Published Date

January 1, 2004

From Teaching Difficult Legal or Political Concepts: Using Online Primary Sources in Writing Assignments (2004)

Required Textbooks

  • John Mack Faragher and others, Out of Many: A History of the American People (2d ed., v. 1).
  • James J. Lorence and others, Enduring Voices: Document Sets.
  • Selections from Discovering U.S. History (a CD-ROM available on campus computers)

Course Objectives

  • To gain an overview of the history of the United States from the European discovery of North America through the Civil War.
  • To identify major themes and trends within American history up to 1865.
  • To recognize the major actors and groups in American history prior to 1865 and their roles in the evolution of the United States.
  • To explain why the United States developed as it did prior to 1865.
  • To understand how economic, social, and political developments interacted to create or discourage change.
  • To identify significant features on United States’ maps and to comprehend the importance of chronology.
  • To sharpen academic proficiencies, including the ability to read and listen with comprehension and critical perception; to develop a larger and more varied vocabulary, while gathering information from printed sources (involving a variety of written communication forms and styles), electronic sources, and observation; to respond orally to questions and challenges; to recognize fallacies and inconsistencies; to distinguish knowledge, values, beliefs, and opinions; and to learn independently. In addition, the course will help students learn to write clearly, precisely, and in a well-organized manner, which involves the ability to construct and support hypotheses and arguments; to analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and interpret information and ideas; and to integrate knowledge and experience.
  • To develop historical perspective through learning that history is the art of interpreting an oral, written, and material record. Different historians may interpret the evidence differently.

Course Requirements

  • Class participation, based on the reading assignments, is required and will count for 8% of each student’s final grade. Thus, students must complete all reading assignments as scheduled and use Discovering U.S. History as directed. The professor encourages students, before coming to class, to take notes from the readings assigned for that class period and to jot down any questions about them. Participation grades will be constructed from three elements: (a) attendance, (b) small-group discussions, and (c) large-group contributions.
  • Regular class attendance is essential. The only “excused” absences are those connected to school-sponsored activities. Any illness or problem that may cause a student to miss a number of classes should be discussed with the professor when the problem first arises. Note: According to the policy on accommodating students’ religious beliefs, students with a conflict between an academic requirement and a religious observance must notify the professor in the first three weeks of class of the specific date(s) on which they will request relief from an academic requirement.
  • Small-group discussions in the classroom must focus on the topic at hand (or related issues). Also, small-group work must involve everyone in the group. It is up to group members to involve a reluctant student by asking for opinions.
  • Large-group contributions consist of those things spoken to the whole class.
  • Using e-mail will be a regular part of this class. Every student must have an e-mail account, either at UW-BC or at home. In addition, during the semester, students will participate in a listserv (sort of like a chat group but with an editor). The listserv will put students into contact with others across the UW System who are taking U.S. history survey courses. The professor is also a member of the listserv, and her students must contribute at least twice during the semester (once before midterm). The e-mail component of the course will equal 4% of a student’s final grade.
  • Students must complete one Internet exercise that draws on the information in the textbooks and a selected Internet site. The essay will equal 8% of the final grade. The topic is listed below. The due date is on the Class Schedule. The professor will deduct late points (3 points per week day) for assignments turned in after the due date. The professor will distribute a criteria sheet to help students understand her expectations for the exercise.

Exercise Topic

Read carefully the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776, the Virginia Constitution of 1776, and the New Jersey Constitution of 1776 (found at the Yale Law School Avalon Project site In an essay (400-700 words in length), compare and contrast their contents with the summaries of state constitutions given in Faragher and others (195-199).

Students must complete two Internet site reviews (400 to 700 words in length). Each review will equal 8% of the final grade (for a total of 16%). Due dates are on the Class Schedule. The professor will deduct late points (3 points per week day) for those turned in after the due date. Site addresses are listed below. The professor will distribute a criteria sheet to help students understand her expectations for the reviews.

Students will periodically be asked to work in class on assignments. These will not always be quizzes but will assume knowledge of required readings. Such assignments will not be announced in advance and cannot be made up if missed. However, the instructor will not deduct for those missed if the student is not in violation of the attendance policy stated above (in section 1a). These assignments will equal 5% of a student’s final grade.

The professor has scheduled three examinations during the semester. Each will contain map questions and essay questions. The professor will provide the list of questions one week before the exam. Students are expected to learn each question thoroughly for an exam. The professor will drop a student’s lowest grade on the three exams before figuring the final grade. The remaining two exams will each equal 19% of the final grade (for a total of 38%). Since the professor will drop one exam grade, she will not give make-up examinations unless the student makes arrangements before the scheduled exam period.

Students must take a comprehensive final exam at the end of the semester. The final exam grade cannot be dropped, but the questions will be provided at least one week in advance. The final exam will equal 21% of a student’s final grade.

Students have continuous opportunities for extra credit. Anytime a student desires, he/she may do additional reading in Lorence and others. To prove that the reading was done, the student must submit a document analysis sheet to the professor. Each student will receive a copy of this sheet on the first day of class. If additional sheets are needed, speak to the professor.

Next section: United States History from the Civil War to the Present Syllabus