Give me a little time, and all sorts of ideas start springing up, like grass on a newly fertilized field. I was just watching A Clockwork Orange today, getting ready to teach it, when I suddenly thought, while in the midst of watching the documentaries and commentaries that come on the accompanying disk, that I didn't necessarily need to teach a class in prisons and punishment, the way I had imagined. I could make it a class in all the issues brought up by the film. The students will, after all, be doing the research. So we will watch and discuss the film, first thing, and discuss analyzing film, and they will write a paper about it, on a topic I assign. It will involve research, using two or three sources I choose, to give them practice citing, integrating, and discussing sources. Then they will choose a topic and begin working on the second paper, a definition of the problem they have chosen, and begin researching it themselves.
There are other topics aplenty that the film suggests, among them the role of the media in crime, and banned books, and yes, even film adaptation, since this film is famously an adaptation of Burgess' book of the same title. And those who wish to can explore the issue of state punishment and its morality (conditioning, the psychology of the prisoner, revenge, etc.).
If I do not have the kind of theme I had in the slavery class, and just suggest and discuss some of the topics the film brings up, it will put less pressure on me to be an expert on something I know nothing about, and students will truthfully choose their own topics and research them. Of course, it will leave me the issue of what to discuss in class, since argumentation and writing can't take up every bit of time in class. I guess I would have to consider ordering a rhetoric/reader, which I have not done up to this time.