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United States History Course

Syllabus
Instructor: Mr. Graham Long School Phone: 410-887-0808
Email: glong@bcps.org Daytime Free Period: 1
Class Blog: catonsvillehighushistory.blogspot.com

Living in a democratic society requires an understanding of our nation’s culture and history, for this is
the only way we can resolve the complex issues that await us. You, as a high school student, are
rapidly approaching the point where your voice will be heard through the ballot box, your consumption
choices, and in your work productivity. Only through an analysis of United States history can you
understand what makes our nation “tick”; in short, what experiences of the past have shaped our
institutions today? Further, you have the luxury of living in a society that gives precedent to the voice
of the people. However, this luxury requires that you be informed of our nation’s history. Only an
enlightened citizenry, one properly versed in the analysis of our history, can guide this nation toward
prosperity. This requires an academic experience that clarifies and enriches their previous historical
encounters and clearly states the links between the past and the present. This high school curriculum
experience is guided by tested pedagogy and scholarly methodologies which will directly engage
students in the understanding and application of their acquired knowledge and skills.

UNITS OF STUDY
United States History in Baltimore County is organized by ten units of study. We will have a dual
approach to content. The first half of the course will be organized chronologically; we will simply
move from the end of the Civil War until the atomic bomb, discussing events in the order they
occurred.

The second half of the course will be organized thematically. After World War II, we will take in depth
looks at foreign policy, domestic policy, and current events.

 Picking Up the Pieces: Concluding the Civil War


 Reconstruction – The South Rises Again
 Industrialization (or, How I Learned to Stop Farming and Love Black Lung)
 The Progressive Era: We're Sure Not in Kansas Anymore
 United States Colonialism – We Own the World
 1920s and 1930s – The Roaring Twenties and the Depressing Thirties
 America Locks Her Doors: Isolationism from 1920 to WWII
 The Coldest Winters: American Foreign Policy from 1945 to the Present
 Groovy, Man: American Domestic Policy from 1945 to the Present
 “This is the world as we find it”: America in the 21st Century
CONTENT THEMES
In order to present students with coherence in the curriculum, the content in this course will be
examined using a series of consistent content themes. Throughout your educational career you will
find these themes recur, so it behooves you to practice using them at this time. These historical themes
represent (in this educator’s opinion) the optimal approach to the organization of a United States
history program. They are restated below as questions to simplify their use:

1. How is the role of government determined and modified in the United States?
2. How has the United States utilized its economic resources to provide opportunities for the American
people?
3. How has a diversified population contributed to the development of American culture?
4. How is American foreign policy determined and implemented in a world with increasing global
interconnections?

COURSE PHILOSOPHY
Students frequently deride the examination of complex historical issues. The (unjustified) belief is that
issues in the past are “irrelevant” to our current situation. Or, to put it in the language of the student,
“Why do we have to study a bunch of dead people?”

While the instructor acknowledges that it might be difficult at first, there is a rationale to the study of
“dead people”. Our democratic system requires active participation in the decision-making process.
This participation has been a part of our shared cultural values since the genesis of the country.
However, participation of an ignorant collective dooms our country to decay. Conversely, an informed
citizenry realizes that rational decision-making results from a thorough analysis of competing interests.
And these interests are only apparent when viewed through an historical lens. In order to become
effective learners of history and decision- makers, students must develop historical thinking skills for
the purpose of gathering, analyzing, integrating, and evaluating historical information. This becomes
especially important in the modern era, with a saturation of data and information flowing through the
vast web of cyberspace. Indeed, in this day and age, it is just as important to learn what information is
not useful as learning what is useful.

The study of United States history must provide students with experiences that expose them to the
achievements and failures of this nation’s past; it should not be a hagiography of our triumphs, nor
should it be continual condemnation of some of our mistakes. Both sides, presented with the
appropriate analysis, need to be rendered. Many students experience frustration with the ambiguity of
history. It is true that a world of black and white; good and evil; night and dark analysis would
facilitate study. But yet, this is not the case. The world does not present itself in such stark
dichotomies. Therefore, it is imperative that historical content be presented in a clearly structured
format designed to offer students invitations for active and in-depth engagement in the examination of
historical events and issues. Only through this method does clarity emerge.

Your instructor follows two complementary philosophies of history. The constructivist approach to
history states that our interpretation of historical events is constructed from our own biases; there are no
“absolutes” in history. This philosophy might jar the sensibilities of some students, who expect the
clear cut answers of mathematics or physical science. But the reality is that history is, first and
foremost, the examination of documents, which carry inherent predisposition.
The second philosophy is the one of historicism, where local beliefs and circumstances are the decisive
factors in historical outcomes. Just like a student, who is shaped by the peers with whom s/he most
associates, then it should make sense that events in the immediate vicinity have the greatest effect.
When viewed through these two lenses, history becomes a much more dynamic (and controversial)
discipline.

Finally, the pedagogy of this course follows the constructivist/question model. Each day’s lesson will
be framed around an historical question to be solved. Some days, the question might be a standard
“what happened”. Other days might be more comparative, but all will have the object of giving the
class forward momentum; reaching a conclusion is indelibly satisfying. By pursuing the answer to a
question, students will be constructing their own knowledge of events, with the teacher serving as a
facilitator/coach.

