Political Science 100                                   Office: ZH-411

Section 7, Fall 2006                                    Office Hours: M-T-W-TH 1:30 to 2:30 P.M.

American Government and Politics            Otherwise by Appointment.                           

Instructor: Dr. Steve Berg                           E-mail:

9:30– 10:45 A.M. Tuesday & Thursday

Meeting in DU 461                            



This course provides a college level introduction to the American government and to political science.  Students will become acquainted with the theoretical and practical aspects of the American political system.  Areas covered will include the basic principles of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, the national policy making institutions of the United States, and the nature of the democratic political process in the United States.  Regular attendance is strongly recommended.  Attendance will be taken, recorded, and along with meaningful participation in the class will count towards the final grade you earn in the course.


Required Text:

America’s Democratic Republic, by Edward S. Greenberg and Benjamin I. Page.  Penguin Academics.  ©2005.  ISBN: 0-321-19821-2.


Course Requirements & Rules of the Game


Exams:  There will be three exams during the semester, and a comprehensive final exam.  The exams will be handed out at the end of class, and will be due at the beginning of the class meeting specified for that exam.  All of the exams may consist of short answer, and essay questions, at the Instructor’s discretion, and will be in the take-home format.  They must be printed out on a letter quality printer.  Points may be taken off for grammar and spelling mistakes.  The final exam will be due on Thursday, December 14, 2006, at 10-11:50 A.M. As per University policy, the class will meet on this date.  Each exam taken for record will be worth 25 % of your course grade.  Cheating on exams will result in serious consequences to those involved.  The lowest exam grade will be dropped.  This means that if you are happy with your grade by the time of the final exam, you do not need to take it.  If you miss or get an unsatisfactory grade on one exam you can take the final exam and hopefully improve your grade in the course.  The Instructor reserves the right to utilize pop quizzes as he deems appropriate.


Make-up exams, and grades of incomplete will be provided at the discretion of the Instructor, and only for instances of significant illness, personal tragedy, or otherwise similarly extraordinary circumstances.  The nature of the circumstances must be fully documented with appropriate evidence provided by the student.  Make-up exams will be different from the regular exams in the course.  Since I drop your lowest exam score, there is little need for make-up exams and it will be to your advantage to avoid taking them.


 Written assignments:  A three to five page scholarly paper is assigned during this course.  A bibliography page showing what sources you use is required, and all quoted materials must be appropriately noted with end notes so that the original sources can be readily determined.  Each paper must include an attached bibliography page, not counted in the 3 to 5 page length requirement, properly listing at least 10 references used in researching and writing the paper.  No more than half of the sources may be from the Internet.  The paper is to be typed or printed by ink-jet or laser computer printers.  Other computer printers can be used provided that the output is legible.  Papers should be double-spaced.  As this is a college level course, spelling, command of the English language and grammar are important elements of your work, and will be taken into account during grading.   This paper counts for 10% of your overall course grade.  Late papers will not be accepted for any reason.  The nature of this assignment is such that anyone handing in a late paper has an insurmountable advantage over those students who follow the rules and do things on time.  Papers showing evidence of plagiarism will be dealt with harshly.  The topic for the term paper this semester is: Who is going to be the Speaker of the House in the 110th Congress, and why?   The papers are due at the beginning of class on November 7, Election Day. 


Course grades will be based on the following criteria:


Three exams for record: 250 points each or 750 total points         75% of total grade

Research paper: 100 total points or                                                10% of total grade

Attendance, quizzes & meaningful class participation: 150 total points or 15% of total grade

Total score: 1000 total points or                                                     100% of final grade.

Grading scale:

90% to 100% = A

80% to 89% = B

70% to 79% = C

60% to 69% = D

0% to 59% = F


Attendance:  It is strongly suggested that you attend class on a regular basis.  Useful participation in class discussion is also encouraged.  There are several dimensions to the required sort of class participation.  First, it involves taking the course seriously.  This is largely indicated by showing up, being on time, being attentive in class and taking notes.  Those students who do not take the course seriously and exhibit behavior such as tardiness, sleeping in class, reading newspapers and other non-class related material during the class, talking persistently to other students, insulting students who ask questions, or being otherwise inattentive to the lectures and class discussions will be asked to leave and may be administratively withdrawn from the course by the Instructor.  Second, making an honest attempt to learn the subject matter of the course includes such things as asking intelligent questions, bringing in germane articles to share with the class, and being active in the discussions.  The mixture of readings, lectures, discussions, and questions is intended to help make the subject matter fall into place and become more understandable to you.  Class participation and attendance will be worth up to 15% of your final course grade.  Tardiness is frowned upon as it disrupts the smooth functioning of the class.  To minimize such classroom disruption, the Instructor reserves the right to reduce the attendance portion of the grades of frequently tardy students.  In particularly egregious cases, chronically tardy students may be administratively withdrawn from the course.  Students are to leave the class meeting only with the express approval of the Instructor.  The only exceptions to this are extraordinary circumstances such as a bona fide emergency, medical condition, or some other contingency previously approved by the Instructor. 


