POLS 100, Sections 1-6
Intro to American Government and Politics
Professor Mikel Wyckoff
Office: Zulauf 403
Hours: M 11-12:15; W 12-1:15 and By Appointment
Section 1 (GH 342) Mr. James Bagaka firstname.lastname@example.org
Section 2 (GH 424) Ms. Jessica Jones email@example.com
Section 3 (AB 103) Ms. Anja Hartleb firstname.lastname@example.org
Section 4 (AB 102) Mr. Joseph Scanlon email@example.com
Section 5 (DU 280) Ms. Elissa Stowell firstname.lastname@example.org
Section 6 (DU 276) Mr. Paul Vasholz email@example.com
NOTE: Review Questions for Exams 1-3 can be found at the end of this online syllabus. Scroll down to find them.
This course provides a college level introduction to the
American political system and serves as a prerequisite for some upper level
courses in American Government. Three general topics will be covered during the
semester: (1) politics and the democratic process in the
The following textbook is required and should be available at either of the campus bookstores:
Also, please note that several additional required readings must be located online at various Internet websites. Consult the outline below for specific assignments. Occasionally this may involve using a computer at an NIU computing lab to gain access to sites for which NIU has paid subscription fees (e.g., www.jstor.org ). For an online version of this syllabus with links to required readings go to www.polisci.niu.edu .
III. COURSE REQUIREMENTS AND RULES OF THE GAME
Cell Phones & Class Decorum. With rare exceptions, cell phones, Ipods, etc. should be turned off before class starts. I ask also that you be civil during class and respect the needs of your fellow students, most of whom actually will be trying to do well in the course! If you dont, the grouchy old professor may ask you to leave.
General Advice. Your best strategy for success is to keep up with the assigned readings, attend class regularly, take good notes, and then study (!) for the exams. Study guides are provided (see the online syllabus) but a good set of notes and a familiarity with key readings will be your best guide to the content of the exams.
Exams. Three hourly exams will be given. All will be multiple choice in format and each will contribute 22.5% to your final grade. Even though it is not a comprehensive final, Exam III will be administered during finals week. Barring extraordinary circumstances everyone must take Exam III at that time.
Written Assignments. About every other week you will prepare a brief essay (1-2 pages of text, typed and double-spaced) reacting to one of the lecture topics for that week. The course outline (below) will tell you exactly when papers are due. Papers not submitted in person during your Friday morning discussion session will normally receive a grade reduction of at least one letter. Exceptions will be made for persons experiencing extraordinary circumstances as defined below under makeup exams. My TAs and I regard these papers as a serious part of the course, so spelling, grammar, and sentence structure will be taken into account when assigning grades. Together, your short essays will contribute an additional 22.5% to your final grade.
Participation in Discussion Sections. I strongly encourage you to attend your Friday morning discussion section because: (1) participation in these meetings will contribute 10% to your final course grade; (2) your discussion leaders are the ones who will be grading your written assignments (worth 22.5% of your course grade) and who will be there for help when you need it; (3) this is a great chance to discuss issues of government and politics in a small group setting. Those who take the course seriously will want to attend.
Final Grade Computations. Based on the weights mentioned above, when computing your final grade I will use the following formula in my spread sheet:
Final Grade = .225(Exam I) + .225(Exam 2) + .225(Exam 3) + .225(Avg. for 6 Written Assignments) + .10(Discussion Section Participation)
Makeup exams and grades of incomplete will be provided cheerfully when needed, but only for reasons of significant illness, family tragedy, being away on university business, or other extraordinary circumstances. Furthermore, evidence of the extraordinary circumstance normally must be documented by the student. Should makeup exams be necessary, I reserve the right to switch to an essay format if I deem it necessary.
Extra credit. Sorry, none is available. No exceptions. If you find youre having trouble, seek help early in the semester and devise strategies for improving your performance on required exams and assignments.
