Link to What's New This Week What Am I Supposed to Do?

Dear Habermas Logo and Link to Site Index A Justice Site

Shared Reading: The Discourse Method

Mirror Sites:
CSUDH - Habermas - UWP - Archives

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: July 15, 2004
Latest Update: September 4, 2004

E-Mail Icon

Index of Topics on Site What Am I Supposed to Do?

  1. Introduction Why I chose to share this reading.
  2. Focus: Main point of this reading.
  3. Reading Full identification of source for reading AND excerpt.
  4. Concepts: Concepts and Key Words.
  5. Discussion Discussion questions.
  6. Conceptual Linking to Substantive Courses What this has to do with our class.

* * *


  • I chose to share this reading with you as part of our mentoring program. Courses in the Dear Habermas project are designed to empower you to learn as much as you can, about things that are of interest to you, and to measure that learning for certification (grades, if you need them) in ways that best reflect your efforts.

    To that end, we provide considerable choice, so that you are not obliged to follow paths that are not of interest to you. Some of those paths will attract you later, and some you will never follow. Our teaching and learning are about finding paths together that you will follow. We call it the discourse method because we consider that one of the most important things you can learn is to talk knowledgeably and deeply about whatever you are learning. Explore. Think. Learn to judge "received authority" and learn to seek further on your own. Create as you go. Turn over a small twig or a stone, and notice something others have neglected to notice before. Find a small treasure that will remind you forever of that journey, that path.


  • What I would like you to take away from this reading is how to find, whenever you need it, a guide to getting started on our site. A guide to reading in which I make clear what I consider important in the reading. A guide to measuring that learning and conveying that measure to me, so that you can optimize your grade. But I'd like you to remember that these are mere guides. Venture off on your own. Create your own path. We're trying to show you how.

Concepts and Key Words:

  • Basic computer literacy: the ability to access the Dear Habermas Site and to find the answers to the questions below that will tell us that you have learned to navigate the site.

  • computer competency:Ability to e-mail me, and receive my answering e-mails, whether you do that on your own, or through an assistant; ability to do a basic internet search; ability to print copy from the computer. All of these may require assistance for you. In that case, you are responsible for letting us know that you know how to access that assistance.

  • shared reading: a few pages from a text that you have read that you will share with us either in face-to-face interaction or on a discourse thread on the site or in my office. You should be sure to give us the full citation of the readings, an excerpt where we can get a flavor of the writing, and provide discussion questions and conceptual linking to the class with which you are sharing or to the discourse on Dear habermas with which you wish to share.

  • received learning: learning that is given to you by someone in a position of authority or quasi-authority without provision of the sources and access to the sources from which the information came.

  • template: a form for you to follow to help you prepare your shared reading or some other task

  • measures of learning: the measures you choose to demonstrate your learning for certification. Permitting you to choose your own measures insures transparency; there are no catches, no hidden barriers to jump.

  • grading: certification to enter the job market or move up the career ladder - of almost no real import in terms of our learning discourse, becaue grades alone are rarely valid feedback on learning. For our standards on grading consult Index on Grades, the Grading Process, and our Standards.


Substantive Content of Related Courses for Fall 2004

  • CRMJ/SOCA 363 Corrections, UWP.
  • CRMJ/SOCA 365, Race, Crime and Law, UWP

  • Sociology 328-01: Agencies, CSUDH
  • Sociology 367-01: Sociology of Law, CSUDH
  • Sociology 370-01: Moot Court: Governance Discourse, CSUDH
  • Sociology 395-01: Special Topics: Women in Poverty, CSUDH
  • Sociology 595-01: Special Topics: Women in Poverty, CSUDH

  • The Discourse Method
    • Freedom to choose and the existential "angoisse" of choice.
    • Answerability
    • Accountability
    • Illocutionary, instrumental, and governance discourse
    • Using the Discourse Model as a framework for a collaborative work setting in which we are held to professional standards
    • Collaborative as opposed to adversarial work.
    • Learning as a process and school as praxis.

  • Credentialing

  • Tangible Production and Dissemination

    Discussion Questions:

    1. How do I get started? If you're computer literate, follow this procedure. If you're not computer literate, ask for help with gaining that literacy. You'll need it for our courses.

      1. Learn to access the web site. Use a search engine like Google or Yahoo or whatever and search for Dear Habermas Or alternatively, go to your Criminal Justice Site at UWP or to the CSUDH home site. AT UWP there is a link to Dear Habermas on the CJ site. At CSUDH you have to use the Index to search for Dear Habermas, and then link on it.

      2. Link to the current issue. Scroll through the site to find:
        • Topic of the Week
        • News and Announcements
        • Debriefing and or Planning of Naked Space Exhibit for the Semester
        • Academic Support
        • Dictionary and Reference Support
        • Jobs and Careers
        • Play
        • Kudos to Our Teachers and Ourselves: That was fun!

