Susquehanna University Learning Goals
Consider the various perspectives/disciplines from which the topic of freedom and responsibility can be explored. Discuss your ideas with your classmates. Are there some disciplines that did not immediately come to mind when considering this question? Are there some that came up on everyone’s list? Can freedom and responsibility be understood only from a single discipline or are multiple perspectives required for a deep understanding of the topic?
How do the concepts of freedom and responsibility shape/affect human interactions, belief systems, values, and practices?
What is meant by the phrase "intellectual skills"? How can the development of intellectual skills help us look at our own personal freedoms and responsibility differently?
"Lolita" (Chapter 1) from Reading Lolita in Tehran: A memoir in books, Azar Nafisi
Consider Nafisi’s warning not to belittle a work of fiction “by trying to turn it into a carbon copy of real life.” Instead, she writes, that what one should “search for in fiction is …the epiphany of truth.” Offer your own analysis of this warning. In your personal experiences, what works of fiction have revealed to you “the epiphany of truth”?
The following questions are from: http://www.randomhouse.com/acmart/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780812971064&view=tg
On her first day teaching at the University of Tehran, Azar Nafisi began class with the ques-tions, “What should fiction accomplish? Why should anyone read at all?” What are your own answers? How does fiction force us to question what we often take for granted?
Nafisi narrates the incident of Sanaz’ arrest and punishment although she and her friends are completely innocent. Was there ever a time when you felt yourself to be a victim of injustice? Tell the story and explain how you felt. What, if any, lasting changes have you experienced as a result of this injustice?
Who is the Blind Censor? How does Nafisi utilize this figure to help articulate what she and her girls hope to do in their weekly workshop?
What happens during Nafisi’s discussion about the veil with her student, Mr. Bahri?
How does Nafisi use the term “irrelevant” to describe herself?
“Investing in Education” from Half the Sky: Turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Is it the responsibility of those of us in the U.S. and other first world nations to be the stewards of efforts to insure an education for girls throughout the world?
What level of education should be the guaranteed birthright of every child (female and male) in the world?
The authors present a great deal of information about the troubles surrounding the education of girls. Discuss the thorny problems raised in chapter ten, “Investing in Education,” and the ways that Ann Cotton has succeeded in addressing many of them with her Camfed project in Zimbabwe. From http://www.care.org/downloads/care-half-the-sky-discussion-guide.pdf
The following questions are from http://www.randomhouse.com/book/95840/half-the-sky-by-nicholas-d-kristof-and-sheryl-wudunn#discussionquestions
- How is gender discrimination in the United States different from the discrimination women and girls face in “Half the Sky”? How is it similar?
- How is poverty in the countries featured in Half the Sky different from poverty in the United States? How is it similar?
- Why is the empowerment of women and girls an effective way to address global poverty?
- Are there women in your life who exemplify women’s empowerment? What about them makes them powerful?
Liberal Learning and the Practice of Freedom, Philip H. Phenix
Philips contends that the views liberal learning have changed over time. He writes that many students now consider “their studies as chores to be fulfilled in order to earn a degree . . . as fostering conformity and dependence rather than freedom, imagination, and creativity.” Do you agree with that this contention? If so, what factors might be responsible for this change?
Are there ways in which you anticipate that you might be expand your own freedom as a consequence of a liberal education?
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The United Nations
Does the age of this document show? For example, many human rights declarations today include sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental disability, and age as traits that do not justify discrimination, but in 1948 these particular issues probably weren’t on many people’s radar screens.
How well do we, in America today, live up to these ideals? Which rights do we do the best job of protecting? Which rights do we most neglect? How good a job has the world done of fulfilling the promise we made to ourselves 65 or so years ago?
The following questions are from http://www.un.org/cyberschoolbus/humanrights/about/about.asp#guide
Why was the universal declaration written?
How is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights different from the rights set forth by your own government?
Article 1 of the declaration sets the stage. It introduces the words dignity, justice and equality. What do these three words signify in your own lives? How are they related?
What is a human right? What is not a human right? What is universal about them?
What are our responsibilities towards our rights? Is it the same as our responsibilities towards the rights of others? How can we make sure our rights are respected?
Which human rights are well-respected in your own community? Which article of the UDHR do they relate to?
How are these rights monitored, enforced or legitimized? How and when did these rights come to be protected by law in your community?
Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Think about what freedoms you have that others in our country, or our world, do not: education, safe drinking water, access to sufficient food, or simply the freedom to love who you want. Are you doing enough to ensure that everyone has those freedoms? To what extent is it your responsibility to fight on another’s behalf?
The following questions are from www.social-studies.wmwikis.net/file/view/Letter+from+Birmingham+Jail+Lesson+Overview.pdf
- What was the purpose of this letter?
- How did Dr. King view the Civil Rights Movement? How did others view the movement?
- What are the injustices King speaks of? What is meant by just/unjust law? When, if ever, is it okay to break an unjust law?
