Office: BH 338

Office Hours: MW, 1:30-2:30; TR, 11:00-12:00 or by appointment

Office Phone: 825-5997



Political Science 2305: U.S. Government and Politics

Course Description

This is an introductory course in American government and politics. The course is designed to help students read, discuss, write about, and enjoy politics. The first section of the course begins with an analysis of the political culture of the United States, arguing that most Americans have a set of beliefs that are commonly held, and that these beliefs shape the nature of politics in the US. To begin our analysis of US politics, we will assess two competing theories, pluralism and elitism. These two theories will provide a “frame” for the following weeks. The course next turns to the construction of the Constitution and the operation of federalism in the United States. The second section of the course deals with the “participants” in the political process. We will discuss the role of public participation through an analysis of the formation of public opinion. Important in the formation of public opinion is the critical role of the media plays. The media may not always tell us what to think, but the media certainly tells us what to think about. The media is also important for the operation of interest groups, which have a considerable impact on the operation of elections in the United States. Parties, campaigns and elections will follow our discussion of interest groups. The third section of the course turns to the formal institutions of government. Here we will examine the “four” branches of government, the three traditionally associated with American democracy, the legislative, executive, and the judicial branches and the bureaucracy, often referred to as the “fourth branch.” Finally, the course will end with a shorter section dealing with the vitally important areas of civil rights and civil liberties, where issues concerning culture, politics and policy intersect.
The major goal of the course is to give students a broader understanding of how their government works. Additionally, students will gain an operating vocabulary of key concepts in political science. The acquisition of these terms will allow students to actively engage in analyzing current political discourse. Over the course of the semester, we will discuss current political events in light of text materials, assisting the students in understanding the history behind current political controversies as well as the implications of contemporary debates.

Learning Communities

Please read the following carefully, as you are part of Triad F. The assignments that you have will be directly related to the composition and seminar components of the learning community. Two key goals of the learning community are encouraging student awareness of multiple perspectives and making connections between disciplines. We will do the former in two ways. Firstly, through the use of the “Where do I Fit?” ideology survey students can assess where they stand personally as well as compare their stance with their classmates. We will use the typologies in the survey throughout the semester. Awareness of multiple perspectives will be encouraged by written responses to the “Issues for Debate” reader. We will make connections between the disciplines through both the assignment of integration and the Triad F common project. Students will be expected to develop a research project that relates to political expression and contemporary political issues. Finally, both of these goals fit with this class’s participation in the American Democracy Project, which encourages greater awareness of engagement, community, and political participation and citizenship.

Class Expectations and Assignments

By necessity, the course must be largely lecture driven. However, there will be ample opportunities for class discussion. I encourage student opinions, as long as they are informed by reading or experience. Don't hesitate to ask questions. They should be asked whenever anything is unclear. Over the course of the semester we will also engage in group work to encourage more active learning and participation in the classroom.

Political Science Exams – Over the course of the semester there will be four exams, each will be worth 100 points. You may miss an exam for whatever reason. However, make-up exams will only be given on the day of the final exam. I highly encourage you not to miss an exam at its regularly scheduled time. Please choose this route only in the case of an emergency. In the past students have needed to take two or three exams at a time. As one might expect, the exam results were not always what they had hoped for. You may schedule to take exams early, provided you notify a week in advance. If you must be away when an exam is scheduled, it is best to take it early. Grading will be done on a conventional scale (90-80-70-60). It is usually not necessary to significantly “curve” the exam. A low exam cannot be dropped. However, there is the option of “replacing” a low exam score. On the day of the last exam, students will be allowed to take a comprehensive replacement exam. This means that on this day, a student would take two exams. I would then use the higher of the two scores. On the second exam, if a student received a 64 and wanted to replace this grade, he/she could take the comprehensive final. If the student received an 86 on the final, this grade would “replace” the second exam score of 64. If the student received a 60, the original 64 score would remain. To figure the final score, simply add your test scores, chapter response scores, and any extra credit you may have earned, and divide these by the total possible points of 450 (4 exams worth 100 points each plus 50 points for chapter responses) to get a percentage. As we know, a 93.65% would be an “A,” a 67.8% would be a “D.” Remember that if you need to make up an exam, you’ll need to write three exams that day. Please consider this when you plan the end of your semester.

Political Science Supplemental Reading – For supplemental readings in the political science section of our Tetrad, we will use Issues for Debate in American Public Policy. These readings will allow the student the opportunity for in-depth exploration of several important and timely issues. There will be seven diverse policy areas, including health care, education, civil liberties, civil rights and the environment, amongst others. These readings will be discussed in large lecture and some test questions will be drawn from these readings.

