Syllabus - Civics And Economics: 10th Grade and Advanced


Jonathan Milner
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(336) 770-3245 (UNCSA High School Office)
Office Hours: M, T, Th, F: 10:15-11:15; Wednesday, by appointment
Office 211 Gray Building
Classroom 307 Gray Building

Welcome to Civics and Economics! This year we will be learning about government and economics. My role will be of a facilitator who will ask you hard questions, prompt your own questions, and point you towards answers. It’s going to be great fun collaborating as we learn more about the vital world of politics. I’ve been teaching for over 15 years and love this course. I hope you will too.

This year we will not just learn civics and economics, we will also do civics and economics. As Goethe said, “Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.” I hope that by mixing theory, facts, relevant contemporary issues, and opportunities to act on your knowledge, you will have the tools necessary to become civically active. My greatest hope is that this course will empower you to think critically about your political and economic beliefs, and then act on them. So sit back, relax, and enjoy. It’s not just a class, it’s reality.

Critical Questions and Skills
This class is more about questions, than answers. More about skills, than facts. More about thinking, than memorizing. I’m 45 and I’m still waiting for the written test where I have to regurgitate the facts I memorized from the book I just read. It’s not going to happen. Most success comes from an ability to conceive of original ideas, communicate them clearly and persuasively, work hard & meet deadlines.
A number of critical questions animate this course. We won’t answer all of our questions, but our engagement of the questions will lead us to knowledge and insight.
After you’ve completed this course, you will be able to:
• Carry on a cogent conversation about politics and economics
• Understand important contemporary political and economic trends
• Interpret political and economic information, charts and data
• Articulate your ideas forcefully
• Present information clearly and creatively

Free Inquiry
This classroom is a place for critical inquiry into vital questions about our political beliefs and values. I hope that this class stimulates your thinking, respects and affirms your beliefs, and is a safe place for you to share your ideas. It’s my goal to listen thoughtfully, ask incisive questions, and consider all sides of an issue. I hope you’ll join me on this journey. I hope you will always feel free to share your ideas in this class and that you will keep an open mind as you listen to your colleagues.

3 ring binder, paper, pens, pencils, colored pencils, sharpies, viking helmet (optional), magic markers, highlighters + erasers.

We follow all UNCSA attendance policies in this class. If you have an anticipated absence, you are responsible for rescheduling make up work before you leave. If you have an unanticipated excused absence, you are responsible for rescheduling any make up work within 2 days of your return. If you fail to reschedule missed work within 2 days of your return, you will receive a zero for your missed work. If you miss any work because of an unexcused absence, you will receive a zero for your missed work. All of our class assignments are listed on our class website, and in case of extended absences (yours or mine), you will be expected to follow our progress on-line. UNCSA High School Student Code of Conduct

Assignment Types
Projects 60% of grade
Projects will be assigned well in advance of their due date, and you will be allowed to select the students you work with, or you may choose to work alone. Teams will be responsible for dividing responsibilities, monitoring team progress, and turning in the final product by the deadline. All team members will receive the same grade for the final product.

Assignments 40% of grade
You will complete a number of individual assignments throughout the year. These assignments will include, but not be limited to, reading assignments, preparation for discussion, journal reviews, essays, homework assignments, reading quizzes, presentations, and debates. All work is to be completed individually unless stated otherwise. All student work must comply with the UNCSA plagiarism policy and must be completed on time with a ten-point penalty for each day the work is late. Every few weeks you will write a journal review connecting class topics to current events. I’ll also give you some small tasks to complete individually for class.

Comportment (Bubble)
As in any dance company, orchestra, acting ensemble, or visual arts group you will be evaluated not merely based on your intelligence, chops, and “talent”, but also on your ability to get along well with others, adapt to group norms, and generally “behave”. In this class, that means that you should ask questions in class, stay awake and alert, actively listen, be prepared every day (I will sometimes check to see if you’ve done your homework reading or writing, invest yourself in the well being of the others who share your work space, and generally aspire to make the class a better place. This is a small part of your grade, but if your grade is on the bubble, rounding up or not, based on your comportment can be the difference between in a letter grade. Put away your phone, close your laptop, and stay awake.

