Political Science 100-8††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† David M. Dolence

American Government and Politics†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Office: Du461

Fall 2003†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Phone: 753-1818

T 6:00-8:40 (DU 459)†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† E-mail:

Hours: MF2-5 or appointment




POLS 100: American Government and Politics provides a college level introduction to the American political system at the national level.It also serves as a prerequisite for many upper level courses in American Government. While it is an introduction course, it will be challenging.The American political system is not for the faint at heart.It demands that its citizens be informed and knowledgeable on issues concerning government, since the people are the government in the United States.




All students are expected to have full access to a copy of the following text. It is available in both bookstores on campus.


American Government: Brief Version, 6th edition, James Q. Wilson, Houghton Mifflin Co., 2003.


Occasionally students may be asked to do additional readings that may be found on the internet or provided by the instructor.NIU students have access to the internet from their assigned NIU.EDU account. If you do not already have your Z-ID number and access to an NIU account, you should make an early effort to acquire one (a personal account is adequate).The instructor is working under the assumption that everyone has access to the internet from some source.If this is a false assumption, it is the studentís responsibility to let him know.


Some Useful Websites:†††††††††††††††††††††





††††††††††† Unit 1: Introduction to Government and the American Founding

††††††††††† Unit 2: Legislative Department


††††††††††† Unit 3: Executive Department

††††††††††† Unit 4: Judicial Department


††††††††††† Unit 5: Amendments

††††††††††† Unit 6: Political Institutions




26 August


I. Course Introduction

††††††††††††††† READ: Syllabus

II. What is Government?

III. Forms of Government

††††††††††††††† READ: Aristotle handout


2 September


I. Government and the American Founding

READ: Declaration of Independence (Wilson, p 378)

†††††††††††† Wilson, chap 1,2†††† †††††††

††††††††††††††† †††††††††††† Constitution, Art IV, sec 4

II. Federalism

††††††††††††††† READ: Wilson chap. 3 (34-43; summary)

††††††††††††† Constitution [Quick Scan] Art I, sec 3, cl 1; sec 4; sec 8-10;

Art II, sec 1, cl 2-3; Art IV, sec 1-3

9 September


††††††††††††††† I. Legislative Department: Structure, Powers, and Role

READ: Constitution, Art I

††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††† Wilson, chap 7; Federalist #51 (appendix, pp 408-11)


16 September


I. Legislative Department: Structure, Powers, and Role (continued)


23 September†††††† **ASSIGNMENT #1**


††††††††††††††† II. How a Bill Becomes a Law

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Re-READ: Wilson, chap 7 (198-204)


30 September†††††† **EXAM 1**


7 October


††††††††††††††† I. The Executive Department: Structure, Powers, and Role

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† READ: Constitution, Art II, amendment XII

†††††††††††† Wilson, chap 8, chap 4 (pp 86-87)


14 October


††††††††††††††† I. The Executive Department: Structure, Powers, and Role (continued)


21 October†††††††††††


II. The Electoral College

READ: Electoral College internet site (provided)


28 October††††††††††† **ASSIGNMENT #2**


II. The Judicial Department: Structure, Powers, and Process

††††††††††††††† READ: Constitution, Art III

††††††††††††††† †††††††††††† Wilson, chap 10


4 November


II. The Judicial Department: Structure, Powers, and Process (continued)


11 November††††††† **EXAM 2**


18 November††††††† **SELECTED COURT CASE BRIEFS**


I. Amending The Constitution

READ: Constitution, Art V, amendments I-X, XIV

II. Incorporation of the first ten amendments

††††††††††††††† READ: Wilson, chap 11 (pp 312-333)


III. Personal freedoms and the First Amendment


25 November††††††† **SELECTED COURT CASE BRIEFS**


III. Personal Freedoms and the First Amendment (continued)


IV. The Criminal Amendments




IV. The Criminal Amendments (continued)


V. Topic(s) to be Determined



Tuesday 9 December (6:00 - 7:50 pm)††††††††††† **EXAM 3 AND FINAL EXAM **




1. Classroom Behavior and Attendance: Courtesy and regard for one another should guide classroom behavior.Differences in opinion will inevitably arise in good discussions. Absolute agreement is NEVER required, but respect is ALWAYS required.Attendance at each class is both expected and necessary for success in this class.Being in attendance is defined as being present at the beginning of class and remaining in class until the instructor dismisses the class for the day.Students who are having difficulty arriving on time may be barred from class.Occasional difficulties do arise and are understandable if an appropriate explanation and apology are offered after class.If there are any scheduling problems that cannot be avoided, please consult with the instructor immediately

Students are expected to be attentive to the lectures and class discussions.Students who sleep, read the paper, persistently talk with other students or are otherwise inattentive will be asked to leave the class and will be subject to administrative dismissal from the course.All cell phones must be turned off when class begins.If a cell phone rings during class, the owner will be asked to leave and the absence will be unexcused.Students who have extended absences due to illness should notify the instructor as promptly as possible during the absence and produce a doctorís note indicating the nature and duration of the illness.This note should be presented at the first class upon returning.Extended absences are regarded as not fulfilling course requirements and, unless justified with appropriate documentation, will adversely affect the final grade.


