POLS 260: Foreign and Comparative Politics

Fall 2004, Sections 2-3; DuSable 459: MW 2:00-3:15 & 3:30-4:45 p.m.


Gregory D. Schmidt                                                                      

Office: Zulauf 308                                                                         

Phone: 753-7058                                                                           

Office Hours: MW 11 a.m.-noon                                                       

                       & by appointment                                                   

E-mail: gschmidt@niu.edu                                                            


Welcome to the world of comparative politics!  This course is NIU’s introduction to the study of political systems outside of the United States.  During the first half of the course we will explore key issues in comparative politics and contrast the political development of Great Britain and France, two early modernizing countries in Europe.  After the midterm exam, we will examine different patterns of political development in two late modernizing countries: Japan and Peru. 


Course Policies and Requirements


1. The Learning Environment.  Your instructor is committed to the principle of active learning.  For me, this means that learning cannot take place without students’ active involvement in, commitment to, and responsibility for their own education.  Hence, it is important that students conduct themselves in ways that indicate respect for the learning community and the learning process.  During lecture segments, please raise your hand if you have a question.  We can, however, be less formal during class discussions, so long as we remember to treat one another with common courtesy.  Respect for the learning community precludes such behavior as persistent tardiness, leaving the room during class time (unless one has previously advised the instructor or there is an emergency), falling asleep, reading the newspaper, and studying for another class.  NIU policies regarding classroom conduct are discussed in the 2004-05 Undergraduate Catalog, pp. 49 and 307.


2. Attendance.  Regular attendance is expected and will account for 10 percent of your final grade.  Two absences and two tardies are automatically excused but documentation will be needed to excuse any additional absences.  I will subtract 1 point for each unexcused absence and a half point for each additional tardy.  Students with extremely poor attendance will receive negative grades for attendance.


In general, I will excuse absences for illness (with doctor’s note), a documented emergency or family tragedy, an occasional school activity that is scheduled at the same time, and other reasonable conflicts.  I will not excuse absences for regular commitments (e.g. sports practices, play rehearsals, student teaching) that may be scheduled at the same time.  If you have such a conflict, you should take another section of this class or consider another course.  Nor should you schedule commitments at the time of class (e.g. routine doctor’s visits, dentist appointments, waiting for your cable to be installed, etc.).





3. Readings and Lectures.  Please purchase the two texts that will be used in this course

at the Student Center or Village Commons Bookstores:


Michael G. Roskin, Countries and Concepts: Politics, Geography, Culture, 8th edition (Prentice Hall, 2004)


Gregory D. Schmidt, Peru: The Politics of Surprise (McGraw-Hill, 2004) (available later in the semester).


Some short readings may also be handed out in class or placed on Blackboard.


Lectures will parallel and complement, but not merely repeat, the material in the textbook.  You are responsible for material covered in the readings but not in the lectures and vice versa.  You should complete reading assignments for each date before coming to class.


4. Study Guides, Quizzes, and Website.  Study guides and other ancillary materials will be posted on Blackboard before most, if not all, classes.  These resources and the website for Roskin  (http://wps.prenhall.com/hss_roskin_countries_8) will help you prepare for

the 6-8 unannounced quizzes to be given in class on the reading assigned for that day.

Make-ups of quizzes will be given only under extraordinary circumstances at the discretion of the instructor.


You should review the relevant study guide, especially any “quizzable” questions, before coming to class.  The study guides should also help you to integrate material from the readings and lecture for the exams.


Materials for Monday classes will be posted no later than noon of the previous Friday.  Materials for Wednesday classes will be posted no later than noon of the preceding Tuesday.  Only if there is a technical or human problem with Blackboard will the relevant materials be distributed in class.


5. Accessing Blackboard.  You can access Blackboard by following these steps:


1. Type the URL http://webcourses.niu.edu/ in the address box of your browser (Internet Explorer works best) or go to the NIU homepage and click on "Current Students," then "Academics," and then "Blackboard Course Server."  You can also access Blackboard with the A-Z feature of the NIU homepage.


2. Click the Login Button.


3. Type username (Novel ID = student ZID) and password.  For help with your password, please go to password.niu.edu or phone 753-8100.


4. Click Login.


5. Click on the title of this course, .


6. Click on assignments.


7. Open and print out the relevant assignment.


If you have problems in accessing Blackboard, please call 753-8100.


6. Videos.  I will show a number of videos on course-related topics to the extent that time and scheduling permit.  These are not "blow-off" classes; indeed, some exam questions will be based on audiovisual materials.  I will help you to focus on the most pertinent information and perspectives.  You should print out any study guides for the videos before coming to class.


7. Exams.  A mid-term exam, scheduled for October 20, will be comprised of multiple choice and true/false questions.  The final exam, scheduled for December 6, will follow the same format.  Each exam will cover a discrete section of the course, though some of the material has a cumulative character.  If necessary, exam grades will be curved in accordance with overall student performance. I will hand back the mid-term for review in class, however, departmental policy requires me to retain all objective questions and answers on file.  The final exam will remain on file and available for review until the end of the Spring 2005 semester.


Make-up exams will be given only in the case of a documented medical or personal emergency.  In such an event, you must notify me before the exam.  Make-up exams may be all short answer, a format that requires more intensive preparation.


8. Paper.  Drawing on recent periodicals, academic journals, and/or on-line sources, each student will write a 5 page paper analyzing a major contemporary political issue or

significant recent event in Great Britain, France, Japan, or Peru.  More specific instructions will be passed out by the third week of class.  Papers will be due in class on November 29.  Late papers  will be penalized 5 points for each day of tardiness. I will not accept papers that reach me after class on December 1.  Graded papers will be returned on December 6, at the time of the final exam.


