Dr. Karen E. Schiler
keschiler [at] okcu [dot] edu
Office Hours: MW 3:00-5:00, and by appointment
Course Location & Time: Dulaney Browne Library 503, MWF 11:00-11:50

– Do-It-Yourself Coursebook (CB): Our readings are all available electronically or as handouts. You will be required to print some of these texts.
– 3-Ring Binder, to house your CB
– A 2-pocket folder for turning in your essay assignments with the appropriate accompanying materials.
– Regular Access to a Computer

Oklahoma City University, like many other universities, requires all entering students to take an Introductory Composition course as part of the general education requirement. This is because many of us in the academy believe that learning how to compose your ideas—learning how to read, listen, critique, invent, draft, revise, and polish your writing—is crucial to your participation in a university education. Furthermore, many of us also believe it is foundational to your ability to be a thinking human being who responsibly participates in the world at large. Yes, that is a tall order for one class. Additionally, you have elected to take the Honors version of this course. This means that not only will we work on skills necessary to successfully composing your ideas at the college level, but we will constantly investigate why composition matters, what the ultimate goal of exchanging ideas is, and what is at stake in whether or not we are good at it. We take our content from the historical tradition of rhetoric, which is the art of writing or communicating effectively, and we will practice different rhetorical skills even as we consider different ideas of what rhetoric might be.

The driving questions of this course are: What is rhetoric? What kind of power does it have? Can it be used for good or ill? Is it necessary to do good or ill? When does it work best? When we use our rhetoric or speech for good, is it only good for ourselves, or is it good for others as well? How do we know what is good for others? How can we discern goodness in others, in their character and rhetoric? If we can agree that the ultimate good is love, then what do rhetoric and love have in common, or where might they intersect?

Once again, this is an Honors level course. That affects our pace, our course goals, the difficulty level of our material, and the expectation of rigorous engagement. I will expect you to engage with very big ideas, and willingly work through them as they connect not only to the text at hand but also to the wider world you have experienced. I will expect you to listen respectfully and attentively to the ideas of other students, even when they may be working through a challenging notion for the first time, and thus listening will require patience. I will expect you to sharpen your own ideas as well as the ideas of your classmates; if you assume you are already at your best, there is really no point in being in the university, much less our course. I will always expect you to persevere through the reading, even if you don’t understand it. I will definitely expect you to annotate the readings, and I will expect you to take notes on what is discussed in class. I will also expect you to take the initiative if you are struggling with something: contact me and let me know so that we can work it out, instead of simply letting it go and hoping nobody notices. Of course, I expect you to know all of the basics of student behavior: bringing appropriate materials to class, attending consistently and punctually, setting aside all distractions such as cell phones and texting, and generally signaling to others through your body language and behavior that you are ready to participate.*

You can expect things of me as well. I am passionate about our material, and I am excited to learn what you think about it. I am committed to helping you work through difficult ideas, both those of others and your own. I want very much for you to leave this course an even more effective rhetor than when you arrived, and I will work hard to make sure that the course proceeds in a way that is stimulating, compassionate toward growth, and fair to all. In short, I assume that you have productive expectations about what you will get out of this course, and I aspire to meet (and perhaps exceed) them. In turn, I expect great things from all of you.

*If you have questions about what your behavior signals to others, let me know, and we will outline specific behaviors in writing.

Warm-Up Essay – (5%)
Unit #1 Essay – Rhetoric (10%)
Unit#2 Essay – Love (15%)
Unit#3 Essay – The Good (20%)
Attendance, Annotation, & Participation: 15%
Art Exercises: 10%
Final Portfolio: 25%

You are allowed three absences without question or excuse, penalty free. After that, each absence will take away 1/5 of your Attendance, Annotation & Participation grade (15% total within your semester grade, which means 3% for each absence). If you miss more than 8 classes, each subsequent absence will lower your entire semester grade by one letter, so that a B in the class becomes a C, thus chipping away your remaining semester grade in 10% increments. Keep in mind the University policy that any student who misses more than a third of a class (15 absences) may no longer be considered to have been a student in that class. Conferences with me count towards this attendance quota.