- What different forms of response to injustice does Dr. King discuss?
- What different emotions does Dr. King reveal? What emotions do readers feel?
- What examples of violence does he share?
- What does he believe is the “truth”?
The following questions are from: http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/martin-luther-king-jr-and-nonviolent-resistance
- What was Martin Luther King, Jr.'s concept of nonviolent resistance and the role of civil disobedience within it?
- What were the primary concerns of the Alabama clergymen who rejected King's intervention in Birmingham's racial conflicts in 1963?
- How did King defend his nonviolent campaign to the Alabama clergymen?
- Why did the president of the National Baptist Convention, Joseph H. Jackson, think King's protest methods were unproductive and un-American? What alternatives did he recommended to secure civil rights for black Americans?
- In King’s response he writes, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” What are the implications of this statement for all people in relation to social injustices? Do you believe he is right? Why or why not?
- What are the four basic steps King outlines for a nonviolent campaign? Would you add any additional steps? What are some examples of people using these approaches today?
- How does King define “just” laws and “unjust” laws? Why do you agree or disagree with his reasoning?
Are there laws today that you think are unjust? If so, why are they unjust and why do people continue to obey them?
- King writes, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute understanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” What does he mean by this? Do you agree with this statement? Explain your answer.
- What definition of “extremist” does King use when he gladly accepts the label?
- If you were one of the clergymen who wrote A Call to Unity, how do you think you would view King’s letter? Why?
The United States Constitution
What are the rights, liberties, and responsibilities of U.S. citizens?
How does the Constitution influence your intended field of study or career?
The following questions are from: http://www.cwsl.edu/content/gsmith/ConLawI_Fall04_DiscussionQsU.S.Constitution.pdf
- What was the primary (overall) purpose of the men who drafted the original Constitution (i.e., the first
seven articles as a whole)?
- How would you state the purpose of each of the seven Articles of the Constitution, in one sentence for each Article?
- In many of their provisions, the first seven Articles of the Constitution directly respond to the perceived weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation (the previous governing document for the new United States government) or to abuses under colonial rule. What are at least three specific examples of this?
- More recently adopted constitutions are typically very lengthy, and they attempt to set forth detailed rules and policies in important (and unimportant) substantive areas. For example, the California Constitution is 105 pages long; its basic provisions on taxation run 18 pages, contain 32 sections, and include specific provisions on the taxation of fruit and nut trees. How is the United States Constitution different in basic length and coverage?
- Observers often note that the founders of the Constitution were not just visionaries; they were also practical men schooled in human nature and the potential for public officeholders to abuse the powers they are granted. What are at least three examples in the Constitution -- other than provisions you have already identified in answering the previous questions – that illustrate this observation?
“The American Constitution” from Freedom in America, William Ker Muir, Jr.
Muir critiques the arguments presented by those who think our political structure results in an “endless deadlock.” As you read this chapter, consider whether you agree with Muir’s critique.
Can you think of political debates today where it seems that as a nation we have entered such an “endless deadlock”?
Does the failure to act reflect true disagreement among the citizens or does it result from internal checks and balances?
Happy Illegal Holiday, Kent Greenfield
Have you celebrated Constitution Day as part of your school experience?
Were issues of its constitutionality ever addressed?
How is it celebrated here?
How well enforced is the law that it has to be acknowledged?
Four Freedoms Address to Congress excerpt, Franklin D. Roosevelt
What does FDR's Four Freedoms speech reveal about the variety of different attitudes, priorities, and political philosophies encompassed by the word "freedom"?
President Roosevelt listed six items that he said are “expected by our people of their political and economic systems.” How do these expectations relate to freedom? Do Americans still expect these things? Should they?
How do these expectations figure in the current presidential elections, 71 years after FDR’s speech? Consider such matters as higher taxes, “special privilege for the few”, unemployment, adequate medical care and a secure retirement.
What did FDR mean by calling the four freedoms “essential”? Do you agree that they are essential? Are they of equal importance?
Do you believe his vision of a “world-wide reduction in armaments” is attainable in today’s world? Why or why not?
What do you make of his concluding each of the descriptions of the four freedoms with the words “everywhere/anywhere in the world”?
The following questions are from “A Study Guide to the Four Freedoms” http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/education/001/four_freedoms/index.html
- If Norman Rockwell were alive today, what model might he have chosen for his “freedom of speech” painting? Images of Rockwell’s paintings can be viewed at: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/powers_of_persuasion/four_freedoms/four_freedoms.html
- Should democracy promotion be an integral part of U.S. foreign policy? If so, what are the most ethical means for pursuing this goal? Can the use of force be justified? What standards of accountability apply?
- Has the U.S. clamped down too broadly on civil liberties in response to recent security threats? By the same token, are human rights advocates guilty of playing down the importance of security concerns because of their preoccupation with abuse of detainees and prisoners? How can advocates of security and human rights work together more effectively?
