Reading Ourselves, Reading the World

Updated for Academic Year 2018-2019

Academic Literacy & Ethos is the required first-quarter college Core course for all UCSC frosh. At our college, it is called Merrill 1: Reading Ourselves, Reading the World. This course teaches some key processes for intellectual exploration, including approaches to analytical reading and critical thinking that faculty consider central to success at the university. These are intellectual processes. They eventually become so ingrained that professional academics use them without even thinking about them. This course makes them visible to you so that you can use them in other courses you take. Merrill 1 also focuses on helping you develop “academic ethos”--recognition of yourself as a full member of an academic community--by teaching concepts and practices such as metacognition (thinking about thinking), engagement with others across difference, and self-efficacy. Together, these five concepts are known as ACMES: analysis, critical thinking, metacognition, engagement with others, and self-efficacy.

Merrill 1, Reading Ourselves, Reading the World teaches the ACMES concepts by focusing on texts that simultaneously model good inquiry and invite your own further questions--about the texts themselves, and about your own stances, your “positionality,” in relation to them. Via the New York Times, you’ll engage with current events as they unfold, analyzing the reporting to identify point of view and and to consider other, equally plausible, ways of presenting the story. You’ll draw on these methods to examine how stories are told about other cultures (you’ll read much of Anne Fadiman’s medical anthropology classic The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down) and how they are told about our own (through Bryan Stevenson’s activist memoir Just Mercy). Along the way you’ll learn some techniques for effective collaboration, and you’ll work in groups throughout the quarter, culminating in a group project you will present at Merrill’s annual festival of new knowledge, Core Night. By the end of the quarter, you will have engaged in Merrill’s historical interest in the role the developed world, especially the United States, has played and is playing in the developing world, and in the lives of the diverse peoples of the United States. How, for example, have the identities of the people we read about shifted, fragmented, and re-formed after arriving in the United States? How has the dominant culture of the United States itself changed as its immigrants and under-represented minorities become settled residents and citizens? We will examine these and other related questions via assigned texts, films, and speakers.

This seminar course is designed as an introduction to university-level work. You’ll have frequent assignments, including several group projects, designed to engage you in the kind of intellectual work expected at UCSC.

The Merrill Core summer assignment is listed here.

Enrollment for MERR 1 will open throughout Summer Orientation.  A position in the course will be made available to all new incoming Frosh Merrill students.