Progress Reports
You will receive a progress report at the midway point of each semester. I will answer any questions and explain your midterm report in an individual conference to be held prior to the midterm. I will update your grades throughout the term on our Blackboard site

Student Responsibility for Coursework:
In submitting assignments and projects for courses, students take responsibility for their work as a whole, and imply that, except as properly noted, the ideas, words, material and craftsmanship are their own. In written work, if students cite from a source of information or opinion other than themselves without giving credit, either within the body of their texts or in properly noted references and without using quotation marks where needed, or otherwise fail to acknowledge the borrowings, they have in fact presented the work, words or ideas of others as if they were their own.

Grading Scale

Numerical grade Letter Grade
100-93 A
92-90 A-
89-87 B+
86-83 B
82-80 B-
79-77 C+
76-73 C
72-70 C-
69-67 D+
66-63 D
62-60 D-
59-0 F

Unit Goals
In Civics and Economics we will attempt to understand the world better by focusing on eight main units of study: The Constitution, Political Culture, The Political Process, Political Institutions, Civil Rights and Liberties, Comparative Political Systems, Economic Theory and Systems, US Economics.

Unit One The Constitution

Unit one will help students gain an understanding of political theory, and the constitutional underpinnings of our political system. Students will examine the nature of government, politics, democracy, our constitution and American federalism. We will use contemporary examples to make theories and principles of federal constitutional democracy relevant. Landmark and contemporary Supreme Court cases such as US v Lopez, and Gonzales v Raich will help us examine the power of federalism in the US today as we examine the basis of our political system.

Unit Two Political Culture

In this time of American polarization, students will explore the political beliefs and landscape of the United States. We will begin with an examination of our own political beliefs, which will then broaden into an investigation of American political culture and ideology. As we explore the political spectrum we will hold a debate between competing ideologies and parties. The culmination of our study of political culture will be our reading of Robert Putnam’s, Bowling Alone. Students will examine social capital in our own community and in the United States and will present a presentation on American social capital and its consequences on the American political system.

Unit Three The Political Process

Unit three will help students understand the mechanics of the American political process through a rigorous examination of interest groups, political parties, the media, campaigns and elections. Students will complete a project on the American political process by creating a candidate, making campaign ads, attending debates and conventions, meeting lobbyists, reading public opinion polls, and finally running office in mock elections.

Unit Four Political Institutions

Students will explore the nuts and bolts of American politics in this unit on political institutions. We will study the detailed workings of the three branches and how they interact with each other. Simulations will reinforce our knowledge as we form committees, pass legislation, build administrations, and follow court cases to the Supreme Court. Students will end this unit by judging the relative strength of the three branches and following current power struggles between them.

Unit Five Civil Rights and Liberties

In this essential unit, students will study the vital rights and liberties that are the basis of our liberal democracy. We will start with an in depth look at the First Amendment as we explore the historical basis and contemporary parameters of our freedom. We will then turn towards due process to better understand the foundation of our legal rights as citizens. In this age of terror, students will examine the balance between liberty and security that has been a part of the American political debate since its foundation. Throughout this unit we will look at a number of landmark Supreme Court decisions that form the basis of our rights: Lemon v Kurtzman, Engle v Vitale, Mapp v Ohio, Miranda v Arizona, and others, as well as more contemporary due process issue such as extraordinary rendition, the use of torture, and the Supreme Court case, Hamdi v Rumsfeld. Throughout this unit students will be invited to draw conclusions about the limits of our rights in this post 9/11 world.

Unit Six Comparative Political Systems

Students will learn more about the US political system by comparing it to other political systems around the world. Students will study some of the various approaches to governance as we compare political leadership, party systems, voting, and elections around the world. These theoretical political differences will be illuminated as we discuss the strengths and weaknesses of various countries’ political systems including: The UK, Russia, China, Mexico, & Iran. We will conclude by evaluating some of the major trends in global politics throughout the past hundred years, including democratization & globalization.

Unit Seven Economic Systems

Students will begin this unit with an in depth exploration of economic theory. They will then take a comparative approach to study some of the strengths and weaknesses of various economic systems. We will then attempt to understand different micro economic theories, such as supply and demand, through analysis of concrete examples of economics in action. Students will conclude this unit by creating their own businesses to better understand the economic principles we have learned. We will conclude by evaluating some of the major trends in global economics throughout the past hundred years such as globalization. We will read excerpts of the book, Freakonomics.

