Fine Print


The required book for this seminar is:
Jacoby, Susan. 2018. The Age of American Unreason in a Culture of Lies. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0-525-43652-2.

There are additional required readings available on this class website.

Email, not Voicemail

I am happy to meet with you in office hours, or at another time if my office hours don’t work for you. I also check email regularly. Do not leave voice mail for me on my office phone. I do not check voice mail.


candidate analysis  20
implausible conspiracy paper 100
hoaxster analysis 100
video plea for the life of the mind 100
participation 100
“one more thing” essay   80

Your participation grade will reflect the quality of your contributions to our discussions in seminar. Students should arrive for each class meeting ready to discuss readings and current events. Any absence will negatively affect your participation grade, but just showing up every time and declining to contribute meaningfully will result in a poor participation grade, too.

The assignments are described in detail here.

Course Objectives and Instructional Methodologies

I am particularly interested in structuring the course and its assignments in a way that will challenge students, regardless of their own political biases, to consider their own habits of thinking about the “other side.” Nobody has a monopoly on bone headedness. The data show that partisans of all stripes often think about politics and the culture at large in simplistic, emotionally satisfying ways. Partisans of all stripes routinely minimize careful research and deliberation. (For example, those on the political left are sympathetic to one set of conspiracy theories that do not withstand careful scrutiny, while those on the right are sympathetic to another set of such conspiracy theories.)

As a political sociologist by training, I draw extensively on the literature from sociology, political science, and, for this topic, psychology. So the course will be interdisciplinary. Moreover, the assignments and obligations of this course will require students to read carefully, and to articulate their own positions (and others’) fairly and with precision. The assignments will require a mindful, creative approach to making sense of anti-intellectualism, and to the conditions that promote or discourage it.

I will lecture for about one-fourth of the time most days. Most of the balance of class time will go to structured classroom discussions of ideas from lectures and especially to analysis of the assigned readings. We will also spend some class time considering current events that are relevant to class. For example, we will analyze current campaign ads and score them for anti-intellectualism. Campaigning for the U.S. Presidential and Congressional elections of 2016 will be in high gear during the fall 2015 semester. Indeed, the list of presidential hopefuls will probably not yet have been winnowed, and we are likely to see lively Republican and Democratic single-party televised debates in the fall of 2015 as both parties work toward naming their nominees at their respective national conventions in the summer of 2016. We will take full advantage and use the campaign season as a kind of case study, watching for moments of greater or lesser anti-intellectualism in candidates’ campaign messages, media coverage of the season, partisan attacks that persist or die quickly in interesting ways, and so forth.

Make ups, Late Papers

Assignments turned in late (after the beginning of class on the due date) will lose 20 percent of the total point value per day late. The first 20 percent is deducted at 12:31 for this 12:30 class. Make ups will be allowed only with a note from a doctor of funeral home, and must be turned in no later than one week after the student’s return.

Students with Disabilities

Per the Office of Disability Services: “If you are a student with a disability who will require an accommodation(s) to participate in this course, please contact me as soon as possible. You will be asked to provide documentation from the Office of Disability Services. Failure to contact me in a timely manner may delay your accommodations.”

Electronic Devices

Messing with your phone in class is an expression of contempt for the rest of us. Do not use your phone during class. You risk being asked to leave if you break this rule. Laptops are permitted in the front half of the room, but should be used for note taking only. Because of the discussion format of this class and issues of privacy, politics, and creating an atmosphere conducive to open discussion, I do not allow recording the class without explicit permission.

Texas State University Academic Integrity Policy

(Here follows my edited version of language generated by committee for use in the Dept. of Sociology.) As members of the university community, students are expected to be aware of and abide by university policies regarding academic honesty. By the same token, members of the faculty within the university community are expected to enforce those policies. Members of the Department of Sociology operate on the assumption that each student has thoroughly reviewed the university policies regarding academic honesty and that the policies will be followed. Accordingly, members of the Department of Sociology will enforce all policies related to academic honesty.

Academic dishonesty includes the following: cheating, plagiarism, collusion and/or abuse of resource materials. Each term or phrase is defined in some detail in the official links below. Examples of plagiarism include, but are not limited to:

  • downloading or buying a research paper
  • cutting and pasting information from several sources to create a paper
  • leaving out quotation marks around quoted material, placing quotation marks around some but not all copied information
  • leaving out quotation marks around copied information but adding a citation implying that the information is the student’s summary of the source
  • leaving out quotation marks for more than three consecutive words taken directly from a source
  • providing a reference/bibliograghy page but leaving out the reference citation in the body of the paper
  • faking a citation
  • unintentionally using words or ideas or quotes without citing them in the body of the paper and on the reference/bibliograghy page (

Ignorance of what constitutes plagiarism or having plagiarized in the past without having been penalized does not excuse such acts in the Department of Sociology. Any student charged with plagiarism may appeal in writing in accordance with Texas State University policy. University policy statements relevant to academic integrity are available via these links:

Texas State Code of Conduct

Honor Code

Academic Honesty, UPPS No. 07.10.01