9. Extra Credit and Class Participation.  I will not accept extra credit projects to improve low quiz or test grades.  I will, however, be glad to help students improve their study habits.  Moreover, you can earn up to 3 points of extra credit through class participation.  I will add 1 point to the final averages of those students who, in my judgment, made a significant contribution to class discussion.  I will add 2 points for above-average class participation and 3 points for outstanding participation.  In assessing class participation, I will emphasize quality, rather than mere quantity.


10. Course Grade.  The following weights will be use in determining your course average:


Attendance      10%

Quizzes            20%

Paper               20%

                                                            Mid-term         25%

                                                            Final                25%




Any extra points for class participation will be added to this average.


Course Grades will be distributed as follows:


Final Average and Extra Credit                                              Final Grade

                            90-100%                                                                         A       

                            80-89%                                                                           B                                 

                            65-79%                                                                           C

                            50-64%                                                                           D

                            Below 50%                                                                     F


11. Seating and Checking Attendance.  After the first week of class, all students will sit in permanently assigned seats to facilitate the checking of attendance and so that I can learn your names.  If you arrive after roll is checked, please notify me at the end of class and I will mark you tardy.  


Please do not leave class early without prior permission, as this is very distracting.  I will count any “walkouts” as absences unless the student has permission or there is an emergency.


12. Incompletes.  No incompletes will be given for reasons other than a medical or personal emergency and then only after presentation of verifiable documentation.  Academic hardship does not qualify as an acceptable excuse.


13. Adjustments in Course Schedule.  I will do my best to follow the course schedule outlined below, but I reserve the right to make reasonable adjustments with adequate warning if unforeseeable or uncontrollable circumstances (e.g. weather, illness, travel) so warrant.  It is not fair, however, to modify the class schedule or previously set exam dates simply to accommodate the preferences of some students, since other students inevitably suffer.


14.  Academic Integrity.  Students are expected to know and comply with NIU policies on academic integrity (see p. 49 of 2004-05 Undergraduate Catalog).  Any student found guilty of cheating will receive an “F” for the course.  He or she may also be subject to additional sanctions imposed by the University.


Course Outline



Introduction to Course



Basic Concepts: Nation and State

Roskin, pp. 1-9, box on p. 17.




Roskin, boxes on pp. 9 and 15.



Great Britain: The Impact of the Past

Roskin, pp. 20-35.



            Video: Margaret Thatcher: “The Iron Lady”



Social Cleavages and Political Culture: Comparative Perspectives and Britain

Roskin, pp. 11-12, boxes on pp. 13-14, 53-65.



Electoral Systems and Parties: Comparative Perspectives and Britain

 Roskin, p. 10 (paragraph on parties), pp. 50-51; review  pp. 56-58 and 61;

pp. 66-73.

Video on Proportional Representation



Governmental Institutions: Comparative Perspectives and Britain

Roskin, pp. 9-10, 12-16, 36-50, 73-77.



Video: Order! Order! Britain’s Parliament at Work



Quarrels: Comparative Perspectives and Britain

Roskin, pp. 17-18, 79-93.



France: The Impact of the Past

Roskin, pp. 96-112.

Video: The French Revolution



France: The Impact of the Past (continued)

France: Political Culture

Roskin, pp. 130-145.

Video, The Essential History of France



France: Elections and Parties

                        Roskin, box on p.119, pp. 124-126, review boxes on pp. 136

and 144; pp. 147-157.



            Video, François Mitterrand: A Tale of Power



France: Governmental Institutions

Roskin, pp. 113-124, 127-128 157-160.



France: Quarrels

Roskin, pp. 162-175.






Mid-Term Exam



Go Over Mid-Term Exam in Class

Japan: The Impact of the Past

Roskin, pp. 340-350, box on p. 352.



Video: Meiji: Asia’s Response to the West



Japan: The Impact of the Past

Roskin, pp. 350-352.

Video: Reinventing Japan



Japan: Political Culture

Roskin, pp. 367-381.

Japan: Elections and Parties

Roskin, pp. 359-363, 387-389.



Japan: Governmental Institutions

Roskin, pp. 354-359, 363-366, 382-386, 389-394.



Japan: Quarrels

Roskin, pp. 396-411.

Video, Bursting the Bubble



            Peru: The Impact of the Past

                        Schmidt, pp. TBA



            Peru: Tenuous Democracy and the Tsunami

                        Schmidt, pp. TBA

Video, Mario Vargas Llosa: The Story of the Novelist Who Would be President

(selected portions)



            Peru:  The Decade of Fujimori

                        Schmidt, pp. TBA


Video, The Fujimori Empire (selected portions)


            Video, Peruvian News Coverage of 2000 election                



Peru: Déjà Vu All Over Again?

                        Schmidt, pp. TBA


Peru: Political Culture, Organizations, and Conflict

                        Schmidt, pp. TBA


            Peru: Political Institutions and Processes

                        Schmidt, pp. TBA



            Peru: The State and the Economy

                        Schmidt, pp. TBA


            Video, Peru: Road to Recovery (selected portions)


            Teacher Evaluation





Final Exam: 2-3:50 p.m.  (Section 2)

                    4-5:50 p.m.   (Section 3)



Additional Information for Students Taking Political Science Courses


1. Undergraduate Writing Awards.  The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies.  Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing.  Winners are expected to attend the Department’s spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50.00. Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 28.  All copies should have two cover pages – one with the student’s name and one without the student’s name.  Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award.  However, papers completed in the Spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.


2. 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.


3. Department of Political Science Website.  Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science website 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 http://www.niu.edu/acad/polisci/pols.html