You are on page 1of 5

RELIGION IN AMERICA 

RELS 4230/HISUS 4250​ on ​MW ​@​ 6:00-7:15PM​ in ​Lang 20 
w/​ PROFESSOR BURNIDGE 
Bartlett 1101​/ ​cara.burnidge@uni.edu​ / @burnidge  
Office Hours: Mondays, 3-5:00 PM, by appointment 

 
Study of Religion Majors: This course satisfies a Writing Intensive Requirement. 

This course is an investigation of religious movements, figures, beliefs, and practices from
colonial times to present. Special attention will be given to the role of religion in shaping
American culture and politics. Central our exploration of these topics will be way in which
Americans have, at various moments in the nation’s history and from differing perspectives,
understood the relationship between Christianity and America. Through continuous debate and
discussion, we will consider: Is/Was America a Christian nation? This simple yet provocative
question will open other doors of inquiry for us to consider how and why certain groups answer
it one way and other groups answer it another way. It will also allow us to examine and analyze
how and why America’s religious past can be so powerful in shaping American culture today.

 
 

ORGANIZATION & APPROACH 
This course is a ​survey​ of religion in American history, which means it will move
chronologically from the colonial era to the present​. It also means that we will move fairly
quickly through course material. Rather than dive deeply into one topic, we will cover a broad
array of topics to extend our familiarity of religion in American culture across the nation’s
history. This breadth, however, should not be confused for being a ​comprehensive​ study. Many
topics will be left out. But that’s OK. The idea is that Professor Burnidge will introduce you to
these topics and you can do the deep dive on your own.

LEARNING GOALS 
By the end of this course each student will be able to:

1. Critically examine religion in American culture through debate and discussion
2. Describe and differentiate between ​sectarian​, ​devotional​ ​practices and the ​secular​,
academic study of religion​.
3. Recognize the historical contexts of their own beliefs & behaviors through self-reflection
4. Think and write historically​ about religion using both primary & secondary sources

REQUIRED TEXTS 
1. Religion in American Life: A Short History
(Oxford, 2011) 978-0199832699

2. PDFs, podcasts, videos, and other links shared
on eLearning or emailed to the class

All students are expected to complete the required readings
before coming to class​. It is OK if students do not fully
understand the material on their own (that’s what Professor
Burnidge is here for!), but all students are expected to ​try​ to
understand the reading or other assigned materials on their
own time before coming to class. Learning requires effort.
You can’t go from not knowing to knowing without it.

A thought-provoking question or honest admission of
confusion can be more helpful to your professor and fellow students because it can begin or
advance the conversation. And our time together is nothing if not a chance for conversation!
Students do not need to always know ‘the” answer--there may not even be one, single
answer--but they do need to participate. Learning will not happen without individual attempts to
grasp the material outside of class and collective participation inside the classroom.

1   
 

ATTENDANCE 
All students are expected to attend class. Attendance is necessary to do well in this course.
Students will not receive a grade for occupying a seat in class, but some days on the Course
Calendar included graded debates and in-class participation. Missing class on these days will
result in missing an opportunity to learn (and, therefore, a grade).

Sometimes we cannot attend class with good reason. We or someone we care for has a health
concern; we have competing responsibilities or opportunities; we will observe a religious
holiday; or, at times, there are unfortunate or tragic circumstances affecting our coursework.
Students are trusted to make mature decisions about their attendance​. Just as you would for any
job, students are expected to take the initiative to inform Professor Burnidge of their absence and
to figure out what they might have missed. Make-ups or extensions will only be extended in
emergency or other unexpected circumstances. They will be handled on a case-by-case basis and
should be requested ​before​ a deadline has passed.

ASSIGNMENTS  

ASSIGNMENT  PURPOSE 

Weekly, students will write 1-2 pages in a Google Doc shared with Dr.
Burnidge. Writing prompts will vary from ​comprehension​ of course
material to ​application ​of course concepts to ​self-reflection​. ​REL Docs
30% Reading
should be updated by 12PM on the Monday following the
Reflections announcement of the prompt​. After Professor Burnidge assesses
students’ Reading Reflections, they are encouraged to revise and update
their writing according to her feedback.

At the mid-term and at the end of the semester, students will write a formal
20% 2 Essays essay answering the organizing question of the class: Is (or was) America a
(Midterm & Final) Christian nation? The midterm will be 2 pages and the final will be 4
pages. Further specifications will be posted on eLearning.

