Pols 020: Controversial Legal Issues
Office: Clark Hall, 453
6 p.m. T, DMH 149a
Professor Ken Nuger
Office Hours: 8:15-8:45, 1:30-3, T-TH
and by appointment.
Course Website: http://www.sjsu.edu/people/ken.nuger/
This course critically analyzes the complex relationship between individual liberty and the
A major goal of this course is to introduce students to principles of critical
thinking by examining legal environments that often embattle society against the individual.
goals of the class are diverse.
First and foremost, students should become familiar with
principles and patterns of critical thinking.
Among some of the elements of critical thinking we
shall explore are the following: 1) to understand the relationship between language and logic, 2)
to distinguish informational claims from normative or prescriptive judgments, 3) to understand
and practice the patterns of critical analysis and 4) to recognize how social applications of
human self interest affect and distort sound analysis in the political arena.
Since the course
utilizes controversial legal issues as the subject matter in which critical thinking will be stressed,
another course goal is to increase students' knowledge of the complex issues that frame these
Students will learn that legal issues cannot be fully appreciated without accounting
for historical, psychological, sociological, economic and political realities.
Students will become
aware that controversy, if considered emotionally, breeds intolerance and ignorance.
definition, controversy suggests people find value in arguments others find abhorrent.
course will wrestle with why individual expressions of liberty often unsettle society.
whether society chooses to favor individual rights or the public interest will prove a fascinating
exercise in critical analysis.
Another course goal is to acquaint students with traditional and
electronic research materials.
Finally, students will have ample opportunities to further develop
their written and oral communication skills.
Student Learning Objectives
As mandated by university policy, all critical thinking courses for must further the following eight
student learning objectives.
1. distinguish between
reasoning (e.g., explanation, argument) and other types of
discourse (e.g., description, assertion);
2. identify, analyze, and evaluate different types of reasoning;
3. find and state crucial unstated assumptions in reasoning;
4. evaluate factual claims or statements used in reasoning, and evaluate the sources of
evidence for such claims;
5. demonstrate an understanding of what constitutes plagiarism;