      3. Explore the Shared Reading Suggestion (under Academic Support - Mentoring)

      4. Read the Shared Reading Pieces scheduled for the next discussion, so you can participate knowledgeably.

      5. E-mail jeanne,, if you're at CSUDH, or Susan,, if you're at UWP, to let them know that you're started.

      6. How does the process method differ from traditional class methods?

        Consider the following: choice and answerability; standards and accountability; satisficing; playing to strengths instead of weaknesses; creating something real for community consumption.

      7. What is the "good news" and the "bad news" about the Discourse Method?

        Consider the following:

        Bad news: not much wiggle room; some tasks must be accomplished; there will be a gallery exhibit to which the community is invited at the end of the semester. If your work is not professional, that might detract from your colleague's work, and make the exhibit less attractive. Actually, that's never happened, but there is that angle to consider. Essays and term papers won't cut it. You've got to learn a new process. Learning something new is sometimes a little scary. And you've got to choose the evidence you present for your learning. Harder to blame the teacher if you don't do well. And you've got to figure out what doing well means: that you produce something that will be of use to everyone else in the class and to the community. Yikes! as Susan would say. This is really real.

        Good news: the experiment has been going on since Susan was my student before some of you were even born. We are pretty sure of what we're doing. We've made templates to show you how you can share your reading and your work with us. This is one example. We offer you templates that we've started. The Shared Reading Template will guide you through the creation of reading that will be shared with the whole Dear Habermas community. When you have prepared the template, shared the reading in a face-to-face group, revised your comments, you'll submit that material to Dear Habermas where it will be published for the benefit of everyone.

        We offer you suggestions on shared reading choices. In many cases those templates are partially or completely filled out, so that all you need to do is edit them to fit your reading.

        We don't give tests. You can have one if you want it; but it would be drawn from all the discussion questions that are available on our shared reading pieces. Instead of basing your grade on a test, we base your grade on your work products. We ask that you complete three shared reading pieces for our discussions. You'll need to write those because they must be shared with the class so we'll all be on the same page for discussion. But from there on you can provide evidence of your learning orally as well as by written work. The shared reading guides just make sure that we've all read the material for our discussion and had questions ahead of time to think about. The work product is the actual discussion, in class, and/or on the website.

        The only other requirement is contribution to the Naked Space Exhibit at the end of the semester. And we spend the whole semester planning that, so it's not nearly as intimidating as you might think.

        Naked Space Online Exhibit from Spring 2004.

      Conceptual Linking to Substantive Courses:

      • Agencies:
        Sample linking: Ways in which underlying assumptions of assimilation affect services offered and clients' ability to access and use those services. How does this reading illustrate the need for social agencies, for more generalized agencies, for what Bolman and Deal would call "leadership" AND "management"? How does this reading suggest ways in which we could be more effective in rendering help, and what is the reading's relationship to a "safety net" for those who need help?

      • Criminal Justice:
        Sample linking: Ways in which some groups are underrepresented in the unstated assumptions of our theories. How does this reading serve to illustrate adversarialism, mutuality, retribution, revenge, illocutionary understanding, the definition and operation of the criminal justice system?

      • Law:
        Sample linking: Extent to which laws are made on the assumption that we are all essentially assimilated to the dominant culture. How does this reading help us see the need for contextual readings in law? How does it relate to our natural instincts to seek some kind of natural law? What facts and principles does the reading offer for discourse that could clarify for Others validity claims presented by an Obscure Other?

      • Moot Court:
        Sample linking: Ways in which to make validty claims of harm understood by those who have never experienced many of the world's different perspectives. How can this reading enlighten our praxis in terms of different kinds of discourse, like instrumental, illocutionary, governance?

      • Women in Poverty:
        Sample linking: The culture of poverty and assimilation. How does the reading deal with our underlying assumptions about poverty, especially poverty of the exploited, the NOT- male? What does the reading suggest of the interrelationship between our society and its children, generally cared for by women, often poor?

      • Race, Gender, Class:
        Sample linking: The extent to which silence has been imposed by these affiliations so that domination and discrimination have entered our unstated assumptions in interpersonal relations and the structural context arising from them. What does the reading tell us about exploitation and alternative ways to deal with one another? What does it tell us about institutionalized -isms and our denial of complicity? What does it tell us about our common humanity?

      • Religion:
        Sample linking: The spiritual component. Humans are spiritual creatures, creatures that recognize moments that go beyond ourselves to God, Allah, Isis, Gaia, the Universe, or a deep sense of responsibility to create our own meanng. How does the reading fit into our ability, our need to create such meaning in life?

      • Love !A:
        Sample linking: What's the aesthetic link in this reading? How does it bring us closer to one another as humans? What does it tell us about our need for love, unconditional love, not rewards for doing well or being well, but caring and acceptance for being who we are?

  • Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, June 2004.
    "Fair use" encouraged.