Upper School American Government

Term: Yearlong 2018-19, September 4–May 24
Target Grade Levels: Grades 9–10; 11th–12th graders welcome (see placement details below)
 Mrs. Gerard
Schedule: T/Th 12:30 p.m. EST, 60–75 min.
Price: $595.00
(Enroll in this course and the corresponding literature course and save $195.00! To take advantage of this discount, call our office at 866-730-0711 to register.)

In this course, students will develop a rich understanding of American democracy by reading and discussing philosophical writings that influenced America’s Founding Fathers, the foundational documents of the United States, essays from prominent American thinkers, and Supreme Court decisions.Students will learn about the “nuts and bolts” of how our government works (e.g., the three branches of government and how a bill becomes a law). However, this course will additionally expect students to dig deeper and interact with the philosophical ideals that inspired our Founding Fathers. Students will also grapple with the different political ideologies that have shaped and changed the American political system throughout our history. By the end of the course, students can expect to know how our government works, articulate the major camps in American political thought, and understand the crucial role that they, as citizens, play in the democratic system. This course is taught by veteran teacher Emily Gerard, who holds her BA in philosophy and political science from Gordon College and her MA in government from the Johns Hopkins University.


While this course primarily features historical study, it also integrates some study from American literature, helping students to see and enjoy the integration of both history and literature. This class is paired with our upper school American Literature course, which is scheduled back-to-back with that course in a “block.” Students who take both courses receive a discount. This course may also be taken as a standalone history study.


Course Structure and Workload
As new texts and reading selections are introduced, the instructor will give a twenty- to thirty-minute lecture in order to provide a background and context for the selection. The rest of the class time will be spent in Socratic discussion, debate, and, at the end of the year, student speeches.

Each week, students will be provided with a list of questions on the text or selection of the week and will be expected to complete these prior to class. Students will also be asked to reflect on a weekly reflection question. Students will be expected to write a short response to that reflection question, and also reply in written form to one other student’s reflection. This will help to spur critical thinking and deepen in-class discussion times.

Students will be expected to participate in one formal debate at the end of the fall semester, and will write and deliver a speech at the end of the spring semester. There will also be several take-home tests (approximately one per quarter). The week a test or larger project is due, there will be no new reading and no discussion questions.

Placement: The target grades for this course are 9th–10th grade. Students must have successfully completed an 8th-grade-level writing course; they will be expected to have a basic grasp of grammar and know how to write a summary and reflect on a text (though the instructor will work to develop these skills throughout the course). Students are expected to have strong reading and writing skills as well as the interest and capacity for engaging in discussion about literature and history. Students well suited for this course will continue refining the following scholarship skills as they approach mastery:

  • Actively and independently engage in note-taking
  • Apply teacher critiques
  • Adhere to deadlines
  • Be responsible for class and project preparedness
  • Take initiative to ask questions for understanding and comprehension

High School Credit: This course is the equivalent of one high school credit in history or government.

Syllabus: Download the 2018–19 course syllabus here.

How much time will students spend on homework?
This varies by student according to his or her pace. However, the average reader can expect to spend approximately one hour per week reading course materials, and approximately half an hour to an hour working on the questions.

How is faith integrated with these courses?
These seminar-style discussions unfold organically. One could approach the texts with a focus on defensive critiques of classical authors. By contrast, we seek to read charitably. We treat classic authors as if they were friends, gleaning every available truth while also examining them from a robustly Christian perspective.


The reading list for this course includes the following texts and excerpts.* Minor adjustments may be made in the coming weeks. A finalized reading list, including indication of which texts students should purchase and preferred versions, will be provided to enrolled students. Please wait to purchase course texts until you’ve received this finalized list from the instructor. The following list will give you a sense of the scope of the course.

  • Plato’s Republic
  • John Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government
  • A Short History of the United States (excerpts), Remini
  • Common Sense, Paine
  • The Declaration of Independence
  • Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Franklin
  • The U.S. Constitution
  • Alexis D’Tocqueville’s Democracy in America
  • The Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers
  • Gettysburg Address, Lincoln
  • Select U.S. Supreme Court decisions

 *Required materials are not included in the purchase of the course.

Emily Gerard is a graduate of Gordon College (BA, political science and philosophy) and The Johns Hopkins University (MA, government). She has taught philosophy, rhetoric, and Latin for the past five years, most recently at a classical school in downtown York, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Gerard currently lives in York with her husband, their young daughter, and a border collie.

Red checkmarkComputer: You will need a stable, reliable computer, running with processor with a speed of 1 Ghz or better on one of the following operating systems: Mac OS X with MacOS 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or later; Windows 8, 7, Vista (with SP1 or later), or XP (with SP3 or later). We do NOT recommending using an iPad or other tablet for joining classes. An inexpensive laptop or netbook would be much better solutions, as they enable you to plug an Ethernet cable directly into your computer. Please note that Chromebooks are allowed but not preferred, as they do not support certain features of the Zoom video conference software such as breakout sessions and annotation, which may be used by our teachers for class activities.

Red checkmarkHigh-Speed Internet Connection: You will also need access to high-speed Internet, preferably accessible via Ethernet cable right into your computer. Using Wi-Fi may work, but will not guarantee you the optimal use of your bandwidth. The faster your Internet, the better. We recommend using a connection with an download/upload speed of 5/1Mbps or better. You can test your Internet connection here.

Red checkmarkWebCam: You may use an external webcam or one that is built in to the computer.
WebCam Recommendations: Good (PC only) | Best (Mac and PC)

Red checkmarkHeadset: We recommend using a headset rather than a built-in microphone and speakers. Using a headset reduces the level of background noise heard by the entire class.
Headset Recommendations: USB | 3.5mm

Red checkmarkZoom: We use a web conferencing software called Zoom for our classes, which enables students and teachers to gather from around the globe face to face in real time. Zoom is free to download and easy to use.
To download Zoom:

  1. Visit zoom.us/download.
  2. Click to download the first option listed, Zoom Client for Meetings.
  3. Open and run the installer on your computer.
  4. In August, students will be provided with instructions and a link for joining their particular class.

from Classical Academic Press

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