POLS 497 Issues and the Presidential Election

The Christian Science Monitor:Fall 2004


Instructor:†††††††† Daniel R. Kempton

Time: †††††††††††††† Monday, 7-8:15 PM

Place:†††††††††††††† Douglas Big Blue

Phone:††††††††††††† 753-7040

Email:†††††††††††††† dkempton@niu.edu


Apathetic voters often complain that who is elected doesnít really matter.However, empirical research suggests that this isnít true.Not only do candidates frequently hold markedly different views on major issues, but recent presidents have taken action on a large percentage of their campaign promises.Thus who is elected does matter.


In this course students will follow the key issues in the presidential election as they develop during Fall 2004.During the semester students will be required to subscribe to and read the Christian Science Monitor (CSM), or to regularly read the Monitorís on line version at http://www.csmonitor.com/.In preparation for each class session, students are required to read at least four stories in the CSM relating to the presidential election.Students should differentiate between news stories, Monitor editorial and Opinion-Editorial stories.


During the semester students will keep a journal which summarizes the news stories that they have read.Each article entry should include the title of the article, the date and a brief summary of the thesis of the article.The remainder of the entry should consist of the studentís reaction to and assessment of the main argument or thesis of each article.Each entry should be approximately one-half page typed and double spaced, with standard margins.Students will also be required to keep a folder in which they maintain a copy of each article that is summarized in their journals.


Two typed journal entries will be submitted at the beginning of each class.(Journal entries will be returned with comments and suggestions, as well as a basic grade of √, √-, or √+.)Students will also be asked to summarize their journal articles during each class session and to present their critique of the authorís argument.Late entries will be accepted, but will receive no better than a √-.


Attendance at, and participation, in class discussions is the main basis for the participation grade.Thus, please come to class ready to summarize and comment on your journal entries.To receive a ďBĒ or better for you participation grade, you may not miss more than one class and must contribute regularly to class discussions and at least three entries to the blackboard discussion group.You can log into the course pages and post to the course discussion group at https://webcourses.niu.edu/.


Each student will write a critical essay of approximately 5 pages and submit it no later than November 22.The essay will discuss two issues on which the presidential candidates differ.There are three necessary components of a good critical essay.First, briefly detail how the candidates differ on the issue.Second, critique the candidatesí stands.This may entail exposing inconsistencies, ambiguity, and disagreement with goals, as well as praise.Finally, explain which candidateís views you find better and why.You need not select the same candidateís views on both issues, nor need you select the views of the candidate you favor.Essays will be graded on the accuracy of your description of the candidatesí views, the quality of your critique and the presentation of the arguments.


Critical essays are due in the Political Science Office (Zulauf 315) before 4:30 PM on November 22.  Late essays will be downgraded 1/3 letter grade for each weekday that they are late. Thus, an "A" essay becomes and "A-" after one day and a "B+" after two days. There will be no exceptions to this rule. Therefore, students with sick relatives, paper-eating canines, low-life typists, or virus prone computers--as well as those students who are routinely taken hostage aboard alien spaceships--are strongly encouraged to compensate for any potential mishaps by preparing their essay and entries in advance of the submission deadlines.



Class Participation ††††††† = 20%

Combined Journal††††††††† = 40%

Essay†††††††††††††††††††††††††† = 40%


Tentative Class Schedule:

First Meeting†††††††††††††††† 30 August 2004

Second Meeting††††††††††††††††††††††† 20 September 2004

Third Meeting†††††††††††††† 4 October 2004

Fourth Meeting††††††††††††† 18 October 2004

Fifth Meeting††††††††††††††† 1 November 2004

Election Night†††††††††††††† 2 November 2004

Sixth Meeting †††††††††††††† 15 November 2004

Paper is Due†††††††††††††††† 22 November 2004