Master of Arts in Liberal Studies - Core Seminar II

The Concept of Human Nature: The Elusive Image


Professor Melanie Bush
2113 Boylan, 951-5352
Class: Tuesday and Thursday, 6:25-9:15 PM. 4121 Boylan
Office Hours: Tuesday, Thursday 5:15-6 PM and by appointment (in 2113 Boylan)

This unit of the seminar examines the notion of human nature through the prism of race, racism and racialization. Readings, discussion and assignments will stimulate thinking about theories, attitudes and beliefs related to identity and inter-group relationships and their implications. The course will explore the social, political and economic impact of race historically and in the current context both nationally and globally. The readings will provide background to understand the formulation of a notion of race within the social and physical sciences. When and how did a notion of race evolve? What is its function and purpose--is it " natural "? How and why do people of different races see things similarly or differently? Why is it that in a recent survey of Brooklyn College students, 62.1% had never been in the home of someone of another race? Is this human nature... is it a matter of concern? Is there a white, Black, Latino, or Asian life experience or inherent character? Is it possible to sustain an American identity and be multicultural at the same time? Is "colorblindness" a position to strive for? What difference does it all make? What is human nature vis a vis these issues? Was human nature a notion developed to justify inequalities of power, wealth and status? 

Course Structure







1. Weekly Journal - A 1-2 page journal entry to be submitted weekly detailing thoughts, responses, reactions, concerns, reflections etc. about the class discussions, readings, reactions to news.

2. Interviews -Each student will team up with either one or two other students, preferably from a racial group other than their own to interview each other about attitudes and views emanating from class discussions. Additionally, each student will interview one person NOT in the class, also about race-related questions. Notes will be turned in with a two- page analysis of the significance of the interview responses.

3. News Review - (3) one to three page critiques of articles from any newspaper, magazine or journal. Clipping must be attached.

4. Class Participation - (15%)

5. Final Paper- This will be a position paper outlining policy and programmatic implications of a chosen belief about race, racism or racialization and human nature. Student to submit draft statement, outline, draft and final paper.

VIDEOS such as The Color of Fear will be shown.

Gallagher, Charles. (Editor) (1999) Rethinking the Colorline: Readings in Race and Ethnicity. Mayfield Publishing. 

Williams, Patricia J. (1998). Seeing a Colorblind Future: The Paradox of Race. Noonday.

Required Course Packet can be obtained at Far Better Copy. (All chapters or articles listed as required are included, unless designated otherwise.)


Hartman, Chester. (Editor) (2001).  Challenges to Equality.  M.E. Sharpe.
Supplemental Course Packet of recommended readings can be obtained at Far Better Copy.