Political Science Reading Responses – Over the course semester, you will have twelve opportunities to write a response to some of your assigned readings. The best ten of your scores will be counted towards your Political Science Readings Response grade (which constitutes 10% of your overall grade in the course). You will turn in your readings responses at the beginning of class each week on Thursday. These will be based on the Issues for Debate in American Public Policy reader. For each assignment, you will need to write a one page type-written response in which you must: 1) discuss relevant aspects of the chapter as they relate to the textbook chapter under discussion. This should take about two-thirds of the page. 2) Explain what you think is the most appropriate policy solution (How does the subject affect your life and how would you like to see it changed?). This should be about one-third of a page. You must address all both aspects to receive full credit. Since you have twelve chances to assemble ten good scores, no makeups or late work will be allowed. If you don’t turn in your reading response at the beginning of the class period which it is due, it will not be accepted. Each Political Science Reading Response should be one page, double-spaced, 12 point font, with one inch margins. Make sure to include not only your name, but also the name of your First Year Seminar leader. Don’t try to memorize all the names, dates, pieces of legislation or interest groups involved in the debate. Instead, think about how each side tries to use evidence to support its argument and try to connect the topic with the larger themes or topic discussed that week in lecture. For example: How is Congress dealing with spending on infrastructure? How are media representations affecting attitudes toward the environment? What role did interest groups play in the creation of gun policy? How did the Founders conceive of the role of government and does this provide any guide in helping the current government solve the mortgage crisis?

Political Science Assignment of Integration – This will involve a short, three page double-spaced paper that looks at two different websites. You will be asked to give the political context related to your issue, discuss the rhetoric each interest group uses to present its case, and then present your opinion on the issue. This assignment will count in both seminar and composition and be useful in the construction of your research paper. This will be worth 50 points.

Political Science In-Class Public Opinion Exercise – During one of our class meetings we will collect data. In seminar this data will be collected, analyzed and presented for a grade. Short powerpoint presentations will be required to successfully complete this exercise. This will be done outside of class and the presentations made in seminar. This will be worth 25 points.

New York Times Responses – The New York Times will be available to you at no expense. You may pick them up in the library. See your First Year Seminar Leader for instructions on this assignment. These NYT assignments will also occur in seminar. Ten times during the semester you will be expected to have an articles “cut” from the paper. There will be twelve overall opportunities to complete this assignment. You will be required to bring these to seminar, discuss them in small groups, and then present them to the rest of the class. You must also write a short one-third page single-spaced typed justification explaining why you chose the article you did. You can use standard news stories, but it may be more interesting if you choose Op-Ed (Opinion and Editorial) articles from the NYT. These assignments will be collected in seminar and count toward your seminar grade, too. These will be worth 50 points.

The Learning Community’s Shared Assignment – As part of Triad F, each of you will be required to complete the shared assignment, which included a 6-8 page paper and a presentation. This will integrate the content materials from our Political Science class, the themes that evolve from your First Year Seminar class, and the skills and analysis that you develop in your Composition class. It will contribute to your grade in your Political Science, First Year Seminar, and First Year Composition classes. For particulars of this assignment, see your First Year Seminar Leader. Of this, 75% of your project grade will be based upon your written paper; 25% will be based upon your presentation. This assignment will cover some aspect of political expression and representation with regards to personal political opinion, political advocacy, and interest group representation. This will be done in composition and seminar. 75 points of your large lecture score will come from the written product in composition. 50 additional points will come from your presentation in seminar. An additional ten extra credit points will be given to those who make presentations at the Research Conference in April. This will be the only extra credit offered.

Additional Political Science Information – Additional information related to the course is available at I will place exam scores, exam reviews and other course related information on the web. Simply follow the POLS 2305 links.

As a way of summary, here is how the grades should break down for Triad F students:

4 exams @ 100 points is 400
10 points for “Where Do I Fit?” survey
10 chapter responses for 100 points
10 NYT presentations for 50 points
1assignment of integration for 25 points
1 group project on public opinion for 25 points
1 Triad F common assignment for 100 points
(75 points from presentation in seminar, 25 points for the paper in composition)
710 total points

As was noted above in the course requirements, several components of the composition course and the seminar will be required for the large lecture course. If you drop one or both of these, you will be missing out on valuable points that will apply in this class. The rational behind this is to encourage networked “thinking” amongst the three triad components, as applied both conceptually as well as practically.

Class Policies

1. Make-ups (Examinations) – Make-up exams will be offered at the end of the semester. It is your responsibility to arrange to make up all missed exams.

2. Extra Credit – You have enough of importance to do in the regular assignments for this course. No extra credit opportunities will be available.

3. Grade Appeals – In grading your exams the primary concerns are to maintain fair standards. You have the right to appeal if you believe that you have received an exam grade which does not reflect the quality of your work, or if you do not understand why an answer you gave was graded in the manner in which it was. The first step in the process should be to see your First Year Seminar Leader. If, after this consultation, you still believe your exam grade was unfair, please feel free to bring the matter to my attention.

4. Assistance – Office hours and First Year Seminar Leaders are intended to make this course less forbidding. Feel free to come by and talk with me about your work or about politics and political science in general, during the office hours listed. If you cannot make these times, ask me for an appointment. Remember also that your First Year Seminar Leader will be available to help you prepare for exams or solve other problems that may arise. These are frequently graduate students who will be available on a regular basis for consultation. They will grade your tests and can offer useful advice on preparing for the exams as well as improving your grade. You should also avail yourself of the opportunity to seek assistance from CASA in the Bell Library. Political Science tutors may also available.