Barring absences, this 15% is earned through written and verbal participation. You show your written participation through your notes and annotations on the readings. Toward that end you are required to keep an Annotation Log in your CB. This should be at the start of the notebook, and should include, in alphabetical order, all readings that have an [A] next to them on our course website. Some of these are articles that you will be asked to print, others you are welcome to only read online. Those that you must print will have a [P] next to them. I will check these Annotations three times during the semester. After the first time, I will let you know if they are of passing quality; if they are not, you may redo them. From then on, if you do not have adequate Annotations, you will lose 1/5 of this 15% for every inadequate batch. You may refer to Cornell University’s library guide on annotations to see how to create entries for your Annotation Log:

Your daily, verbal participation is required in order to avoid being marked absent. Concrete participation in class shows up as informed, thoughtful comments. I’ve already discussed the kind of classroom behavior I expect; I will here take a moment to specify the kind of verbal, in-class contribution that counts toward participation. You are all smart students or you would not be here. There may have been times in your past when you were able to make comments appreciated by your teachers, in spite of not having done the readings. This is not the kind of course where that will work. Yes, you may get attention by throwing something together that “sounds smart,” but if you are repeatedly unable to link your comments to what we’ve read, or reference the particulars of what a classmate is saying, then the rest of us will know that you have not done the reading.

This is not to say that comments born of confusion are unwelcome, but I expect you to be confused because you actually attempted the reading, not just because you are frustrated that you don’t understand everything instantaneously. Productive questions will be specific, and will point to moments in the text, or posit connections between the text and the real world or other fields.

ACCOMMODATIONS: If you believe that you need accommodations for a documented physical, psychiatric, or learning disability, please contact the Disabilities Services Coordinator at (405) 208-5090 for an appointment to discuss your needs and the process for requesting accommodations. The Student Disabilities Services Coordinator is responsible for coordinating disability-related accommodations and will issue students a documented Access Plan, as appropriate. Since accommodations may require early planning and generally are not provided retroactively, please contact the Student Disabilities Services Coordinator as soon as possible. To speak with the coordinator about other concerns, such as medical emergencies or arrangements in case of a building evacuation, please make an appointment as soon as possible. Advance notice is required for most accommodations.

HARASSMENT: Preventing Sexual Harassment: Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination against any participant in an educational program or activity that receives federal funds, including federal loans and grants. Title IX also prohibits student-to-student sexual harassment. If you encounter unlawful sexual harassment or gender-based discrimination, please talk with your professor or with the Title IX Coordinator at (405) 208-5075. Visit for more information.

ACADEMIC HONESTY: For a more detailed description of the University’s stance on academic honesty, please refer to p.30 of the Undergraduate Catalog. Included in their prohibitions are activities involving cheating, unacknowledged copying, collusion (when you work with someone else without admitting it), and presenting as truth information that you know is, or suspect might be, false. Consequences for you may include: failing an assignment, failing a course, and being expelled from the school.

Here is what plagiarism says to me: You think that you shouldn’t have to do the same amount of work that everyone around you is struggling to do. Is it hard to write an essay? Extremely. Will you have moments when you curse me, the course, Plato, and any other student who looks like they are having an easy time writing? Quite possibly. Yet this is how MOST PEOPLE feel about writing, and if you don’t put in the painful time and effort, you will never get any better. When you plagiarize, you are copping out and giving up on this process. You are hurting yourself, and disrespecting all the other students sitting around you who put themselves through the painful effort that you are too great a coward to face. I will not tolerate plagiarism.

LATE WORK, MAKE-UP WORK, & INCOMPLETES: If you are late with a homework or in-class activity, you should complete it as soon as possible, because I never assign anything that isn’t a part of the upcoming major assignment. You will not, however, get credit for reading an article late, say on Wednesday, when it was due the previous Monday, and we already had our class discussion on it. This also accounts for why I do not give “make-up” work—the work that has already been assigned is what is relevant. Larger assignments go down one letter grade for every class session they are late, so a B paper becomes a C paper if turned in at the next class session, and so forth. Larger assignments will not be accepted more than two weeks late. A grade of Incomplete will only be granted in extreme circumstances, and I strongly encourage you to force yourself to turn something in rather than taking an extension or an Incomplete. Most people I know who have taken Incompletes have regretted it. You should refer to the University Catalogue for binding school policy on Incompletes.

EVACUATION PLAN: The plan for everyone in the library (our building) is as follows: Proceed out the south door to the north parking lot. Try not to run around in a panic.

SHELTER LOCATION: Our shelter locations are in the basement. We will proceed down the stairs in an orderly fashion until we reach one floor below the ground floor.

I will leave you with a sense of what is at stake by sharing what others have said about our course themes:

“Rhetoric is the art of ruling the minds of men.” – Plato

“It is the office of Rhetoric to make pictures of virtue and goodness so that they may be seen.” – Francis Bacon

“So rhetoric at its truest seeks to perfect men by showing them better versions of themselves, links in that chain extending up toward the ideal, which only the intellect can apprehend and only the soul have affection for.” – Richard Weaver

“Rhetoric is love, and it must speak a commodious language, creating a world full of space and time that will hold our diversities. Most failures of communication result from some willful or inadvertent but unloving violation of the space and time we and others live in, and most of our speaking is tribal talk. But there is more to us than that.” – Jim Corder