Critical Issues is a course devoted to studying the historical
origins and development of political and social problems that
confront contemporary citizens in this nation and, at least
to some degree, all of humanity. A recent PEW Research Center
study showed that students today are less interested in critical
issues of the day than previous generations. Educators and parents
are faced, therefore, with the question of how best to achieve
student interest in critical issues of the day. Moreover, students
need to know how those issues may somehow take a turn, for better
or worse, based on history, through decisions made by national
leadership. As such, a course such as Critical Issues has been
shown to have a positive impact on the attitudes of students
toward events impacting their lives today.
In a 1996 National Household Education Survey (NHES), the results
revealed that students who take classes that require them to
pay attention to government, politics, or national issues have
increased interest in those issues outside of school. About
two-thirds of students in grades 6 to 12 reported in the survey
that they had taken such a course in one of the last two years;
about half of the students surveyed had taken such a course
in both of the last two years. Overall, 65% of students who
took at least one course during the last two years reported
their interest in politics and national issues increase “some”
or “a good deal” as a result. Among students who
had taken such a course in both the last two years, 71% responded
that their interest had increased.
About the time our original 13 states adopted their new constitution
in 1787, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the
University of Edinburgh, had this to say about the fall of the
Athenian Republic some 2000 years prior:
“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply
cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy
will continue to exist up until the time voters discover that
they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.
From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates
who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with
the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to
lose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.”
The future voters of America, represented in the form of our
students, are vitally important to the future of this nation.
We hope the study of critical issues is one means that will
lead to the continued success, and indeed continuance, of our
There will be both tests and quizzes as evaluation tools for
this course. Tests/quizzes will come from presentations, research
notes, and lectures. The design of each exam will be multiple
choice and essay questions. At times, take home exams will be
issued as a means of providing students more time to evaluate
complex issues. Tests/quizzes will be worth 25%% (weighted)
of the students’ grade. Students need to take exams and
quizzes on time. Students missing exams/quizzes will have one
school day after returning to class to make up the exam/quiz.
For each day the student fails to make up the evaluation, the
student will be docked by 25% of his/her grade. Class participation
will also be a part of the evaluation process. Students are
responsible to coordinate with the teacher on all makeup tests
Exams and Class Participation
follows the school’s exam exemption policy (see student
handbook). Students earn points by actively participating in
class: students should take good notes, take an active leadership
role in helping to explain concepts, problems, or answers to
problems; students can engage in dialogues of political and
sociological significance; students should always be ready to
address questions asked by the teacher—correct answers
need not be the absolute standard, but the student should demonstrate
that he/she has been following the discussion/lecture. Homework
assignments: reading assignments, completing identification
terms, and recopying notes. Notebook checks will be done every
quarter to ensure students have proper notes.
Homework will be evaluated and have a 10% grade value.
Essays/point papers: 50%
a broad body of “relevant factual knowledge” about
2. Understand the nature of change and its effect on people
3. Use essential skills to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate
ideas and arguments, particularly in new situations.
4. Develop high level discussions of issues.
5. Understand that decisions have consequences.
6. Seek patterns and characteristics of right and wrong decisions.
7. Use a scientific, systematic approach to understanding issues.
8. Know the difference between argumentation and truth seeking.
9. Link past events and decisions to current critical issues.
10. Have fun and take a more active and meaningful role in society.
a wide range of issues and connect to past events.
2. Build language, vocabulary, reading comprehension, critical
thinking, problem solving, oral expression, and listening skills.
3. Develop informed citizens and lifelong newsreaders.
4. Understand the importance of people, events, and issues in
the news and history as it is being made.
5. Stimulate students to explore and learn more about the critical
issues of the day.
6. Provide a writing model.
7. Offer opportunities for cooperative group instruction, classroom
discussions and debates, and purposeful writing follow-up.
Classroom Policies and Procedures
1. Attendance: Students will be on time and in their seats before
the bell rings. Student restroom practices are given individually
and on a “first come, first served” basis.
2. Students will follow the policies as identified in the Seton
Catholic High School Handbook and the honor code that each student
signed. Students will acknowledge that honor code on all written
work, e.g. tests, quizzes, homework, projects, etc.
3. Students will be prepared for class. All reading and other
assignments must be completed with due. Reading assignments
are vital to learning the material assigned and to active class
participation which is expected of all students. In addition,
students must have their own books, pens, pencils, notebook,
homework, and paper for class. Students will not be allowed
to go to their lockers to retrieve their belongings once class
4. Late assignments will not be accepted unless the teacher
pre-approves them. A late assignment (e.g. homework, essays,
etc.) will result in 25% off for each day late.
5. Absent students must turn in work due within one day after
return to school. Late work will be “docked” 25%
for each late day. Students can check with the teacher on line,
in-person at school, or by phone to confirm what work was missed.
Moreover, students can check the class web site for all information
regarding the class; students may not take class time to do
this. This is the students’ responsibility. Sometimes,
there are extenuating circumstances (e.g. extended absenteeism);
accordingly, a make-up plan will be coordinated with the teacher,
parent(s)/guardian(s), and student.
6. Students missing class due to scheduled field trips, mass,
athletic events, or other scheduled events must turn in their
work before they leave for the event. Assignments not turned
in before scheduled events will be counted late and the work
will be downgraded 25% for each day late.
7. Reading is expected of all students. Participation should
be consistent, positive, and respectful during all class activities.
Students are expected to lead class prayers throughout the year.
Students may be required to lead the class in discussion of
events/issues in the assigned chapter on an impromptu or assigned
basis. Preparation and participation are key “operative”
words as guidelines for the course.
8. I will edit on-line grades in a timely manner but at least
weekly per school policy. Course assignments and results will
be provided on line.
9. Each student is expected to behave with maturity and in accordance
with the guidelines stated in the Seton High School Handbook.
Negative behavior and comments will not be tolerated. Students
are expected to:
a. Be on time and be in their assigned seats prior to the bell.
b. Raise their hands to get the teacher’s attention.
c. Remain in their seats throughout the class unless otherwise
d. Treat each other and the teacher with respect.
e. Discuss topics, materials, homework, tests, quizzes, etc.,
in an appropriate manner. Wasting the class’s time with
disruptive talk and/or actions will not be tolerated.
f. Allow one person to speak at a time during the class period.
All students raising their hands will be given the opportunity
g. Remain with their class when moving on campus as a class.
g. Leave the class quietly to use the restroom. Do not walk
in front of the teacher when the teacher is lecturing. Students
will use the pass and will sign out and back in.
I am available before school by appointment and Monday through
Friday from 3:00-3:30 P.M. in room E3. My voice mail number
is (480) 963-1900, ext 3070. You may also contact me through
e-mail at Tdarby@setonCHS.org. Please by sure to put your name
in the subject line or I will not open it.