COURSE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES


The following goals and objectives are aligned with those of the Baltimore County Public School
System and the Social Studies Department of Catonsville High School. The goals and objectives are
stated as such for students to develop the skills for growth in the Catonsville High School Social
Studies Department as well as in college-level courses.
 Chronological and spatial thinking – explaining change and continuity in human
behavior over time and within geographical contexts; identifying linkages between the
past and present.
 Historical analysis and interpretation – generating questions, considering multiple
perspectives, determining causal relationships, challenging arguments, and making
reasoned judgments.
 Historical research capabilities – identifying the elements of a historical research
design, using a variety of traditional and electronic resources to construct an
explanation or historical narrative.
 Historical comprehension – evaluating historical perspectives; drawing upon data in
various primary and secondary sources such as maps, graphs, artifacts, and works of
art.
 Historical issues analysis and decision making – using problem-solving strategies,
analyzing and connecting strings of causation, recognizing consequences and
implications.
COURSE GRADING COMPONENTS
Classwork – 50%
Classwork consists of the majority of work a student will accomplish in United States History. All
assignments considered “classwork” are to be completed and turned in during the class period.
Classwork is assigned to measure student progress in course standards, and for an instructor to assess
the degree of effort on the part of the student in the course. Classwork is a sizable portion of the grade
in the United States History course; thus it is essential that the work be completed on time and with
considerable effort. All classwork assignments will be collected and graded randomly at the discretion
of the instructor. Assignments considered “classwork” include but are not limited to:
 Content notes
 Essays
 Graph/chart/map analysis
 Creation of maps or mini-posters
 Content organizers
 Primary and secondary source analysis
 Drill checks

Tests and Quizzes – 30%


Tests and quizzes will be given after the conclusion of each time period to assess student knowledge of
content and demonstration of skills. Instructors will provide ample notice to students prior to any unit
test or quiz. The instructor, at his/her discretion, may assess students through minor quizzes with or
without notification. The format for tests and quizzes will vary, however, may include but is not limited
to the following formats:
 Fill-in-the-blank
 Matching
 Multiple Choice
 Essay
 True or False
 Identifications
 Primary Source Analysis
Homework – 20%
At Catonsville High School, homework is defined as any assignment completed outside the
classroom without guidance. It serves two purposes. First, it is designed to reinforce topics
discussed in class. Completion of this type of homework fortifies the material in a student’s
mind, making recall of the information simpler. Homework may also serve to provide
introductory material/background reading prior to class. Homework may vary in length, from
the short to the extended. A variety of assignments can be considered “homework” by the
instructor; they include but are not limited to:
 Outside reading with questions
 Essays
 Graph/chart analysis
 Primary source analysis
 Journal Writing
 Content organizer creation
 Practice questions
 Newspaper assignments
 Critical thinking exercises

GRADE DETERMINATION
Grades will follow the standard A-B-C-D-E format. A grade of “D” is required for successfully
completing the course. Grades will be derived in the following way:
A 90-100%

B 80-89.99%

C 70-79.99%

D 60-69.99%

E < 60

Note that grades are not rounded; the student earns what the student earns.

Also, please be aware that extra credit opportunities will range from sparse to non-existent. If it
is provided, it will not be on-demand, so students would be wise to refrain from asking for it.

POLICY CONCERNING LATE ASSIGNMENTS


Assignments may be handed in ONE day late with a 50% penalty. Any work handed in after
one day will not be graded and the student will receive a zero for the assignment. There are no
exceptions to this policy.

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Policy Concerning Make-Up Work
It is the responsibility of the student to obtain any worked missed due to an absence. Missed
work may be acquired during homeroom and after school. Make-Up work will not be provided
during the school day. The student is responsible for knowing what assignments they have
missed. If you are unsure, check the class blog (see below), as it will have all of the
worksheets/Power Points/videos that were viewed in class. The student is responsible for
obtaining the make-up work on the day they return. After the work has been obtained the student
has the number of days absent to complete and hand in the assignment otherwise the zero will
stand.
 I will only give out make-up work before or after school. The middle of class is not the
time to be asking for assignments from a previous class.
 Unexcused absences automatically eliminate the possibility to make up your work. If
you do not have an absence note, you cannot make up the missed assignments.

LATE POLICY
Every 5 unexcused lateness’s = 10% deduction from your next unit test.
NO EXCEPTIONS

CLASS RULES AND REMINDERS


 Absolutely NO food or drink is permitted inside of the classroom, with the exception
of water. If you are caught with it you will be asked to throw it away or it will be
confiscated.
 5 Unexcused absences for the quarter results in automatic failure for the quarter
(BCPS Policy).
 9 Excused absences for the quarter results in an automatic failing grade in classwork
for the quarter (BCPS Policy).
 Respect is the bottom line. The instructor will respect students, and the students will
inspect the instructor.

CLASS BLOG
The blog for United States can be found at the following URL:
catonsvillehighushistory.blogspot.com

At the conclusion of each day's class, I will (when able) post the readings and worksheets from
said day on the blog for viewing and download. If you are absent, the blog should be updated for
you to download the worksheets for the day. (This will be particularly useful if you are out for
an extended time.)

Within the first week of class, please try to access the blog and make sure it works on your
computer. I have tested it in multiple web browsers (IE, Firefox, Google Chrome) with no
difficulty.

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My signature below provides that I and my student,______________________________, have
read the above syllabus and are aware of the requirements of United States History at Catonsville
High School. I further know how to contact the instructor of this course and have provided
means of instructor contact as well.

________________________________ ______________________________
Student Signature Parent/Guardian Signature

________________________________ ______________________________
Parent/Guardian Daytime Phone Parent/Guardian Email

Educational Film Permission Form

History is often only portrayed by two traditional means: either verbally or via text. As often as
possible I attempt to include as many visual experiences possible in order to create deeper
understanding of the historical content covered in class. Although we will never be viewing the
films in their entirety we will be viewing clips of films that are rated R. The content of these
films abide by Baltimore County Policy and by all means are school appropriate and serve an
academic purpose. Content may include but is not limited to: mild language and graphic battle
sequences.

My signature below provides that I give my child permission to view any and all films shown
throughout the academic year.

_______________________________
Parent/Guardian Signature.