5. Freedom of Speech – Feel free to raise your hand with a question or comment. Reducing confusion, providing clarification, or responding to student curiosity is an important part of the classroom process and will be undertaken to the extent that time and class size permit. In most cases, if you did not understand something, it is because I did not explain it clearly, so you will be doing your colleagues and yourself a service if you request a clarification.

6. Academic etiquette – Universities must maintain standards of academic etiquette in order to affect an atmosphere conducive to learning. You are expected to demonstrate courtesy to one another in and out of the classroom. Talking to one’s neighbor(s) during class lectures or general discussions, chronic lateness, leaving class before it has been dismissed, etc., is inherently disruptive and thus injurious to the rights of others to the opportunity to learn. As such, it is unacceptable in a university classroom. Please do not bring things to eat into the classroom, but drinks are okay. As a courtesy to others, take your trash with you when class is over. Students who are unable to abide by these rules of academic etiquette and normal civility will be removed from the class.

7. Academic Integrity – Cheating or plagiarism on an assignment or test, or failure to complete any of the course requirements, will result in a zero grade for the assignment in question.

8. Dropping a Class – I hope no student needs to drop a course. However, events sometimes occur that make dropping a course necessary or wise. April 3rd is the last day to drop a course for the semester with an automatic grade of “W”.

9. Accommodations – Students with special needs are required to file their paperwork with the Special Populations Office (Driftwood 101). Students in this course who have paperwork on file with Special Populations, and thus have needs that may prevent them from fully demonstrating their abilities, should inform me as soon as possible so that we can discuss reasonable accommodations necessary to ensure their success in this course.

10. Advising – If you are majoring, or planning to major, in a field taught in the College of Liberal Arts, and if you have not yet obtained a signed degree plan, you should see your Academic Advisor immediately. Degree plans are important and useful to successful progress toward graduation.

11. Electronics and other cool stuff – Please turn off all electronic communication devices before you enter the classroom. It is an extreme distraction when beepers, pagers, and cell phones ring during class. Please turn off all cell phones, and please do not spend time text messaging during class. I’ll play music before class, so you won’t need your iPods or mp3 players on during class. Please use laptops for legitimate academic reasons. Resist the temptation to watch Youtube, update your MySpace site, or gamble during class. No electronic devices will be permitted during exams.

Required Texts

Keeping the Republic, Christine Barbour and Gerald C. Wright
Issues for Debate in Public Policy, CQ Press.
New York Times (available at the circulation desk of the Bell Library)


Course Schedule

R, 1-15 Introductions

T, 1-20 Chapter 2: Politics of American Founding
R, 1-22 Chapter 2: Politics of American Founding
Issues 12: Mortgage Crisis

T, 1-27 Chapter 3: Federalism
R, 1-29 Chapter 3: Federalism
Issues 1: No Child Left Behind

T, 2-3 Chapter 1: Power & Citizenship: What Do American Citizens
R, 2-5 Chapter 1: Power & Citizenship: Democracy and Citizenship
Issues 2: Student Aid

T, 2-10 In-Class Exercise on Political Ideology
R, 2-12 First Exam

T, 2-17 Chapter 11: Parties and Interest Groups
R, 2-19 Chapter 11: Parties and Interest Groups
Issues 3: Universal Coverage

T, 2-24 Chapter 12: Voting & Elections
R, 2-26 Chapter 12: Voting & Elections
Issues 5: Domestic Poverty

T, 3-3 Chapter 10: Public Opinion
R, 3-5 Chapter 10: In-class exercise on Public Opinion
Issues 8: Buying Green

T, 3-10 Chapter 13: Media
R, 3-12 Second Exam

T, 3-17 Spring Break
R, 3-19 Spring Break

T, 3-24 Chapter 6: Congress
R, 3-26 Chapter 7: Presidency
Issues 16: Cost of the Iraq War

T, 3-31 Chapter 14: Policy: Making Public Policy; Foreign Policy
R, 4-2 Chapter 9: Law and the American Legal System
Issues 15: US Policy on Iran
F, 4-3 Last Day to Drop the Class with an automatic grade of “W”!

T, 4-7 Chapter 9: Law and the American Legal System
R, 4-9 Third Exam

T, 4-14 Chapter 5: Struggle for Political Equality
R, 4-16 Chapter 5: Struggle for Political Equality
Issues 14: Immigration Debate

T, 4-21 Chapter 5: Struggle for Political Equality
R, 4-23 Chapter 4: Fundamental American Liberties: The Right to Privacy
Issues 10: Torture Debate

T, 4-28 Chapter 4: Fundamental American Liberties: The Right to Privacy
W, 4-29 First Year Research Conference
R, 4-30 Chapter 4: Fundamental American Liberties: The Right to Privacy
Issues 11: Hate Speech

T, 5-5 Chapter 4: Fundamental American Liberties: The Right to Privacy
Issues 6: Gun Violence

T, 5-12 Exam 4, 1:45pm Please note the time change.