Soft-Point Assignments for HIST 104

 

This document lays out the options for earning up to 100 soft points as part of the 350 total points possible in the course. There are four assignment options:

 

1.      Democracy in Your Community

2.      History in Your Community

3.      Book Review

4.      Film Review

 

To earn your soft points, choose any combination of the four, so long as you do at least two different types of assignments. You can keep submitting until you reach the maximum of 100 soft points. Remember, though, soft points cannot be rolled over to make up for hard points. If you have questions about executing any of these assignments, contact your instructor.

 

All these assignments are to be submitted via the discussion forums established by your instructor on the HIST 104 Facebook page. Remember, although you may be used to breezy and slang-laden writing on Facebook, this is college work. Write well, in a tone appropriate for a college assignment.

 

Democracy in Your Community

 

The assignment addresses two of the goals of the course: the study of Tocqueville (in this case by applying his ideas), and proficiency in discursive prose. To complete the assignment:

 

1.      Attend a public event in your community—a lecture, concert, play, meeting, exhibit, film, caucus, rally, or other such public event. Athletic events are excluded, not because they are unworthy, but because masses of people go to them anyway. Find some event you are interested in. We say, “in your community,” and you can decide what your community is. It can be your old home town, Fargo, the university, a church parish, a residence hall.

2.      Write a paragraph (about 100 words) reporting on the event you attended. This paragraph should be sound in composition and should relate the event you attended to the Tocqueville text, Democracy in America. Any event can be related in some way to some part of Tocqueville. When you have completed your paragraph, post it to the appropriate discussion in Facebook. Deadline: Your report must be posted within one week of the date of the event.

 

Rubric for Grading “Democracy in Your Community”

Element

Points

Is the event clearly identified— who, what, when, and where?

3

Is the community identified?

3

Is the event described clearly and concisely?

12

Does the report make a sensible and credible tie to Tocqueville?

8

Is the report sound as to rhetoric and style?

4

Points Possible

30

 

The assignment earns up to 30 points toward your soft-points total in the course. The assignment may be repeated, with each instance worth up to 30 soft points. Want to see an example? OK, here is a report on a fictitious event, done in appropriate format.

 

Event attended: Lecture by Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, "The Challenge of America's Land-Grant Universities"

Date: 10 October 1999 Community: NDSU campus

 

United States Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, in a public lecture sponsored by the NDSU College of Agriculture, spoke on the topic, "The Challenge of America's Land-Grant Universities." He began by talking about how universities such as NDSU have their origins in an act of Congress in 1862, the Morrill Land Grant College Act, sponsored by Congressman Justin Morrill. The land-grant colleges were supposed to offer education that was "practical" as well as "liberal," and they were supposed to be open to all. In line with the "practical" aspect, the land-grant universities were given responsibility for research to improve agriculture and rural life and for extension to provide useful information to rural people. Secretary Glickman believes that land-grant universities today have to change in two ways: they need to recognize broader interests (because consumers and environmentalists are interested in agriculture), and they need to use technology to reach out to more people. Listening to Secretary Glickman talk about the "practical" mission of land-grant universities reminded me of Tocqueville's essay, "Why the Americans Are More Addicted to Practical than to Theoretical Science." I think Tocqueville would say that universities like NDSU are typically American, because they are so concerned with "the applications of science" and not so much with philosophy or theory.

 

History in Your Community

 

The assignment addresses two of the goals of the course: learning to think like a historian, and proficiency in discursive prose. Do two things to complete the assignment.

 

1.      Visit a historical museum or a historic site. It is not possible to define precisely what constitutes a “historical museum” or a “historic site,” and so let’s stick with museums or sites that are officially constituted or designated as such. Historical museums are constituted by historical organizations; historic sites are designated (and usually marked) by historical agencies. You already know what I’m talking about in a common-sense way, but I want to be as explicit as possible for purposes of the assignment. If you have a question whether a museum or site is suitable, ask your instructor. The museum or site can be anywhere—in Fargo, in your old home town, in your current residence, in Moscow, for that matter—but it must be a physical museum or site, not a virtual one.

2.      Write a paragraph (about 100 words) reporting on your visit to the museum or site and your thoughts about it. This paragraph should be sound in composition and should be not only descriptive but also reflective. You should make an evaluation of the museum or site in the manner of a historian (see remarks and rubric below). When you have completed your paragraph, post it to the appropriate discussion in Facebook.

 

Here’s a hint about evaluating a museum or site in the manner of a historian. Recall the discussion in Lecture 1 about the purposes of History: judgment and identity. Museums and sites are about identity. In constituting a museum or designating a site, someone is asserting an identity. Someone is telling a particular story in a certain way. The story has purposes, values, and interpretations in it. Sometimes these are explicit, sometimes you have to induce them, and sometimes they are sort of mixed up, but it is up to you to note and evaluate them. Concisely, since this is a short assignment.

