• Course Information


    This required 9th grade course examines a non-Western region of the world and how it has been impacted by interaction with the West.  The Middle East is the current case study for the course.

    Course Site

    Assignments will be posted and submitted via Google Classroom. Students must enroll in our Google Classroom; if parents/guardians would like to receive Guardian Summaries, they can contact any one of their student’s teachers to sign up.

    Learning Objectives/Essential Questions

    • In what ways has the Middle East been influenced by its history, varied customs and beliefs, politics and resources, including Islam, Western imperialism, the formation of Israel and U.S. presence?

    • What role does the media play in our perception of the Middle East within the diverse perspectives of the region? 

    • How can we recognize and evaluate the reliability and bias of sources?

    • How do we develop critical and compelling questions of our sources to deepen our understanding?

    • How can we craft clear, well-supported, persuasive interpretations of the past to better understand issues that face the Middle East today? 

     Learning Resources

    This course does not use a single textbook.  We rely in part “The Middle East: Questions for US Policy”, “Empire, Republic, Democracy: TUrkey’s Past and Future”  and other texts from the Choices Program, created by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.  

    In class

    Classroom expectations

    • Come to class prepared with books, supplies and homework, ready to work.  Class will start immediately when the bell rings.

    • In particular, students are expected to be prepared with a district-issued chromebook or equivalent device, adequately charged for class.

    • Show respect for others in words and actions at all times.

    • BHS Dress code is enforced:  This is your ‘job’ and you should dress appropriately for work.

    • This class adheres to the BHS device policy.  Students are asked not to bring electronic devices to school.  If they do, they must store them in a designated place while in class.   Parents who need to contact their students in an emergency may do so through the front office at 842-2634, or for more routine matters, sending an email to their frogrock.org email account.

    Course Content

    The Middle East is a critical region at the center of many world events today.  Studying it responsibly requires coming to terms with the long history of the region and of outside events that have shaped it.

    While this includes some of the most remarkable achievements of early civilization and many rich cultural traditions, it also includes war, religious conflict, genocide, colonization, racism and violence of many kinds.  While we will of course strive to be appropriate in the content we’ll use in exploring these issues, we will be addressing some pretty unpleasant issues from time to time.

    Due to the sensitivity and importance of these issues, you have two responsibilities in this class:

    • Respect your fellow class members (including myself) in how you talk about class content.  Inappropriate jokes, racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic or harassing remarks are not tolerated here.  Being able to deal with difficult issues in a way that allows everyone to feel safe is an important component of solving problems in a democracy

    • Advocate for yourself.  If there are issues raised that you find troubling, or other members of the class treat these issues in ways that make you feel uncomfortable, speak up.  You may do so publicly, or to me in person.  If there is any content in the class that you or your family is not comfortable with, feel free to voice your concerns to me.

    Academic Honesty

    It is important that you do your own learning.  As such the school Academic Honesty policies are enforced.  Generally speaking, if you present somebody else’s work or ideas as your own in an assignment or test, you will earn a permanent Fail grade for that task, and possibly be subject to disciplinary action.  Habitual violations of academic integrity guidelines may result in a failing semester grade.

    Assignments and Grading

    Assignments (as opposed to assessments like tests, essays or debates) are graded either as “Notes” or as “Key Questions”.


    These are fairly standard simple questions or prompts intended to guide a student’s understanding of a text or of a film.  They are scored largely based upon completion and detail.

    • Excellent (100%) Assignment is completed with detailed and thoughtful notes or responses
    • Complete (80%) All questions or prompts are complete at a basic level without elaboration
    • Incomplete (30%) Any required element is either missing or incorrect
    • Late (70%) Completed assignment turned in after due date, no later than end of unit.
    • Missing (0%) Assignment not submitted, or less than half complete.

     Assignments can (and should) be revised.  A “Complete” assignment can be enhanced and resubmitted to earn 100% credit.  An “Incomplete” can be completed and may score either 80% or 100% credit, as appropriate.  These revisions, along with assignments submitted late, must be completed before the unit ends.

    Key Questions

    Most reading or film assignments will incorporate one or more extended questions.  These are to be answered with a well-developed paragraph, and for most students, will be about half a page in length.  These responses earn scores on a Standards-Based scale (0-4), and represent the majority of the gradebook value of the assignment (the ‘notes’ section providing the remainder)

    • 4: Advanced (104%) Clearly answers the question using extensive evidence and thoughtful analysis of cause and effect, historical context or a source’s point of view
    • 3: Proficient (87%) Answers the question using, and explaining, details from the relevant source as evidence
    • 2: Approaching Proficiency (50%) Answers the question correctly at a basic level, but does not incorporate supporting details, explanation or analysis of evidence
    • 1: Well below standard (25%) Fails to address or answer the question successfully
    • 0: Missing (0%) Response is not submitted.  See below for late submission penalties.

    As with assignments, these responses can be revised.  This is an important process in this class.  I will always include comments on returned work that needs to be revised.  In order to revise these questions, however, any connected “notes” portion of the assignment must already be completed.

    What is going on here?

    This grading system serves four purposes:

    • Encourage students to do practice work while still assigning grades based on achievement

    • Motivate students to continually refine and improve their work, and learn from this process

    • Maintain high standards and draw distinctions between just meeting requirements and demonstrating true mastery.

    • Allows me to move away from assessing content knowledge to focus on skills, which is more appropriate for a case study based course.

    The purpose of grades is to measure and reflect a student’s final proficiency and understanding of the skills and content presented in the course.  By the time students have reached high school, grading should not directly measure study skills issues like notetaking or assignment completion.  Most teenagers, however, still need a little bit of outside ‘encouragement’ to do the necessary practice tasks that will prepare them to demonstrate mastery.  This hybrid grading system is intended to continue to motivate students to do the practice work and guide them through difficult sources, but ultimately grade them based on meaningful displays of their understanding and writing skills.

    The percentage ‘drop-off’ for incomplete or below standard work seems severe at first glance.  This is part of the revision process.  An artificially low score, even for an assignment that is almost at standard, is a strong incentive for students to assess their own work and improve it.  The incentive to revise and improve would be much less if scores were simply linear- students have a hard time weighing the cost-benefit of moving an assignment from a ‘C’ to a ‘B’ even though getting to that level is critically important.  The benefits of moving from an ‘F’ to a ‘B’ are much more evident for them, as are the benefits from improving an 87% ‘B’ assignment to a 104% ‘A’ assignment.  A grading system that encourages continual student improvement is far more useful than one that punishes students for not getting something right on the first try, or one that gives acceptable credit for ‘almost good enough’ work.

    Finally, note that the scores given for completing assignments at a basic level are both in the 80% range.  

    These levels stem from our thoughts about what each letter grade represents:  An ‘A’ grade represents continual excellence, while a ‘B’ or ‘C’ grade signifies basic proficiency and completion of the course’s minimum goals.

    As students move through high school and beyond, they’ll find that there is a widening gap between ‘just good enough’ work and work that is truly excellent.  Many students (indeed many adults) are able to calibrate their efforts to achieve a minimum standard of work.  This is fine, but it is something entirely different from excellence.

    Late Work 

    Late assignments (and revisions to submitted assignments) are accepted up to the final day of each unit of study.  Assignments submitted late are subject to the scoring penalties detailed above..