Students with Disabilities. NIU abides by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which mandates reasonable accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. If you have a disability and require some type of instructional accommodation, please let me know. If you have not already done so, you will need to register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources, the office on campus that provides services for students with disabilities. The CAAR office is located in the University Health Services building (753-1303).
COURSE OUTLINE AND READING ASSIGNMENTS
I will do my best to adhere to the following schedule, but I reserve the right to make modifications if needed.
I: POLITICS AND THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS IN THE
A. Organizational Issues and Basics of Government and Politics (Week of August 27)
John Locke, Chapter 9 from The Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690);
W. Saletan, "What Reagan Got Wrong," locate at www.slate.com/id/2101835
B. Public Opinion and Ideology in
Read: JBGH, Ch. 1, pp. 12-17; Ch. 4, especially pp. 91-102 & 109-end.
Paul Krugman, "The Waiting Game" and "Health Care Terror" locate at:
www.nytimes.com (in TimesSelect, 7/16/07 and 7/22/07).
Maureen Dowd, Outing the Out of Touch, www.nytimes.com (in TimesSelect, 6/10/07).
Clarence Page, Ron Paul Big on Net, and When Did Liberal Become a Dirty Word,
Locate both at www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists
Write: First, run IDEALOG at www.uspolitics.org (do the readings and the survey you find there).
Then write a 1-2 page essay explaining which ideological category you wound up in (liberal,
conservative, libertarian or communitarian) and why. Due Friday, September 14.
C. Thinking about Democracy (September 12)
Read: JBGH, Ch. 1, pp. 17-end and p. 163 (The Model of Responsible Party Government).
Federalist Paper #10; locate at : www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/federal/fed.htm
In Federalist 10, founding father James Madison is worried about self-interested groups
(factions) and how to design a democratic system to protect the nation from them. Where do
factions come from? When trying to control factions does he favor: (1) direct or indirect
democracy? (2) majority rule or pluralistic democracy? (3) a large nation or a small nation?
D. Political Parties (Week of September 17)
V.O. Key, A Theory of Critical Elections, Journal of Politics (1955), pp. 3-11 only. (Find at
www.jstor.org using an NIU Internet connection).
Write: In this article, Key proposes the concept of a critical election. What are the essential
characteristics of a critical election? In his examination
choose the particular communities that appear in his analysis (Figure A)? What do the trends
for those two communities reveal? Explain in a 1-2 page paper due Friday, September 21.
E. Interest Group Politics (Week of September 24)
Read: JBGH, Ch. 7 and review Ch. 1, pp. 22-24 (pluralistic democracy).
EXAM I: Friday, September 28 (administered in discussion section)
PART II: THE CONSTITUTION AND BILL OF RIGHTS
A. Constitutional Origins (Week of October 1)
John Roche, The Founding Fathers: A Reform Caucus in Action, American Political Science
Review (1961), Intro and Parts 2-4, pp. 799-800 and 803-811 (at http://www.jstor.org/ )
B. Principles of the Constitution I (Week of October 8)
Read: JBGH, Ch. 2, pp. 42-48, 51-end.
Federalist Paper #51; locate at : www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/federal/fed.htm
You may also wish to review Federalist 10.
Still concerned about the dangers of factions, in Federalist 51
structure and organization of government to create a system of checks and balances. How will
his scheme of checks and balances work? One requirement is that every branch have a will
of its own. How does the Constitution encourage that? Also, certain branches deserve special
attention. Comment and explain in a 1-2 page paper (due Friday October 12).
C. Principles of the Constitution II: Federalism (Monday, October 15)
Read: JBGH, Ch. 3, pp. 62-79, 81-end.
Rehnquist's opinion for the Court and the first 3-4 pages of Justice Breyer's dissent (scroll
down some 30 pages to find it). Compare and contrast these opposing interpretations of
Congress' authority stemming from the commerce clause.