Unit Eight US Economics

We will look at the US economic system in this unit. We will study ideas like taxation, monetary policy, and budgetary policy. Students will take part in simulations to better answer questions about how much we are taxed, how the government balances budgets, and how the government can influence our economic system. We will then compare economic approaches in command economies and free market economies.

Unit Content Objectives

Unit One The Constitution

Students will be able to:
  • Analyze the benefits and costs of democracy
  • Describe the preconditions necessary for democracy to flourish
  • Evaluate the ways in which the United States is and isn’t democratic
  • Analyze the causes and effects of our system of checks and balances
  • Identify concept of judicial review
  • Describe the amendment process of he US Constitution
  • Analyze the nature of American federalism

Unit Two Political Culture

Students will be able to:
  • Identify the key components of American political culture
  • Analyze the sources of political socialization
  • Describe key components of different political ideologies
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the political spectrum
  • Analyze charts and graphs describing American demographics
  • Interpret US demographic data
  • Identify connections between demographics and ideology
  • Describe the roots and evolution of American political culture over time
  • Analyze the effect of US political culture on our political system.
  • Demonstrate their understanding of social capital in the context of our community
  • Determine the effect of social capital on our political systems
Unit Three The Political Process
Students will be able to:
  • Identify key interest groups in the US political system
  • Describe methods interest groups use to pursue their policy objectives
  • Identify the platforms of the major political parties
  • Identify and describe the tenants of third parties in the US political system
  • Analyze the causes and effects of our two party system
  • Compare the US two party system to other multiparty political systems
  • Describe the methods parties use to achieve their political objectives
  • Explain the power of the media in the electoral process
  • Explain the evolution of the media in contemporary US politics
Unit Three The Political Process (continued)
  • Weigh the costs and benefits of public opinion polling on our political process
  • Describe the effects of public opinion on campaigns, elections, parties, and political policy
  • Identify the methods used to gauge public opinion
  • Analyze the effects of money on our electoral system
  • Identify the key provisions of contemporary campaign finance reforms
  • Describe the steps of the electoral process
  • Detail present proposals for electoral reform
  • Analyze the evolution of our electoral process
  • Identify different types of campaign ads and their effectiveness on elections
  • Analyze the causes and effects of realigning elections
Unit Four Political Institutions
Students will be able to:
  • Identify the powers of the Congress
  • List the differences between the House and the Senate
  • Describe the way bills become laws and identify the many hurdles bills face
  • Explain the congressional electoral process
  • Analyze the costs and benefits, causes and effects of effects of high incumbent reelection rates
  • Identify the different leadership positions in Congress
  • Analyze the connection between representatives and constituents
  • Evaluate the weight of the different factors representatives consider when they vote
  • Identify the major powers of the president
  • Analyze the reasons for the evolution of presidential power over the 20th century
  • Describe the many different jobs of the president and evaluate their relative importance
  • Analyze the connection between representatives and constituents
  • Identify the duties and evaluate the relative power of different actors in the executive branch
  • Identify the members of the Supreme Court
  • Describe the different steps in a Supreme Court case
  • List the powers of the Supreme Court
  • Identify the key facts of landmark Supreme Court cases
  • Describe the evolution of judicial power over the past century
  • Identify the main tenants of the competing judicial philosophies and evaluate their merits
  • Analyze the causes of the growth of the modern bureaucracy
  • Evaluate the impact of an unelected bureaucracy on our democratic system
  • Identify the major agencies of the US government and their powers
  • Describe the methods of bureaucratic oversight of the bureaucracy
  • Evaluate the relative power of the three branches of government
Unit Five Civil Rights and Liberties
Students will be able to:
  • Identify the key components of the First Amendment
  • Identify key First Amendment rights Supreme Court cases
  • Describe some of the major protections guaranteed by the First Amendment
  • Describe the evolution of First Amendment protections over the past two centuries
  • Identify the key provisions and protections of the Fourth Amendment
  • Describe the evolution of the rights of the accused over the past half-century
  • Identify the parameters of student rights in schools
  • Describe the key moments in the history of the struggle for civil rights in the US
  • Analyze the state of race relations in the US race in today
  • Evaluate the impact of race on US politics
  • Identify key policy making institutions and actors in US social, economic, and foreign policy
Unit Six Comparative Political Systems
Students will be able to:
  • Differentiate between central components of various approaches to voting
  • Describe and evaluate the key differences between a multiparty, two party, and one party systems
  • Identify the key components of a presidential system
  • Describe the underlying values of a parliamentary system
  • Analyze the connection between voting systems and party systems
  • Describe the political systems of The United Kingdom, Russia, China, Mexico, and Iran.
  • Evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of the political systems in The United Kingdom, Russia, China, Mexico, Iran and the US.
  • Analyze the reasons for global democratization throughout the past century
  • Analyze the interaction between globalization and democratization
Unit Seven Economic Systems
Students will be able to:
  • Define economics
  • Identify the key components of an economic system
  • Describe how economics work in our world and how we are economic
  • Understand the major parts of the theory of supply and demand
  • Identify the law of diminishing returns
  • Describe the key points of various theories of investment
  • Identify differences between GDP and PPP
  • Analyze the costs and benefits of various economic systems
  • Describe the effects of different economic systems on citizens
  • Demonstrate the meaning of various economic theories in simulations
  • Describe the effects of globalization on the world economy
  • Evaluate the economic future of the US and the world, based on economic history
Unit Eight US Economics
Students will be able to:
  • Describe the central components of the US economic system
  • Describe tax policy in the US and explain its effects on our economic and political system
  • Analyze the role of the Federal Reserve board in US economics
  • Describe the history of economics in the US
  • Evaluate the role of the president and congress in making economic policy
  • Balance a budget of their own and of the US government
  • Describe the effect of US economic policy on the rest of the world
  • Analyze the interaction of economic and political systems and how they effect each other

