This course introduces students to the essential elements of an education in the liberal arts: critical reading, analysis and assessment, argumentation, and effective oral and written communication. It helps them become more effective in discovering, supporting, refining, revising, and presenting ideas about academic topics, based on the analysis of a variety of 'texts' ranging from poetry and fiction to films, history, urban studies, and sociology. In addition, the course investigates the rhetorical'that is, persuasive'qualities of various media, through a study of the representations and realities of life in American cities and suburbs, from early urbanization to the contemporary flight to the exurbs. Students consider interpretations of American lifestyles from a variety of perspectives, across generation, gender, class, race. They consider the historical rise of the American city and its recent decline, including the political and cultural changes that have led to the dominance of suburban America and the concomitant crises faced by urban centers. The course includes a final research project that explores these issues through the lens of Tacoma itself. Students work with historical materials from Tacoma's rich past, including its decline and struggles with poverty, crime, and a changing economic base, as well as the origins, benefits, and limits of its current Renaissance. Students emerge from the course with experience in formulating and revising their own arguments, and with insight into the complex relationship between urban and suburban life that continue to shape America's political, social, and cultural future.