D. Civil Liberties and the Bill of Rights (October 17, 22, 24)
Engel v. Vitale (1962); locate at www.findlaw.com
Write: Read Justice Blacks opinion of the Court in Engel v. Vitale and Justice Stewarts dissenting
opinion. Compare and contrast these two conflicting interpretations of the establishment
clause. Which is most convincing to you? Why? (1-2 page paper due Friday, October 26)
E. Civil Rights (Week of October 29)
"The Heterosexual Revolution," at: www.stephaniecoontz.com/articles/article21.htm
EXAM II: Friday, November 2 (administered in discussion section)
PART III: NATIONAL POLICY MAKING INSTITUTIONS
A. The Supreme Court and Judicial Review (Week of November 5 )
C. Krauthammer, "From Thomas, Original Views," locate at:
B. Presidential and Congressional Elections (Week of November 12)
Federalist Paper #68 ( locate at www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/federal/fed.htm)
Jack Rakove, The Accidental Electors,. NY Times (12/19/00) Handout.
Write: Writing in Federalist 68, Alexander Hamilton argues that the Electoral College is a
sophisticated institution carefully designed by the great thinkers at the Constitutional
Convention. Based on his reading of the debates that actually occurred at the Convention,
scholar Jack Rakove has a different analysis of the origins of this peculiar institution.
Discuss in a 1-2 page paper due Friday, November 16.
Read: JBGH, Ch. 8 and Article I of the Constitution, pp. A3-A6, especially sections 8 & 9.
Write: Go to thomas.loc.gov . Click on House of Representatives, then on Committees (see
left column, both pages). Investigate several of these standing committees. Then write a
paper explaining which committee you would like to work on if you were a new member of
the House. Among the questions you should consider: (a) What kinds of bills would you be
dealing with? (b) How would this committee help you represent the district from which you
were elected? (1-2 page paper due Friday, November 30)
D. The Presidency & the Executive Branch (November 28 and Week of December 3)
Read: JBGH, Ch. 9, pp. 235-238 and Ch. 10, pp. 254-263 (executive branch organization).
JBGH, Ch. 9, pp. 229-234, 238-end and Article II, pp. A7‑A9 (pres. powers and leadership).
EXAM III: , Monday, December 10 here in Cole Auditorium
Pols 100, Professor Wyckoff
Exam 1 Review Questions
1. Define: government, politics, public policy. What functions do governments perform for society?. What alternatives to government are available to us?
2. Be familiar with basic terms: (1) totalitarianism, libertarianism, anarchism; (2) socialism, capitalism, laissez-faire.
3. Be familiar with the values of freedom, order and equality as defined in the textbook and lecture.
In 20th Century
5. By cross-classifying economic liberalism-conservatism with order/morality liberalism-conservatism Janda generates four different ideological classifications. Be familiar with them (liberals, conservatives, libertarians, communitarians) and the value tradeoffs that underlie them.
6. Define "political party." What functions do political parties perform for democratic political systems, according to the lecture? Be familiar with "responsible party democracy" as one approach to majority rule democracy.
What is a "critical" or "realigning" election and how did
V.O. Key demonstrate that critical realignment occurred in the
8. How do interest groups differ from political parties? How do interest groups try to influence public policy? What type of democracy do interest groups tend to promote? What are the pitfalls of relying too much on interest groups to provide democracy?
There are many ways to think about democracy and how democratic political
systems work. Discuss and evaluate democracy in
10. In Federalist 10, founding father James Madison is worried about self-interested groups (factions) and how to design a democratic system to protect the nation from them. Where do factions come from? Can they be gotten rid of? In dealing with factions does he prefer: (1) direct or indirect democracy? (2) majority rule or pluralistic democracy? (3) a large nation or a small nation? Explain.
Pols 100, Professor Wyckoff
Study questions for Exam II
1. In the 1760s and 1770s, the British government adopted a variety of policies that greatly offended the colonists. Why, given their history, did the colonists react so negatively?
