P1/3 (Sem 1) Civics

                                                                             No law is quite appropriate for all.  ~Titus Livy

Civics: Principles of American Democracy

Syllabus, 2017-2018

Mr. Ken Brown kbrown@piedmont.k12.ca.us             Voice Mail: (510) 788-0702


Course Description: In a constitutional democracy, productive civic engagement requires knowledge of the history, principles, and foundations of our American democracy, and the ability to participate in civic and democratic processes. People demonstrate civic engagement when they address public problems individually and collaboratively and when they maintain, strengthen, and improve communities and societies. Thus, civics is, in part, the study of how people participate in governing society. Because government is a means for addressing common or public problems, the political system established by the U.S. Constitution is an important subject of study within civics. Civics requires other knowledge too; students should also learn about state and local governments; markets; courts and legal systems; civil society; other nations’ systems and practices; international institutions; and the techniques available to citizens for preserving and changing a society.


Objectives:  To help young people make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse democratic society in an interdependent world. Students will develop civic competence - the knowledge, intellectual processes, and democratic dispositions required to be active and engaged participants in public life. Students will develop inquiry-based critical thinking skills, improve their reading comprehension and expository writing ability, and become engaged and knowledgeable citizens.

Units of Study

Civic and Political Institutions

  • Fundamental Principles of American Democracy

  • The Three Branches of Government as Established by the U.S. Constitution

  • Comparative Governments and the Challenges of Democracy

Participation and Deliberation

  • Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens in a Democracy

  • Fundamental Principles of  Civil Society

  • Federalism: Different Levels of Government

  • The Electoral Process

  • The Fourth Estate: The Role of the Media on American Public Life

Processes, Rules, and Laws

  • Interpreting the Constitution: The Work of the U.S. Supreme Court

  • Street Law


Questions for Engagement

  • What are the key elements of representative democracy and how did they develop over time?

  • What are the trade-offs between majority rule and individual rights?

  • How much power should government have over its citizens?

  • What rights and responsibilities does a citizen have in a democracy?

  • How do people get elected?

  • Why does the government work sometimes and not others?

  • What problems are posed by representative government and how can they be addressed?

  • How can the legal system protect civil rights and promote justice in American society?


Grading:  Will be assigned on a standard 90%, 80%, 70%, 60% scale.  Marking period grades will be running point total of all assignments in that 6 week time frame.  Semester grades are a total of the three MP grades (MP1 + MP2 + MP3 = Sem1 grade).  

The overall grade will be the calculation of 3 categories of equal value (33% of grade, 0.5 credits):

  1. Participation (10 points per week)

  2. Homework / Classwork

  3. Assessments (tests, quizzes, essays)

This course will be divided into three 6 week marking periods:

Students will have an opportunity to earn between 1.5 and 2 credits per marking period.Students need to earn 5 credits to complete this course and be eligible for graduation.

Attendance:  Attendance will affect participation grade. Tardies will result in a loss of points: -2 point for 1st tardy of week, an additional -2 points for 2nd tardy of week, an additional -3 points for 3rd tardy of week.  Each unexcused absences will result in -5 points as well as not being able to make-up missing work.  


Make-Up Work from Absences:  Missed work must be made up within the number of days that a student was absent. It is students responsibility to keep track of assignments via the class website. It is also student’s responsibility to contact teacher immediately about make-up quizzes and test.


Incomplete Work:Each assignment has both a due date and a deadline date. The deadline date is the absolute last day an assignment can be turned in. The deadline date for all assignments will be the end of the Marking Period the work was assigned. As long as the work was completed by the deadline date, students can earn full credit, but no score higher than a 70% as a consequence of missing the due date.

Students who do not complete work by the due date are required to complete an Incomplete Assignment Form.  Completing this form will help the teacher to understand if students need additional academic support or if they need help managing their time.


Cheating & Plagiarism:  Cheating on any assignment will result in a zero for both parties involved. It will also result in two detentions and an "unsatisfactory" Marking Period grade for participation. All instances of cheating will be reported home and to the principal. The following scenarios are considered cheating: copying someone’s work, asking another student for answers, providing answers to others, sharing information about a test to another class or classmate.



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