US Government (General Education)

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Medium:
Syllabus
Course Level:
200
Course Length:
15 weeks
Credits:
3
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Course Description and Learning Objectives

GPOSC 225 is a General Education course that satisfies the Cluster Four American Experience requirement. It introduces students to the main features of the American political system, including its constitutional foundations, primary institutions and actors, and electoral processes. This course aims to provide an introduction to the discipline of political science as well as the field of contemporary American politics. As stated on the General Education Cluster Four webpage, students completing an American Experience course in Cluster Four will be able to identify, conceptualize and evaluate: social and political processes and structures using quantitative and qualitative data; key primary sources relating to American history, political institutions and society; the nature and development of the intellectual concepts that structure American political activity; the history and operation of American democratic institutions; the history and development of American society; and the history and development of American involvement in world affairs.

 

Course Requirements

This course is composed of two required class meetings per week and one required movie session held on five Tuesday nights during the semester. Please be sure to attend each Tuesday night session, as questions on the quizzes, midterm examinations, and final examination may be drawn from these sessions as well as other course material. In addition, the short paper will be based on film session material. If you miss either an evening session or one of our regular class meetings, it is your responsibility to find out what we covered and any announcements you might have missed. I will not follow up with you about this; you must contact either a classmate or me. Once you have obtained the class notes from another student and studied those notes, please feel free to visit me with any questions you may have. To benefit from course meetings, students are expected to attend each class session having carefully read the week’s assigned material by the next class, and have thought a bit about it. Students who succeed in this course tend to share several characteristics: (a) they complete the readings before we cover the relevant material in class; (b) they attend class regularly; (c) they pay attention for the entire 75-minute period; (d) they take good class notes and ask questions of the instructor as necessary in class or in office hours; and (e) they rely on class notes, textbooks, and online learning material to prepare for quizzes and exams. Keeping up with the reading in particular is essential to your success in this course, and I will periodically administer pop quizzes to ensure that students are completing the reading assignments. In addition, you are strongly encouraged to keep abreast of political news through daily review of a reputable newspaper or its online equivalent. Discussions about current American politics will take place frequently and questions about these discussions will appear on course quizzes and examinations. Be sure to check Blackboard regularly and your X e-mail daily as I will send out reminders and last-minute announcements electronically. I reserve the right to make changes to this syllabus at any time.

Just as in any political science course, any discussions we may have are likely to produce disagreements between people with different points of view. It is my goal and my expectation that every viewpoint will be treated seriously and with respect. Students are encouraged to come to my office hours to introduce themselves, discuss course topics, or just talk about their studies and interests at X University and beyond.

Course Texts

Both course texts are available for purchase at the X bookstore. Unless otherwise noted, all readings are available in one of the course texts. Other readings will be made available by the instructor, either on Blackboard or email.

  1. Greenberg, Edward S. and Benjamin I. Page. 2007. The Struggle for Democracy, Eighth Edition.New York: Pearson/Longman.
    1. I strongly encourage you to consult the online learning material (www.MyPoliSciLab.com) for this textbook in preparing for class meetings, quizzes, and exams.
  2. Rourke, John T. 2008. You Decide! Current Debates in American Politics. New York: Pearson/ Longman.

 

Assessment

Grades will be based on a combination of class discussion board participation (3%); several unannounced quizzes (12% total; the lowest grade is dropped); a short paper (12.5%); two midterm examinations (22.5% for the first, and 25% for the second); and a comprehensive final examination (25%). See the end of this syllabus for more information about the course assignments.