Because thinking historically occurs in conversation with other historians,
10% 2 Peer each student will write a peer review of a classmates’ essay. These reviews
Review Responses will examine a peer’s argument and use evidence and, if necessary, offer
an informed critique.

Historical thinking is nothing if not continuous debates about the past. To
20% 2 Debates better understand this professional practice we will hold our own debates
about religion in American history.

Debates are judged. We will model our judgments of class debates off of
Iowa’s proud tradition of caucusing. Students who are not actively
20% 2 Caucuses
debating will hold a causes at the conclusion of the debate to determine the
winner through deliberative democracy.

2   
 

ASSESSMENT & EVALUATION 
Assessment of each assignment will occur through grading rubrics outlining specifications for
each assignment. Assignments build upon one another so that by the end of the semester all
assignments guide students toward mastery of each Learning Goal.

Grades will be updated on eLearning on a regular basis. Students are encouraged to inquire about
their grades and ask questions when they have them. A weighted running total will keep track of
the student’s projected final grade; individualized feedback on written assignments will help
each student focus their attention on areas of improvement.

Academic Honesty will be taken seriously in this class. ​All work is expected to be the original
work of the student whose name appears on the submitted work​. Cheating in any form will be
handled on a case-by-case basis as it arises.

Final letter grades will be assigned according to the following rubric. This rubric ​already​ takes
rounding to the nearest integer into account.

Final Letter Grade Rubric
A’s A- A
89.5-92.4% 92.5-100%

B’s B- B B+
79.5-82.4% 82.5-86.4% 86.5-89.4%

C’s C- C C+
69.5-72.4% 72.4-76.4 76.5-79.4%

D’s D- D D+
59.5-62.4% 62.5-66.4% 66.5-69.4%

Campus Resources 
Success does not happen all on our own. It requires building relationships and working with other
people. It means asking for help or assistance along the way towards your goals​.​ ​At university, you
are fortunate enough to have entire departments and centers--and millions of tax-supported
monies--devoted to helping ​you​ be successful.

Professor Burnidge
As the instructor for this class, Professor Burnidge should be your first stop when seeking help. Since she
designed the class, created the assignments, and assesses your progress, she’s likely to be the best person
to answer your questions about assignments, course content, and assessment. You can reach her via email
at ​cara.burnidge@uni.edu​ and in person at ​1101 Bartlett Hall​. ​Regular, walk-in office hours are
Mondays 3-5:00PM.​ ​All other in-person meetings must be made by appointment. Y ​ ou can see her
availability on her calendar, here: ​https://goo.gl/WZ8URR​. If there is a time that works, add yourself to
her schedule by clicking a “Student Meeting” box. If there is not a time that works, send her an email with
2 or 3 options that do work for you so we can find a mutually agreeable time.

3   
 

Academic Learning Center
For help beyond your Instructor on any assignments, the Academic Learning Center provides free
assistance with writing, math, science, college reading, and learning strategies. UNI’s Academic Learning
Center is located in 008 ITTC. You can visit the website at ​http://www.uni.edu/unialc/​ or call
319-273-2361 for more information and to set up an appointment.

Student Disability Services
Those interested in accommodations based on disabilities should visit the Student Disability Services
office (SDS). SDS is located on the top floor of the Student Health Center, Room 103 (phone
319-273-2677, for deaf or hard of hearing, use Relay 711). Students in need of accommodation should
obtain a Student Academic Accommodation Request (SAAR) form from SDS. Once Professor Burnidge
receives a SAAR, she will work with you to modify the learning environment.

UNI Counseling Center
The UNI Counseling Center promotes personal development and psychological well-being. All
appointments are confidential with a trained counselor. Currently UNI Students who have paid the
mandatory health fee are eligible for Counseling Center services. The Counseling Center is located at 103
Student Health Center. You can visit the website at https://www.uni.edu/counseling/ or call 319-273-2676
for more information or to schedule an appointment.

For a full list of student resources see​:​ ​https://www.uni.edu/resources/current-students

Syllabus & Course Schedule Changes 
This syllabus and the Course Schedule may be subject to change based on expected circumstances or the
class’s progress toward the learning goals. When there is a change, Professor Burnidge will notify
students via their UNI email account.​ It is each student’s responsibility to check this account regularly
and/or set up their notifications and alerts​. There will be no make-ups or special treatment for students
who missed updated deadlines or assignments when updates were emailed to the class and/or posted on
eLearning in advance.

4