First-Year Seminar (FYS-160)

The Roots of Rage: Understanding Anger, Hate and Violence

Course Syllabus (Spring, 2008)


Course Description: An exploration of why we get angry, why we hate others, and the many ways in which we express our anger.  Students will investigate and analyze the root causes of anger in various domains including domestic abuse, road rage, school shootings, hate crimes, activism, terrorism and genocide.  Within each of these domains, students will critically evaluate potential root causes for anger and the ways in which society responds to anger.



Mark J. Sciutto, Ph.D.


Class Meetings:

T- R 9:30 - 10:45 p.m., Moyer 201


Office Hours

TR 2:00 – 3:00, WF 10:00 – 11:00, or by appointment.
Room 217 Moyer (Phone: Ext. 3649) 


Writing Assistant

Laura Tumulty (x4620) email:



Course News, Documents etc.  ( This link is also available from the MuhlNet Start Page.


Required Texts:

Baumeister, R. F. (1999). Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty. New York: A.W.H. Freeman & Co. 


Rosenwasser, D., & Stephen, J. (2008). Writing Analytically (5th ed.).  Boston: Thomson Learning, Inc.


Additional Readings:

Supplemental readings will be placed on reserve via Blackboard. Because of the dynamic nature of a seminar course, the list of additional readings may change as we progress.  Please check Blackboard regularly to keep up-to-date on the course readings.


Beck, A.T. (1999). Prisoners of Hate (pp. 40 – 70)


Kressel, N.J. (2002).  Rwanda—The legacy of inequality.  In Mass Hate: The Global Rise of Genocide and Terror (pp. 73 – 100). Cambridge, MA: Westview Press. 


Lourde, Audre. Power. In Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry.


Munro, Alice.  Royal Beatings. In Selected Stories.


The Dalai Lama & Cutler, H.C. (1998) excerpts from The Art of Happiness.


Weiss, E. (2000). Surviving Domestic Violence. Agreka Publishers. (Selected Case Studies)





Course Goals:

The goals for this course can be conceptualized as a hierarchy with lower levels providing the foundation for higher levels. The most fundamental aim of this course is to help students develop solid analysis skills. These skills provide the foundation for higher-order goals (i.e., content-specific skills and content, transfer).






·         To encourage students to integrate the course content and skills below into their other courses and into their daily experience




·         To gain a greater understanding of the root causes of anger, hate, and violence and to gain an appreciation for the barriers to addressing these causes

·         To improve student writing in both process and product


·         To promote more active and reflective engagement with evidence

·         To improve ability to recognize and combat the “habits of mind”

·         To increase understanding of the importance of perspective-taking




Course Components and Grading Policy


The final course grade will be determined as follows:


Brief Writing Assignments


Brief Analysis Papers


Final Paper


Case Presentations


In-Class Contributions



Individual assignment and paper grades will typically be assigned according to the following numerical equivalents:


93 – 100



77 – 79


90 – 92



73 – 76


87 – 89



70 – 72


83 - 86



65 – 69


80 – 82



Below 65



Brief Writing Assignments (35%) – Over the course of the semester, there will be a series (approximately one per week) of relatively brief writing assignments. Many of these will be assigned and completed during class, but others will involve some writing/reading outside of class. The goals of these assignments are to (a) reinforce concepts from assigned readings and class discussions, and/or (b) develop specific analysis and writing skills.  Typically, these assignments will be assigned in class and due one week later.  In some cases, these assignments will involve some basic preparation before class.  Be sure to stay up-to-date by regularly checking Blackboard and your e-mail. 


Analysis Papers (25%) – In addition to the brief writing assignments described above, there will be several brief assignments (2-3 pages) that emphasize analysis.  For these papers, you will expand upon an idea or ideas generated via in-class exercises and assignments. The primary goal of these papers is to foster analytical writing.  More specific details pertaining to these papers will be distributed and discussed near the beginning of the semester.


Final Paper (20%)  This paper represents the culmination of your work in this course.  The goal of this paper is to develop analytical and writing skills through the completion of a focused research paper. More specifically, analytical skills are reflected in your choice and evaluation of resources, in the merits of your ideas and your thesis, in the support for your arguments, and in the quality of your writing.  Preliminary drafts will be due for these papers throughout the semester and the final revision is due during the final exam period.  More specific details pertaining to these papers will be distributed and discussed near the beginning of the semester.