- In 1995, the U.S. Congress established an independent bipartisan commission on international religious freedom, along with an ambassador at large to represent this issue on behalf of the U.S. government. The formation of this body reflects a commitment to promoting religious liberty at home and abroad that goes back to FDR's freedom of worship. Should the United States government be lobbying for religious freedom in other countries? What action should it take in response to violations? Should it also be highlighting positive examples?
- Do believers have the right to offer their children a one-sided education in private religious schools, excluding all points of view that may conflict with their beliefs? What happens when the right to education, as enshrined in Article 26 of the UDHR, comes into conflict with Article 18, the right to religious freedom?
- Could a non-believer or atheist be elected president of the United States? If not, why not, and what does that say about separation of church and state in this country?
- The economist Jeffrey Sachs claims that ending world poverty should be possible in our lifetimes. What are the main proposals of the UN anti-poverty plan he espouses? Are such proposals feasible?
- Can there ever be any justification for the torture of prisoners? When such abuse occurs, what is the proper government response?
Freedom to offend, Adam Liptak
Do you have a right not to be offended? If so, should your right defeat the rights of others to free speech?
Does it matter how much harm or offense we’re talking about?
Is there a difference between the United States and Canada that might explain the differences in their approaches to free speech and hate speech?
How is censorship used/not used in your discipline? Art, science, etc.
Are college campuses a different environment than general society in terms of hate speech/protected speech?
Freedom and Responsibility, Jean-Paul Sartre
As you read through the passage, ask yourself if you have ever experienced relief at feeling as though you have “no other choice” but to do what you are currently doing.
Conversely, have you ever been terrified by actually having to choose your actions and goals for yourself?
What does Sartre mean when he states that "we are condemned to be free"?
Why is there no "non-human situation"?
Sartre claims that world events such as war also belong to us in that we choose how we will react to them. Why is it important to assume responsibility for these events on an individual and cultural level?
Explain what Sartre means by the term "facticity."
How would you define oppression? Being oppressed? Consider a time when you have felt oppressed and a time where you might have made someone else feel oppressed (either intentionally or inadvertently)?
Consider how someone living in a dorm on campus might feel oppressed by the actions of others. If you observe such actions, is it your responsibility to speak up on another’s behalf? What responsibility do you assume if you choose to be a silent bystander?
What factors played a role in your choice to attend college?
Examine Sartre’s ideas within the social and cultural context of the time period in which he was writing. What was going on in the world? How did these events influence his ideas?
My Genome, My Self, Steven Pinker
How would knowledge a future genetic disorder affect the life you would then choose to lead?
Are you even really qualified to understand the complexities of the genetic information you received?
Once informed of genetic risks, would you feel obliged to tell relatives who may share the genetic traits? But what if they don’t want to know?
Does the 25 percent chance of developing heart disease constitute a pre-existing condition and thus do insurance companies have a right to know?
“Facebook Nation” (Chapter 1), from I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social networks and the death of privacy, Lori Andrews
Andrews suggests that people are drawn to facebook by the “search for freedom.” Do you agree? If so, what types of freedom exist on facebook? What other factors draw people to facebook?
How have facebook and other social networks been used in recent protests against oppressive regimes? How have these tools been used by governments to limit dissenting voices?
How can the shifting rules of facebook be potentially problematic for the “citizens” of facebook?
Do you think facebook has the right to reveal your online associations-- either to a general audience or to companies interested in targeted marketing?
Should social networking sites be liable when they inadvertently reveal private information?
Do you think you have anything posted on facebook that could potentially jeopardize future opportunities that you might have?
How does your digital identity differ from your “real-world” identity?
What are some potential benefits and problems of “crowdsourcing” investigations?
Should private citizens using facebook be able to turn over evidence to law enforcement officials? Should that evidence be subject to constitutional constraints?
Should public health officials be allowed access to private searches? Should they be able to act on information they might learn from private searches?
How does a company like Spokeo function? What rights do you have to limit information available on sites such as this one?
How might your documented digital identity limit your ability to reinvent yourself in the future?
A Sound of Thunder, Ray Bradbury
How did stepping on the butterfly impact the future?
Using evidence from the text, CAN the time travelers go back to fix the mistake?
Bradbury repeats multiple times, “Stay on the path.” What could the path symbolize? What might “the sound of thunder” symbolize?
What happens when you leave the “path” in your life? How can your actions affect others? Affect the future?
What do you think is the theme of the story? Bradbury’s lesson for us?
Is Ray Bradbury an anti-technology advocate? Does his story suggest that he may be saying something about mankind’s inventions and innovations?
Come up with several situations that might be comparable to Eckels’ accidental killing of the butterfly? Cite examples of small actions that may have big effects on the future.
Is the freedom of time travel worth the gigantic responsibility that goes along with changing history, for better or for worse? If this technology was invented tomorrow, would you be interested in going back in time?