysis of economic diversity (e.g., inequality) that explores the ways in which both contemporary religion and economics are rooted in problematic metaphors and structures of power (and he assesses the effects of these phenomena on human beings and society).


Learning: A brief explanation of how coursework (e.g., papers, exams, videotaped presentations) will be used to measure student achievement of each of the Learning Outcomes. Please address the outcomes directly and one by one.

TRS 117: “Wealth and Poverty in the Bible”
1. Articulate, in prose or through another communicative medium, a critical account of just social order.
Almost daily written assignments (usually via the class’s Moodle website) are used so that students can demonstrate that they have read the assigned material (whether primary texts from the Bible or secondary class texts) and can critically interact with it. Beyond those assignments, student learning in terms of this outcome will be assessed primarily through significant questions (predominantly via short and major essay format) on the mid-term and final exams. The first exam requires that students thoroughly understand biblical views regarding just social order (e.g., Israelite understandings of God in light of their liberation in the Exodus; Israelite values and socio-economic assumptions evident in covenantal law codes; and anthropological and social perspectives illustrated through the creation narratives). Also, students are held accountable for being able to engage critically with a range of material from David Shipler’s study, The Working Poor, which implicitly illustrates a number of ways in which the social order in the United States falls short of complete justice. On the second exam, students are required to reflect on material and themes from the Gospels, from Labberton’s book, and from Rieger’s, in addition to other materials; thus, this exam is largely oriented to students’ ability to articulate, in writing, a critically reasoned account of just social order. About half of the final exam is devoted to treatment of Reiger’s book, via a major essay. Course discussions and biblical exegesis papers also students to incorporate and demonstrate their learning relative to this outcome, though the exams remain the primary mode of assessment.
2. Demonstrate a capacity for coherent, principled analysis of concrete social problems.

The means for assessing learning for this outcome are essentially the same as for the first outcome above. Shipler’s The Working Poor (mid-term exam) and Rieger’s No Rising Tide (second exam), in particular, focus on concrete social problems—though students also learn from other readings and videos. Lecture and discussions in class provide opportunities for learning about concrete social problems (e.g., poverty and its effects; power differentials and their effects on society) and for demonstrating learning as well. Students will be assessed on the exams, primarily, though they will also post written assignments online.

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