2. Class Preparation and Note Taking: The best way to prepare for each class is to do the readings at least once (some require more than one reading) prior to the first day we begin each unit.You will be much better able to participate in and to grasp the class discussions if you have done so.Note taking is an important ingredient to success in this course.Learn to listen carefully to the arguments made and write them down as best you can.Good discussions will move beyond the readings and are likely to return on a test or quiz. Studentsí questions frequently lead to important points and essential discussions.You will be evaluated on your understanding of important material, regardless of who specifically brings it into the discussion.In other words, if it is discussed in class or in the readings, it is acceptable test material.


3. Class Participation:Participation in class is expected, required, and rewarded.Participation means that students demonstrate that they are trying to understand the arguments being made both in the reading and in the discussions, by asking questions or making comments which show problems with the arguments and by responding to questions which the instructor raises.Merely talking does not fulfill the expectation set for participation.The kind of participation expected is one which shows that you are trying to understand what the whole picture looks like, what each part looks like, and how the parts fit into that whole.


4. Grading:Final grades will be based on a studentís performance in the following areas:


THREE (3) EXAMS (20%x2 and 25%x1): Exams may consist of multiple choice, short answer, and/or essay questions covering the reading and class discussions.More specific details of the format will be determined by the movement of the class discussion and will be provided before each exam.Each exam will cover approximately two units as outlined in the General Course Outline above.There may be overlap and understanding material from previous units may be required for a full understanding of later units.The third exam will be taken during finals week.The studentís highest exam score will be counted as 25% of the final grade and the two lower scores will count as 20% of the total class grade.


††††††††††† FINAL EXAM (15%): The final exam will include all material discussed in the course and any current topics that are related to the content of the course.The exam will be a class group exam with a separate, randomly selected student leading the discussion on each question.The size of the class dictates that not all students will lead a question, but all are expected to participate.All notes in your own hand and the book will be allowed.Attending class all semester and taking organized notes should be sufficient preparation for success on this exam.Failure to be present on the scheduled finals day and time will result in the loss of this 15% of the total grade.Further information will be provided as the course proceeds.


THREE (3) ASSIGNMENTS (15%): There will be three assignments due at different points during the semester.There will be three options that the student may choose from for each assignment; however, every student is required to complete one assignment from each option.The options include: 1) book chapter summary and commentary, 2) Internet based assignment provided in class, 3) Current news summary and commentary.The assignments will be totaled and recorded as one grade for purposes of the final grade.More details will be provided in a separate handout.


††††††††††††††† IN-CLASS COURT CASE BRIEF (5%): U.S. Supreme Court cases and U.S. Federal Court cases will be critical during our discussion of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution.This topic will be addressed following the second exam in the course.Each student will be assigned one court case that deals with one of the first ten amendments.The student on the relevant day will give a short brief on the facts of the case and the result of the case.This is an ďeffortĒ assignment.No legal expertise or deep philosophical understanding is required.The student simply needs to show that an effort was made and be present on the day the brief is due.In other words, take the time to read the case and show up on the appropriate day and the points are yours.


ATTENDANCE and PARTICIPATION:Attendance will be taken and the instructor throughout the course will monitor participation.No direct penalty will be assessed for attendance, but students who are habitually absent can expect difficulty in this course.An excused absence allows the student to make up work missed because of that absence, but an unexcused absence removes that opportunity.The instructor reserves the right to raise a studentís final grade if that studentís attendance and participation has been exceptional.It can only help - do the readings, attend class, and participate!


Grading percentage summary: †††† 20% (x2)†††††††††† Exams

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 25%†††††

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 15% †††††††††††††††† Final Exam

15%††††††††††††††††† Assignments

5%†††††††††††††††††† In-Class Court Case Brief



5. Syllabus: The syllabus is a tentative schedule for the course.Each course progresses at a unique pace and it is inevitable that changes will be necessary.The instructor will announce any changes in class.In other words, one more reason for regular attendance is to stay up to date on important assignment and test dates.


6. Make-up Exams: Make-up exams will be given only with adequate documentation that the absence was unavoidable.The make-up exams are sufficiently more difficult than the original that prudent people will avoid them where possible.Students who miss the final with a well-documented excused absence will be required to take a written final exam.


7. Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities

Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building. CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


8. Department of Political Science Web Site

Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to


9. Appointments: The instructor will make every reasonable effort to be available to students.If you cannot come during scheduled office hours, please call or e-mail to schedule a mutually convenient appointment.