American Radicals

Teacher:Lise Brody
Extra Help:     Mondays or by appointment

                                                                                                                                All that you touch
                                                                                                                                                     You Change.


                                                                                                                    All that you Change
                                                                                                                                                     Changes you.


                                                                                                                    The only lasting truth 
                                                                                                                                              Is Change

                                                                                                                                       (Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower)

What does it mean to make change -- responsibly, compassionately, and accountably? When is it necessary? When is it not? What are its costs and risks? In this course we will look at change and change-makers in three areas: education, literature, and social justice. We'll kick our exploration off with a field trip to the Institute of Contemporary Art's exhibit on Black Mountain College, a radical experiment in education. We'll draw on the questions and ideas raised by that exhibit over the course of the semester.

Unit I. What's so Radical About That?

We'll start this unit with the The United States Declaration of Independence. What made the enlightenment ideals that this nation was founded on radical? What made the publication and signing of the Declaration a radical act? What other moments in US history have reflected the same spirit? As we look at individuals and groups who have sought big changes in pursuit of justice, we'll begin to craft a definition of the term “radical.” Texts may include essays and excerpts from writings by Frederick Douglass, Henry David Thoreau, Emma Goldman, WEB Du Bois, Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, others

Unit II. I Sing the Body Electric: Writers Who Risked.

In this unit we will read the work of literary rule-breakers: people who have experimented with different ways of writing and broached topics that challenged cultural norms. Texts may include poetry and prose by Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, Kendrick Lamar, James Baldwin

Unit III. Discipline and Punish

In this unit, we'll turn our lens close to home, examining education in America. What experiments have been proposed and/or tried here? What direction should education be headed as we begin the 21st century? Is it time for a new, radical shift? What should it look like? Where does IACS fit in? Texts may include excerpts from works by: John Dewey, Horace Mann, Jonathan Kozol.

Course work:

Course work will include analytical writing, group and individual project work, and a good deal of reading.

Skills Assessed

Analysis (35%); Composition (35%); Oral Expression (this includes participation in class discussions) (10%); Work Habits (20%)


Honors students will play a significant role in this class. You will have a heavy reading/research load and will be asked to present your knowledge in front of the class. Honors students may be required to attend extra help.

Extra Help

Please come! My extra help is on Monday afternoons or by appointment (

Risk Taking and Respect

Class discussion is an important component of this course, and the topics we explore may prove contentious. In order for discussions to be (1) fun and (2) constructive, everybody needs to feel safe and respected. It is important that we give both others and ourselves permission to take risks and speak our thoughts, and that we listen to one another with attention and generosity of spirit.

Computer Use in Class

Computers should be closed in class unless we are doing in-class writing or group work. Please bring a notebook for taking notes.

Cell Phones Too

Turn them off and put them AWAY. No, not face-down on your desk. Not on your lap. AWAY.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism is claiming someone else’s words or ideas as your own. That means:

  • copying/ pasting something from the internet or another source without quote marks and citation

  • paraphrasing something from any source without citation

  • using someone else's ideas without giving them credit

When in doubt, cite! If it’s in the gray area, it IS plagiarism. I take this very seriously.

For more information on the Academic Honesty policy, please refer to the student handbook.
I will take cases of plagiarism to Dr. Arnold with the
first offense.


All homework will be posted in the course web-page. You are responsible for work assigned while you are absent. I will make accommodations for serious illnesses and real emergencies.

Late Work Policy

I grant no-strings, no-questions-asked extensions, provided you request them before the end of the school day at least two school days before the assignment is due. If you do not have an extension, I will accept late work, but the work-habits grade will drop one letter grade per school day (whether or not we have class that day). If you are failing the course or dissatisfied with your grade due to missing work, please do not ask me to design special extra credit assignments for you.