Unit Skills Objectives
Students will be able to:
· Articulate their opinions
· Produce creative projects and presentations
· Analyze charts, maps, and data

Hammurabi’s Code of Conduct
Observe the Golden Rule. In other words…

Come to class every day. If there is a reason you must be absent, please inform me prior to the absence, if possible. I shut the door when class starts. If you arrive after the door is shut, you are tardy. Please shut the door behind you. Three tardies equal one absence. Please reference the UNCSA attendance policy for further clarification of the attendance policy. Any work missed due to an unexcused absence will result in a grade of zero for that assignment.

Honor Code
I take intellectual property very seriously. Any instances of plagiarism, cheating, or unauthorized collaboration or copying of assignments will result in an automatic zero for the assignment with no possibility of make up. All violations of the honor code will be reported to the Assistant Dean. UNCSA High School Student Code of Conduct

You must turn in work when it is due. You will be assessed a late penalty of ten points per day late. You may not make-up work after it is five days over due. You may not make up any work that was due on the day of an unexcused absence.

Food and drink
Leave the room as neat and tidy as you found it. I allow you to eat and drink in class (within reason: no waffles please). If your class leaves food or drinks in the room this privilege will be suspended.

Cell phones
Cells phones and any personal communication devices should be turned off during class and stowed in a bag, backpack, or under your desk. Please do not answer phones, text, or allow your phones to ring or vibrate during class. Laptops are allowed but must be shut unless I say otherwise. The first time your cell phone goes off in class, I will answer it; there won’t be a second time.

You may NOT use computers in class without my permission.

Sleeping in class
You may not sleep in class without my permission. That won’t happen. Sleeping in class will affect your grade, leave you open to surprise attack, and leave silly red marks on your face.

There is a great deal of opportunity for discussion in this class.
Discussion (and life in general) works best if you observe the following rules.
Speak your mind (not just your heart).
Restate what the other person has just said before you respond to it.
Attack ideas, not people. Don’t kill the messenger.
Ask as many questions as you make statements.
It’s ok to disagree. You can still be friends.
Work towards understanding.
Do us all a favor and think about what you are going to say before you say it.
Follow this guide: Is what you are saying true? Is it important? Is it worth saying? Is it hurtful?
Don’t repeat things that have already been said. Don’t begin with, “Somebody already said this…”
Respond to the thread of the discussion, not what was said five minutes ago (let it go).
If you start a sentence with, “I’m not racist, but…” you shouldn’t say it.

I’m glad you are a part of our Civics and Economics class. It’s going to be a great year.