Grading scale:

A 93 and above
A- 90-92
B+ 87-89
B 83-86
B- 80-82
C+ 77-79
C 73-76
C- 70-72
D+ 67-69
D 60-66
F 59 and below

 

 

Course Schedule

  • Part One: Founding and Core Principles
  • Week 1 Introductions
  • Week 2 The Constitution
    • Readings:Greenberg and Page, Chapters 1 (Democracy and American Politics) and 2 (The Constitution)The Declaration of Independence (Greenberg and Page Appendix)
    • The Constitution (Appendix)
    • James Madison, Federalist 10 and 51 (Appendix)
  • Week 3 Federalism
    • Film Night Tuesday, September 9.
    • Readings: Greenberg and Page, Chapter 3 (Federalism: States and Nation)
    • “Guns, Safety, and the Constitution: Individual Right or Subject to Regulation?” Debate 1 in Rourke
    • Part Two: Political Behavior and Electoral Politics
  • Week 4 Public Opinion
    • Readings: Greenberg and Page, Chapter 5 (Public Opinion)
  • Week 5 The Media
    • Film Night Tuesday, September 23.
    • Readings: Greenberg and Page, Chapter 6 (The News Media)
    • Handout (On Blackboard): Sources of News and Questions of Bias
    • FIRST MIDTERM
  • Week 6 Political Parties
    • Readings: Greenberg and Page, Chapter 9 (Political Parties)
    • Review party platforms at www.rnc.org and www.democrats.org “Qualified to be President: ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ Only or All Citizens? “ – Debate 6 in Rourke
  • Week 7 Voting Behavior, Political Participation, and Elections
    • Film Night.
    • Readings: Greenberg and Page, Chapter 10 (Participation, Voting, and Elections)
    • Patterson, “Young Voters and the 2004 Election,” at http://tinyurl.com/f53wq
    • Handouts (On Blackboard): Voting Reform Proposals
    • Part Three: Political Institutions
  • Week 8 Congress
    • Readings: Greenberg and Page, Chapter 11 (Congress)
  • Week 9
    • Congress Continued and Catch-Up Week
    • SECOND MIDTERM
    • Film Night.
    • Readings: “Congressional Term Limits: Promoting Choice or Restricting Choice?” – Debate 11 in Rourke
  • Week 10 The Presidency
    • Readings: Greenberg and Page, Chapter 12 (The Presidency) “The Electoral College: Abolish or Preserve?” – Debate 10 in Rourke
  • Week 11 The Judiciary
    • Readings: Greenberg and Page, Chapter 14 (The Courts)
    • Part Four: Government in Action
  • Week 12 The Bureaucracy
    • Film Night.
    • Readings: Greenberg and Page, Chapter 13 (The Federal Bureaucracy)
  • Week 13 Civil Liberties
    • Readings: Greenberg and Page, Chapter 15 (Freedom: The Struggle for Civil Liberties)
    • “The Phrase ‘Under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance: Violation of the First Amendment or Acceptable Traditional Expression?” – Debate 4 in Rourke
  • Week 14 Civil Rights

 

Assignments and Guideline

The assignments are designed to allow students to master the concepts we study in the course and to develop and enhance communication skills, critical thinking, and analytical ability. In class meetings, exams, and in the paper assignment, I will expect you to synthesize and integrate lessons from the readings and apply them accurately, thoughtfully, and critically in new and different contexts. If you find yourself struggling, remember that while effort is usually necessary for achievement, effort alone does not guarantee achievement. Please feel free to stop by my office hours or make an appointment to speak with me if you require assistance with any aspect of the course.

 

Exams and Quizzes

There will be two multiple-choice midterm exams. Approximately five to six multiple-choice quizzes will be administered periodically throughout the semester.

 

Class Discussion Board Participation

A few days prior to our class debates, I will create a Discussion Board thread based on the corresponding chapter from the Rourke reader. There I will post two or three questions that will structure the in-class lecture and discussion on the issue up for debate. I have assigned six debate chapters from the Rourke reader. At least three times during the semester, you will be required to post a brief (between 150-250 words) comment on the thread. High-quality posts will demonstrate that you have read the assigned chapter and thought a bit about it. A reasonable effort in this regard will garner you a perfect score. In order to receive credit for your participation, you will need to upload your comment by the date and time indicated in the thread. You may respond to other commenters, but your post should consist primarily of your own thoughts and opinions. You are also strongly encouraged, although not required, to share your thoughts and comments with the class when we discuss the issue up for debate.

 

Short Paper

There will be one short paper assignment in GPOSC 225 this semester. The essay you write will be based on the film sessions that will take place during five evenings throughout the semester, and it will be due on the last day of class. More information about the paper will be provided later in the semester.