Interdisciplinary Studies Program, Wayne State University

Detroit, Michigan, USA


If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.  Simple as that.—Stephen King


Term: Winter 2004 (January 15—April 22, 2004)

Credits: 4

Locations: Default: 223 Cohn, Campus /  UG Library, Lab A: Jan. 22, March 11;  Lab C: Feb. 12

Time:  Thursday, 6-9:40 p.m.. 


Contact Information for Moti Nissani (class instructor):














Work Address (but please use e-mail or my home address to the right—I’ll get it faster that way): Interdisciplinary Studies Program, Rm.  2134, 2nd floor, 5700 Cass, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202


Home Address: 28645 Briar Hill, Farmington Hills, MI 48336


Tel.: 248-427-1957 (home; OK to call any day, 12:00 noon-9:00 p.m.)




General Education Requirements: Wayne State is committed to imparting quality well-rounded education to all its undergraduates.  As part of this goal, the university created a set of requirements (e.g.  a minimum of one course each in foreign culture and the life sciences) that each undergraduate must meet.  This course (ISP 3510) satisfies general education requirements in intermediate composition (IC).. 

Text: Coursepack (to be sold in class—$10—please make check payable to Moti Nissani, not WSU!)

Grading.   This will be based on written assignments (50% ), tests (20%), attendance (20%), and contributions to class (especially criticizing class instructor—10%).  There are basically four grading categories:  1. An A (or A-) can only be earned by excellent readers and writers (these skills cannot be acquired in one semester!) who submit all their assignments on time, make significant contributions to class, and attend all required sessions and appointments.  If your English reading and writing skills are so so, you are not going to get an A in this class, even if you work hard.  2. Anyone with excellent attendance record, who shows improvement throughout the course, submits all assignments on time, contributes to class activities, and is willing to undertake some extra reading and writing assignments, can earn a B (contact me for details).  3. With no extra work and effort, your performance alone will determine your grade.  4. Students who fail to submit all assignments or who miss more than two scheduled classes will fail the class. 


Teaching Philosophy. 

1        I happen to believe that we only learn what we want to learn.  You can lead a student to the library, but you can’t make her read!  Learning is an internal process that depends, above all, on motivation.  That is one reason this class will appear to you odd at times—I go out of my way to make the material interesting and relevant. 

2        To learn anything you must work hard.  After a hard day’s work, it’s easier to vegetate in front of your TV than read and write.  I use grades to help you give your TV the slip. 

3        I strongly believe that the main value of education is intellectual freedom.  The more you learn, the better you understand the world around you and yourself.  You soon come to realize that you often have many more choices than you have ever imagined.   Reading—not writing, watching animal shows on TV, or taking university classes—is the best, perhaps the only, road to freedom.  So, throughout the term I shall try to arouse your interest in good literature (the best kind of reading there is). 

4        4. Moreover, in addition to being a reading class, this class, as its name suggests, is a writing class.  Now, how do you become a good writer?  By consulting dictionaries?  NO.  By studying grammar?  NO!   By diagramming sentences?  NO and NO and NO again.   By reading The MLA Guide or The Everyday Writer (required texts in other IS classes)?  NO.  By taking writing classes?  Well, not really.  Writing classes help to improve your writings, but they cannot, by themselves, do the trick.  To write well, you must read, and read, and read some more.   I’ve actually written a very long paper just to vent some of my frustrations on the subject, and you can read that paper in your local library (DPL and Purdy subscribe to that journal), or on the internet (  Instead of citing myself though, I’ll merely cite the opinion of 2 recognized experts:


It is only through reading that anyone can learn to write.  The only possible way to learn all the conventions of spelling, punctuation, capitalization, paragraphing, even grammar, and style, is through reading.  Authors teach readers about writing (Smith, 1988, p.  177).  Reading is the only way .  .  .  we become good readers, develop a good writing style, an adequate vocabulary, advanced grammar, and the only way we become good spellers (Krashen, 1993, p.  23).


Ideally, you would have started to read by age 5 (Oprah Winfrey, as you will soon hear, started at age 3!), and never let it go.  But most people aren’t that lucky.  So, if you are a reader already, this class will further enhance your love of reading and ability to better understand what you read.  If you are not a reader, and if you give yourself a chance, this class will help turn you into one. 

How to Submit Assignments?  Either through e-mail ( anytime before the assignment is due, or double-spaced, typed paper submissions on the due date.

Individual Consultations with Class Instructor:  Some instructional goals can only be met in face to face meetings, which will be scheduled at least once throughout the term.  Make sure to bring all your work with you and to not skip appointments!   Showing up on time is a formal class requirements, and failure to do so will strongly and adversely affect your final grade!  

A Note to Advanced Writers:  This class fosters intermediate-level reading and writing skills, which you may already have.  In such cases, if you want, you and I can sit together and create a (harder but more rewarding)  individualized program of instruction (e.g., emphasis on creative writing, or science writing, or newspaper writing, or .  .  .). 

Rewrites and Make-ups: One important aspect of becoming a better reader and writer is re-writing.  The process begins prior to submission—after you finish the first draft of your paper, you carefully edit it.  You then give a friend or a fellow student the revised draft, get their comments, and edit again.  Then it’s my turn.  After receiving my comments, you may submit a second version of your paper.  In such cases, it’s only the grade for the second grade that counts. 