Extra Credit: The Instructor reserves the right to place one extra credit question on each of the exams.  No other extra credit will be given. 


Deportment: Courteous and considerate behavior is required in this course.  Abusive and otherwise inappropriate actions will result in the miscreant(s) being administratively withdrawn and/or expelled from the course, and the appropriate University judicial authorities will be apprised of the situation.   Unless authorized by the Instructor in advance, all electronic devices such as cell phones, pagers, portable radios, music playback devices and other entertainment and communications equipment shall be turned off for the duration of each class meeting.  You can make those all-important calls at other, more appropriate times.


Humor: The Instructor reserves the right to have a sense of humor and exercise it in the class.


Miscellaneous: The Instructor of this course was a champion non-traditional student at this university.  Consequently, he realizes that crises and emergencies crop up in the lives of students as they do for faculty.  Whenever possible, prompt discussion of the situation with the Instructor is a Really Good Idea.  Those students who are on scholarships requiring the maintenance of acceptable grade point averages are advised to contact the Instructor immediately should they suspect that they might be in some difficulty in the course.  This is especially true for those students with athletic scholarships.  Should any of you have a personal crisis of one sort or another that adversely impacts your performance in this course you are advised to see me immediately during my office hours.  I do not need to hear the private details, but will try to work with you to salvage as much of your grade in this course as is possible.  It is always much easier to make accommodations before the end of the semester.  It is virtually impossible to do so after the semester is ended.  In the hopefully unlikely event that anyone must be absent due to a death in the family or similar tragedy, please talk to me and give me some documentation such as a newspaper obituary and what you missed from class can usually be worked out.   



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.



Tentative Course Outline & Reading Assignments:


(August 29)

Introductions: Getting acquainted, organized, and the basics of government & politics.  Discussion of the importance of politics.  Start on the nature of rights and the Declaration of Independence.  Read: Chapter 1 in the textbook, and the Declaration of Independence on Page A-1 through A-3.


(August 31)

More of the basics, and moving on to the American Founding, and read and discuss the Declaration of Independence.  The Articles of Confederation and the Constitutional Convention.  Read: Chapter 2 in the textbook.


(September 5 and September 7)

Major Constitutional Principles/Institutions such as Federalism and the Separation of Powers.  Read: Chapters 3 and 8, and  Federalist 10 and Federalist 51 on Pages A-20 through A-26 in the textbook.


(September 12 and September 14)

Go over Article I and the Congress.  Read: Chapter 11, and Article I of the Constitution on pages A-4 through A-8 in the textbook


(September 18 and September 21)

Finish up the constitutional basis of the Congress, and discuss how this has been modified by political parties.  Read: handout on Congressional officers.  Hand out first Examon Thursday..


(September 26 and September 28)

First Exam is due on Thursday.  Start on Article II, the Executive Branch.  Read: Chapter 12 in the Textbook.




(October 3 and October 5)

Continue discussing the Executive Branch and the Presidency.  Explain the Electoral College.  Read: Article II in the Constitution on pages A-8 through A-10 in the textbook.


(October 10 and October 12)

Continue on and finish off the Executive Branch, Presidency and the Federal Bureaucracies. Read: Chapter 13 in the textbook.   Hand out Second Exam on Thursday.


(October 17 and October 19)

Start on the Judicial Branch.  Read: Chapter 14, and  Article III of the Constitution on Page A-10 in the textbook .  Second Exam is due on Thursday.


(October 24 and October 26)

Continue discussing the Judicial Branch & finish Articles IV, V, VI and VII.  Read: Pages A-10 through A-12 in the textbook.


 (October 31 and November 2)

Start on the Bill of Rights.  Read: the first 10 amendments on Pages A-12 through A-13 in the textbook.  Also covering  elections and citizen participation.  Read also Chapter 10 in the textbook.


(November 7 (Election Day) and November 9)

 Term papers are due at the beginning of class on Tuesday.  Discuss the election results.  Finish the Bill of Rights and discuss start to discuss Civil Liberties.    Read: Chapter 4 in the textbook.  Third Exam handed out on Thursday. 


(November 14 and November 16)

Third Exam, is due at the beginning of class on Thursday.    Start on the post Bill of Rights Constitutional amendments.  Read: Amendments XI through XXVII on Pages A-13 through A-19.  Third Exam is due on Thursday.


(November 21)

Public Opinion and the Media.  Read: Chapters 6 and 7 in the textbook.


(November 28 and November 30)

Discuss Civil Rights and Political Parties.   Read: Chapters 5 and 9 in the Textbook.


December 5 and December 7)

Finishing up the course and on December 7, handing out the final exam.


(December 14)

Final Exam is due at the beginning of class.