2. What body served as a national government for the colonists during the Revolutionary War? What two significant founding documents were adopted by this body (one with the help of Thomas Jefferson)?
What kind of national government operated in the
4. What kinds of people attended the Constitutional Convention of 1787? What major issues were debated and what major agreements were achieved there? According to Roche, what does all of this tell us about the founders of the Constitution?
Still concerned about the dangers of factions, in Federalist 51
6. Why isnt the Bill of Rights found in the main body of the Constitution? Identify: the federalists, the anti-federalists, the Federalist Papers.
Over the course of our history, the relative powers of the national and state
governments have varied with the outcomes of presidential elections, wars, and
Supreme Court decisions (e.g., McCulloch v.
Know the opinion of the Supreme Court in Barron v.
9. In Engle v. Vitale, the Courts majority decision and Justice Stewarts rebuttal display two different interpretations of the establishment clause. Compare and contrast these two conflicting interpretations. Which is most convincing to you? Why?
10. Know the key provisions of Amendment I (discussed in class) and how those provisions have been interpreted by the Supreme Court in Near v. Minnesota (1931), N.Y. Times v. U.S. (1971), Miller v. California (1973), Schenck v. U.S. (1919), Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971).
Know the key provisions of Amendments IV- VIII (discussed in class) and how
those provisions have been interpreted by the Court in Mapp
Know how a Constitutional "right to privacy" was defined by the
Supreme Court in Griswold v.
13. Be familiar with major events and turning points in the struggle for racial equality (e.g., Dred Scott v. Sandford, 1857; Civil Rights Cases, 1883; Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896; Brown v. Board of Education, 1954; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the Voting Rights Act of 1965) discussed in the lecture on civil rights in America.
14. Be familiar with major events and turning points in the struggle for womens equality.
15. Be able to identify the basic contents (e.g., Article I defines the legislative branch of government) of Articles I - VI and Amendments 1 - 15.
Pols 100, Professor Wyckoff
Study Questions for Exam III
The American court system: (1) in reality we have two different court systems;
why? (2) within each system there are courts with different functions; what are
those functions and what names do the courts go by? (3) how do judges in
2. Judicial Interpretation: (1) what is the power of judicial review, and what is the source of that power? (2) There are two general schools of thought with regard to how judges should go about interpreting the Constitution: "judicial activism" and "judicial restraint." Be familiar with the basic tenets of each.
4. Be familiar with legislative reapportionment redistricting. When do these processes occur and why? Who is responsible? What is gerrymandering?
5. What factors favor incumbents in House and Senate races?
6. Bicameralism: Know the basic differences between the House and Senate.
7. Be familiar with the various stages in the legislative process: (1) introduction and referral; (2) processing in committee; (3) scheduling (e.g., by the House Rules Committee); (4) floor debate (note House and Senate differences here); (4) conference committee adjustments; (5) presentment to the president.
8. Regarding party leadership and organization: (1) what is a party caucus? (2) who are the day-to-day party leaders in the House and Senate? (3) who are the Constitutional presiding officers in each house and why are two of them relatively unimportant most of the time? (4) why is it advantageous to be a member of the majority party in Congress?
Nominations: (1) what are primary elections and how did we come to use
primaries as the principal method of making nominations in the
10. Presidential nominations involve both primaries and conventions. Explain. What does it take to win a presidential nomination?
11. Know the basic rules and procedures involved in the Electoral College. What potentially undesirable outcomes can occur with this method of presidential selection? Why did the Framers of the Constitution adopt the Electoral College?
12. What are the major elements of the White House Executive Office and why are these groups sometimes more important than the Cabinet?
13. Define the term "bureaucracy." Know the major kinds of bureaucratic organizations found in the federal government (departments, independent executive agencies, independent regulatory boards, and government corporations).
14. What major Constitutional roles or powers are granted to the President in Article I and II? What other kinds of informal powers and resources are required for effective presidential leadership? Why are some presidents more successful with their legislative proposals than others?