Log of Lapses.  Every time  you get your paper back from me, you’ll notice some corrections.  When you agree with any comment, you’ll change the second draft of your paper accordingly.  But, for the first three writing assignments in this class, you’ll also create a record of such blunders in your own, personalized, Log of Lapses.  That log will look something like this:


Log of Lapses

LaTonia Smith


I wrote

I should have written

Mr. Ryan

There way

Their way

Explanation:  I am talking here about a way belonging to them, not about a way far off in the distance

Mr. Ryan

Five guitar’s

Five guitars

Explanation:  an apostrophe signifies belonging to or a contraction, but here I was giving the plural of guitar.  The plural of anything is apostrophe-less

Mr. Ryan

I like ice cream to

I like ice cream too

Explanation:  I meant to say also, and that kind of also is spelled with two Os: Too


These steps is broken down

These steps are broken

Explanation:  1. Since steps are plural, I must use are. 2.  Down is OK, but doesn’t really add anything


In my summary of the story I overlooked Shep’s Hobby—the main point of the story

I should have explained what Shep’s hobby was and how it survived the narrator’s outburst.

àThis is no good:

I take out the garbage

I took out the garbage

àThis is good:

I take out the garbage

I took out the garbage

Explanation:  Everything in my essay was in the past tense, and then all of a sudden I baffled my reader by switching to the present tense.  Parallel writing is better than criss-cross writing.


This log should be a self-contained, self-explanatory, stand-alone, document.  That is, you should be able to consult it in 2015, all by itself, and understand what went wrong.  So, if you look at the last two rows in the table above, you’ll see that you can’t say: I wrote: “I take out the garbage;” and I have should have written:  “I took out the garbage.”  Instead, you have to explain what the error was, as in the last row above. 

This comedy of errors may sound like busywork.  In class I’ll try to convince you that it isn’t by telling you the story of Demosthenes, a stutterer who became one of the world’s greatest orators—some of his speeches are still preserved in the library, more than 23 centuries after they had been delivered!   To get there, believe me, he had to pay a much higher price than creating a partial “Log of Lapses.”




My Own Teaching Evaluation


At the end of this class, WSU will have you write a formal teaching evaluation of my teaching.  I go along with this ritual, but wish to make it clear:  I do not subscribe to administrative ideas of what a good teacher is.  Instead, here are the standards by which I judge myself.   That is, this class succeeds if:


  1. You are more likely to read books for pleasure now than you were before
  2. You are more likely to listen to books on tape now than you were before
  3. You are less likely to quit school now than you were before
  4. Being in this class was not an unpleasant ordeal
  5. You forgive me for playing with grades, remembering that I did not invent them and that I had no choice in the matter
  6. Grant me the grey hair privilege (forgiving me in advance if, on some future chance encounter, I don’t remember you)
  7. You are more interested in the life of the mind now than you were before
  8. You feel that the sky is indeed the limit, and that you can go as far as you care to (almost)
  9. Your reading, writing, and thinking improved, if ever so slightly (no magic wand invented yet, for this one)
  10. You are a bit more skeptical about anything than you were before (if somehow you, my friend, managed to be confused about who MLK was, about what Gone with the Wind is all about, about Jesus of Nazareth (I’ve yet to meet a so-called Christian who has a firm grasp of what Jesus stood for), then maybe your beliefs about one million other things are mistaken or confused too.  As someone put it, I was more interested in questioning your answers than in answering your questions.
  11. This class made it a bit less hard for you to change your mind
  12. You know a little bit more geography, literature—and don’t you forget my elephants!
  13. You give your TV the full (or at least partial) slip!!!

WEEKS 6-14: Ideas for Class Activities

(a complete schedule for Weeks 1-5 appears below)


Oral Report:  One short story on tape.

Welcome to the Dash Club

Three most significant differences between story and film:  Revolt of Mother.

Meaning of: novel, novella, short story, essay, poem, trilogy, fiction, non-fiction, narrative, narrator,

Interpretation Exercise.  Class divided into two.  One part writes about the point of “Revolt of Mother”  while the other half writes about “A Kitchen Colonel.”

Conflict Analysis:  1. Who is involved in the conflict?  2.  What are the reasons for the conflict?  3.  Is this conflict ever resolved?  4. Similar conflict in your own life.

Rashomon Effect Exercise.

Editing exercise followed by in-class quiz

An additional English Proficiency Test exercise

Computer lab.  Workshop:  Your e-mail.  Internet search.  Library Search.  Word processing:  Skill building.  Writing workshop: in-class assignments.

Modeling exercise:  Cold Equations describes a surprise discovery.  Start a short story in which you make your own surprise discovery.

Puzzle:  Write each of the digits 1-9 just once so that every line (vertical, horizontal, diagonal)  in a 3X3 table equals 15.  Note:  Key for intelligent solution is strategic planning.

Note-taking exercise:  Geography game, followed by a test on the same material, following week.

Write about anything you feel like it, e.g., growing up black, growing up short, growing up tall, my life in the navy, a fictional short story

My mind is my church exercises:  1. What did Jesus of Nazareth stand for?  2.  What do you and grandmother think of Gone with the Wind?  Moral:  You better watch out!

Note-taking exercise II:  Viewing a scientific film (The Inner Life of Elephants)

Senior Essay/Seminar option.  Which one do I choose?  Zeroing in on a senior/capstone essay/project topic.

Review of concepts covered in this class.

Formal teaching evaluations followed by my own—radically different—teaching goals.  Why are they so different?  Who is more nearly on the mark, Wayne State or Moti Nissani?

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