Civility, professionalism, and engagement


Selections from a syllabus

A friend of mine who teaches engineering students has found that they benefit from being repeatedly told how their work as students relates to their professional development.


Her classes don’t have much in the way of discussion, but mine do. They are just different sorts of disciplines.

In political science classes, discussion is an important way to explore issues and develop analytical and critical thinking skills. The class can model rational political discourse and encourage mutual respect.

Thus this year, I’m incorporating the emphasis on professionalism into the syllabus for my introductory course on American Government, along with language on civility and participation.

Here’s some portions of the syllabus:

Regular attendance and participation are good for you and for the whole class.


Your attendance and participation are essential for your success in this class. The textbook and additional readings are the foundation for a good deal of what we will do. That said, much material will be presented, developed and discussed in class. You cannot earn a good grade if you don’t come to class. I will take strong participation into account when determining your final grade.

It is sometimes said that the world is run by those who show up. Certainly, holding a job depends on getting there on a regular basis and carefully completing your assignments. Coming to class and being prepared and active will develop your professionalism, which you will need whatever sort of work you will do.

The entire class benefits from having active, engaged class members. The classes will be more interesting if people are regularly involved in discussions, especially as we will be able to refer back to earlier points and discussions.

To further good discussions, you should complete and consider all assignments and regularly follow the news. Quizzes will include questions about the news.

Our discussions will work best if they are open and, to the extent possible, rational and informed by evidence. Each person’s point of view adds to our discussion and should be treated with respect and consideration. As you voice your views, keep in mind the need for civility in the classroom. Criticism of ideas is certainly acceptable; name-calling and derogatory labels are not.



Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.