 

The assignment earns up to 30 points toward your soft-points total in the course. The assignment may be repeated, with each instance worth up to 30 soft points.

 

Rubric for Grading “History in Your Community”

 

Element

Points

Is the museum or site clearly identified—name, location, organization, date of visit?

2

Is the museum or site described clearly and concisely?

10

Are the outstanding features of the museum or site noted?

6

Does the report evaluate the purposes, values, and interpretations conveyed by the museum or site?

10

Is the report sound as to rhetoric and style?

2

Total Points Possible

30

 

Book Review

 

The assignment addresses two of the goals of the course: learning to think like a historian, and proficiency in discursive prose. Here is the assignment:

 

1.      Select and read a book pertaining to the content of the course. Ordinarily this will be a book (not Tocqueville, but a book about him is fine) listed in a study guide for one of the lectures. If you’re going to read something not listed in a study guide, then it should be approved in advance by your instructor. Generally the book should be a nonfiction work of History; in some cases a novel or a work from some other genre may be approved, provided it has clear historical import.

2.      Write a critical review of the book. Submit your review via the appropriate discussion forum in Facebook.

 

The assignment earns up to 40 points toward your soft-points total in the course. The assignment may be repeated, with each instance worth up to 40 soft points. Some specifications:

 

·         Length: 300 words

·         Use of first person (I, me) is OK, but don’t overdo it.

·         When you write about the book or its author, write in present tense (what we call the “literary present”).

·         When you write about historical events, write in past tense (the historical past).

·         In college you don’t write book reports, you write book reviews. You take a critical approach to the work. Here are some tips for getting into a critical posture.

·         Fundamentally, you are not writing about the events of the past. You are writing about the book and its author. You will mention historical events, of course, perhaps relate some of them, but the book and its author are your subjects.

·         Spend only a few words, perhaps one brief paragraph, summarizing content. Tell what the author does in the book, capture the argument, and give some highlights. Key point: be sure to state the author’s purpose in writing the book. The author’s purpose is the basis for evaluating the book. (Be sure to read the preface, because historical authors usually say in their prefaces what they are trying to do with their books.)

·         Evaluate how well the author achieves her purpose. Does the work stay on message? Does if martial good evidence? Does the author communicate findings well?

·         And if the author does achieve her purpose, so what? What is the significance of it?

 

Rubric for Grading Book Reviews

Element

Points

Is the review of appropriate length?

5

Is the work summarized fairly and concisely, including a plain statement of purpose?

10

Does the review evaluate the success of the book?

10

Does the review assess the significance of the book?

10

Is the review sound as to rhetoric and style?

5

Total Points Possible

40

 

Film Review

 

The assignment addresses two of the goals of the course: learning to think like a historian, and proficiency in discursive prose. Here is what you do.

 

1.      Select and view a film (video, DVD) pertaining to the content of the course. Ordinarily this will be a film listed in a study guide for one of the lectures. If you’re going to view something not listed in a study guide, then it should be approved in advance by your instructor. Generally it should be a feature film; in some cases documentaries may be approved.

2.      Write a critical review of the film. Submit your review to the appropriate Facebook forum.

 

The assignment earns up to 20 points toward your soft-points total in the course. The assignment may be repeated, with each instance worth up to 20 soft points. Some specifications:

 

·         Length: 300 words

·         Use of first person (I, me) is OK, but don’t overdo it.

·         When you write about the film, its makers, or the plot of the film, write in present tense (what we call the “literary present”).

·         When you write about historical events, write in past tense (the historical past).

 

You need to do a bit more than tell the story of the film and whether you liked it or not. Here are some tips for getting into a critical posture.

 

·         To begin with, fundamentally, you are not writing about the events of the past. You are writing about the film and its interpretations of historical events. You will mention historical events, of course, perhaps relate some of them, but the film and its interpretations are your subjects.

·         Spend only a few words, perhaps one brief paragraph, summarizing content. Tell the plot of the film, including key elements such as time, place, and characters.

·         Discuss the film’s relation to historical events.

·         Evaluate the film’s interpretation of historical events. What do the film’s makers wish you to believe about the past?

·         Comment on other aspects of the film’s quality; this can be anything from plot to musical score.

 

Rubric for Grading Film Reviews

 

Element

Points

Is the review of appropriate length?

2

Is the content of the film summarized fairly and concisely?

6

Does the review discuss the relation of the film to historical events?

6

Does the review assess the film’s interpretation of historical events?

4

Is the review sound as to rhetoric and style?

2

Total Points Possible

20