Case Presentations (10%) In the beginning of this course, we will focus on content and skills that provide a foundation for understanding anger, hate, and violence.  In the latter part of the course, we will focus more of our time on applying this understanding to specific events or cases. Specifically, we will focus on school violence, domestic violence, hate crimes, and mass hate. Groups of students will be assigned to research information on a specific case or event (e.g., Virginia Tech shooting, Murder of James Byrd). Each group of students will present the case to the class and share materials electronically via Blackboard.  The material provided by these groups and the class discussions of these cases will provide raw material for some of the analysis papers described above.  More specific details pertaining to these presentations will be distributed and discussed near the beginning of the semester.


In-Class Contributions (10%) Active engagement in the material and class discussion always facilitates learning and growth.  Accordingly, students who come to class and engage themselves in the material will learn the most and subsequently submit higher quality work. For this reason, I normally do not formally include class participation in my grading policy.  In my opinion, grading on participation is largely redundant with the grades on other assignments. However, because this course uses a seminar format, class participation takes on a greater significance. So, for this course, 10 percent of your grade will be based on your contributions during the class meetings.  Because this class involves many in-class writing assignments and extensive class discussion, your attendance is required to benefit from this class. However, attendance alone is not sufficient for a passing grade on this portion of your grade.  Your grade for this portion of the course will increase to the extent that you are prepared for class (e.g., read the assigned material before class) and contribute to class discussions. Contributing to class discussions is not limited to actively speaking in class—proposing interesting topics or news stories for discussion is also an example of a valuable way of contributing.


Late Assignments: Late assignments will be penalized 5% per day late (including weekend days).


Writing Assistant:  Laura Tumulty will serve as the writing assistant for this course. Near the beginning of the semester, Laura will distribute details about opportunities to meet with her and about her availability during the semester. You must meet with Laura at least 3 times during the semester. Failure to meet with the writing assistant 3 times will result in a deduction of 3% from your final grade (1% per meeting).


Academic Integrity:  You are expected to conduct yourself in accordance with the Academic Behavior Code of Muhlenberg College (  Honesty is an essential aspect of academic integrity. Individual students are responsible for doing their own work and for not taking credit for the effort and ideas of others. This includes plagiarism, cheating and not contributing to group projects. This obligation is based on mutual trust and is essential to meeting the goals of this course.  Academic dishonesty of any type on exams, quizzes or other graded work will not be tolerated.  Violations of the Academic Behavior Code will be reported to the Dean’s office.

Some important points about academic integrity:

1.      You are responsible for keeping drafts, references/sources, disk copies, and backup copies of all of your written assignments, to turn in upon my request until final grades are completed.

2.      You should begin your work early.  An unforeseen event arising the night before a paper is due is not a legitimate reason for a paper extension.  When submitting assignments electronically, you should request confirmation that your assignment has been received or you should save some form of confirmation that your e-mail was sent (each e-mail program differs in how to do this).

3.      You are responsible for taking precautions that your work (especially written work that paraphrases another written source). If I determine that you have copied all or part of an assignment or paper from another source (including another student, a web page, a textbook, or other published source), you will receive a failing grade in this course.  If your written work includes material that is paraphrased unacceptably from the original source, I will ask you to re-submit the written work and I will lower the assignment grade by 10%.

4.      On all work submitted for a grade, you must write and sign the following pledge: “I pledge that I have complied with the Academic Behavior Code in this work.”  In the case of electronic submissions, you should include this statement along with your initials.


Students with Disabilities.  Students with disabilities requesting classroom or course accommodations must complete a multi-faceted application/approval process through the Office of Disability Services prior to the development and implementation of an Accommodation Plan. Each Plan is individually and collaboratively developed with the directors or other staff of the following Departments, as appropriate: Academic Resource Center, Counseling Services, Student Health Services, and the Office of Disability Services. If you have not already done so, please contact the appropriate Department to begin a dialogue regarding your academic needs and recommended accommodations, auxiliary aids, and services.  Students with disabilities who may need disability-related accommodations are encouraged to make an appointment to see me during the first two weeks of class. 


Important Note about Information Technology:
In this course, you will be required to make extensive use of information technology. You will be using a software program called Blackboard © to exchange documents electronically, communicate outside of class, and stay updated on class events.  Students who are less comfortable with information technology should meet with me so that I can help orient you to the various tools we will be using.


Tentative Course Outline

This is a seminar-based course. We will focus heavily on exploration and discussion of ideas. The nature of this course requires that we be flexible in our planning. The outline below is only a tentative outline of our course activities.


Got to:    for a revised schedule