2021 Syllabus

Summer 2021     Knowledge for Freedom Seminar

Dickinson College / Summer 2021
M/T/W/TH/F 930am to 1130am, 12pm to 1pm
Classrooms: Denny 317, Denny 112

Matthew Pinsker
Office: 61 N. West Street
By appointment
Email: pinskerm@dickinson.edu


Slavery, or the idea of holding property in man, might well be the most insidious repudiation of American democratic ideals. And yet, slaveholding was both widespread and long-entrenched in the United States, a country that has always prided itself on embracing individualism and universal natural rights. How was such a fundamental contradiction even possible? That is the kind of searing question that can help open a gateway toward both deeper learning and more engaged citizenship. Students who successfully conclude this program and complete their final web-based projects will receive free Dickinson College credit for the equivalent of a History 101 general topical survey course. Prof. Pinsker will be assisted in this summer’s seminar by Dr. Todd Mealy (Dickinson College), Dr. Lynn Johnson (Dickinson College), graduate student TAs Becca Stout (Columbia University) and Cooper Wingert (Georgetown University) and undergraduate tutors, Charlotte Goodman (’23), Jordyn Ney (’23), and Nick Rickert (’22). Funding has been provided by the Teagle Foundation in New York.

Required Books & Pamphlets (distributed free to participants)

• Andrew Delbanco, The War Before the War (New York: Penguin, 2018)
• Nikole Hannah-Jones, ed. The 1619 Project, New York Times, August 19, 2019 [WEB]
• James Oakes, The Radical and the Republican (New York: WW Norton, 2007)
• Matthew Pinsker, Lincoln’s Sanctuary (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002)
• Matthew Pinsker, ed. Dickinson & Slavery (2019)
• Matthew Pinsker, ed., Knowledge for Freedom source book (2021)

Featured Texts (compiled in the source book)

Course Policies
For details on course policies, especially those regarding attendance, participation,
accommodations for disabilities, plagiarism and general learning objectives.

Activities and Field Trips
Each afternoon, seminar participants will meet with various visiting speakers, including staff from the Admissions office who will offer mentoring on the college application process, and local civic organizers who will discuss various challenges facing communities like Carlisle. Seminar participants will also undertake historical walking tours on campus and in town and will enjoy three extended field trips to Harrisburg, Gettysburg and Washington, DC. Students will be bogging about the weekly field trips on Thursday nights during the seminar.

Students will be responsible for daily attendance and participation in both a faculty-led seminar five days per week for three weeks, 2 hours per day, along with a separate TA-led presentation discussion for one follow up hour each day. Each night, students will be required to email to Prof. Pinsker (copying Prof. Mealy) at least one question they have about the next day’s featured seminar text(s). Questions should be thoughtful and designed to help engage other high school and college students in deeper analysis of the documents under study. The best questions will be tested out in the seminar and some will be selected for publication on the course site. These draft questions will not be graded but will count toward each student’s overall participation evaluation.

Blog Posts
During the first two weeks of the July seminar, students will have a short blog post due on Thursday nights (July 15, July 22) posted at their personal websites by 11pm. These posts (about 200 words each or one page, single spaced) will describe participant reactions to one of our weekly field trips or afternoon engagement activities. The posts should include photographs taken by the student or some creative inspiration from the activities (such as drawings, music, etc.). These assignments will be graded on the basis of prose quality, creativity and analysis. Models for these posts will be available from the work of the undergraduate tutors. Late blog posts will be penalized up to 5 points each day.  [NOTE:  this assignment has been updated]

Close Reading Reflections
During the first two weeks of the July seminar, students will have two short close reading reflections due on Sunday night, July 17 and Sunday night, July 24, posted at their personal websites by 11pm. These two close reading reflections (about 500 words or 2-3 pages single spaced) will summarize and analyze one of the featured texts from that previous week’s daily reading schedule. All reflections should be posted at the student’s personal WordPress site with a selection of 2-3 images (properly credited and captioned) and with one short, embedded video or audio file (podcast) that attempts to bring to life a short snippet (20 to 60 seconds) from the assigned text. These assignments will be graded on the basis of prose quality, analysis, and multi-media effort. Models for these reflections will be available from the work of the undergraduate tutors. Late reflections will be penalized up to 5 points each day.

Final Website Projects
Upon arrival at Dickinson, seminar participants will be assigned their own website in a WordPress platform (hosted by Dickinson) and will be taught how to build out both content and design for the creation of their own web-based portfolio. These online portfolios will then serve as a way for students to share their best academic work and most important civic commentaries with their family and friends, with potential colleges, and with the wider world. Dickinson College will continue to provide free hosting services for these websites through 2022. During the seminar, students will create three blog posts (about our field trips) and two close reading posts (about assigned course texts from Week 1 and Week 2).

Two weeks after completion of the July seminar (by August 15, 2021), students seeking college credit will also be required to submit an expanded version of their personal website, featuring revisions for their previously submitted blog posts and close reading reflections, one new close reading reflection (from any week of the seminar) and a new longer essay (about 1,500 words or roughly 3 to 5 pages, single spaced) that draws lessons about how best to achieve change in American democracy through comparing and contrasting the antislavery strategies of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Essays should include properly captioned and credited images as well as Chicago-style footnotes, citing wherever relevant the primary source texts from the course syllabus as well as secondary sources provided by the program (books or pamphlets by Delbanco, Hannah-Jones, Oakes and Pinsker. Outside research beyond these materials is allowed but not required. Final web projects will be graded on prose quality, research and depth of analysis, and design creativity. Models for these web projects will be available from the work of the undergraduate tutors. The best student website projects will also be considered for inclusion in the Student Hall of Fame, a designation that covers more than 150 of the best projects submitted to Prof. Pinsker in his undergraduate and graduate classes over the previous decade. Late websites will be penalized up to 5 points each day.

Grade Distribution
Seminar Participation……………………………………30 percent
Blog Posts (2)………………………………………………….. 15 percent
Close Reading reflections (2)…………………………25 percent
Website projects……………………………………………. 30 percent

Full daily schedule

Week 1:  Slavery Through World History  (July 12-16, 2021)

  • Saturday 7/17 –Personal Time

    • 8PM-11PM  MOVIE NIGHT (Morgan lounge) –“Glory”
  • Sunday 7/25 –Personal Time


Week 2: The Other Lincoln-Douglass Debates (July 19-23, 2021)

  • Saturday 7/24 –Personal Time

  • Sunday 7/25 –Personal Time


Week 3:  Freedom & Equality in America (July 26-30, 2021)

  • Wednesday 7/28  –Nation’s Capital
      • Engagement activity –Field trip to Washington DC
  • Friday 7/30 –Group Presentations
      • 930-10AM  Lectern + Artifacts with Craig Caba (Stern)
      • 10-11AM  Other Lincoln – Douglass Debates (Stern)
      • 11-12PM   Photos with lectern, view artifacts, parents arrive (Stern)
      • 12-1PM   Luncheon with President Jones and parents / guardians