POLITICAL SCIENCE 100: AMERICAN GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

 

Fall 2008

Northern Illinois University

Faon Grandinetti

 

Office: Zulauf 107

Phone: (815)753-1014

E-mail: fgrandinetti@niu.edu

 

Class Meetings: T, TH 8:00-9:15 AM

Classroom: DU 459

Office Hours: T, TH 9:20-10:50 or by appointment

 

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION

 

Principles, processes, and problems of American government and politics. Examines the impact of changes in contemporary American politics.

 

INTRODUCTION

 

This introductory course in the government and politics of the United States serves several roles at this university. Most obviously, it provides a college-level introduction to the American political system and serves as a prerequisite for many upper level courses in American Government. But probably most importantly, it gives students the tools they need to understand how American government and politics affect the everyday lives of the people living in the United States.

 

This course has four key objectives. The first objective is to inform students of the components of American government and how those components relate to each other. The second objective is to help students understand the strengths and limitations of the American system of government. The third objective is for each student to become intimately familiar with the way the various components of the system affect the American people. Finally, the course should help students develop important skills of critical thinking. All of these goals will be addressed through a semester-long project that examines an issue of your choice as it relates to American government and politics.

 

In order to be successful in this course, students are required to regularly read the assigned text as well as work on their semester project. The majority of learning that takes place in the course will not be during classroom lectures, but rather during discussions of course topics and work on the semester project. Thus, students who expected to simply come to lectures, take exams, and receive a passing grade in the course are strongly encouraged to reconsider their schedule. On the other hand, students who have a genuine desire to learn how their lives are affected by the system of government under which they live will likely perform well in this course.

 

Overall, the purpose of this course is for you to understand American government and politics and how it relates to your everyday life or to issues that are important to you.

 

 

CLASS FORMAT

 

Although most students have taken at least a general United States civics course, I proceed under the assumption that many students have little background or memory of the subject matter. Thus, most class sessions will begin with lecture format. However, students are encouraged to ask relevant questions throughout the lecture. Furthermore, at the end of each class period there will be a brief discussion period. On Thursdays I will call on students to discuss their semester projects and what they are learning about the relationship between their topic and the portion of American government and politics we are discussing in class.

REQUIRED TEXT

 

There is only one text required for this course, although I may occasionally distribute other readings that I find pertinent to the topics we discuss. The text is available at the university bookstore. There is also an e-book version available for approximately half price at www.nortonebooks.com. The text is:

 

We the People: An Introduction to American Politics, Sixth Edition, by Benjamin Ginsberg, Theodore J. Lowi, and Margaret Weir.

 

There is also a website for the book that includes study guides, outlines, and other potentially useful materials at http://www.wwnorton.com/college/polisci/wtp6e/welcome.asp

 

GRADED REQUIREMENTS

 

There are three basic requirements. The first requirement is the semester project. This project will be explained at length in a separate handout, but in short you will be required to research a specific political issue throughout the semester, providing weekly feedback about how that issue relates to the course material. Each Thursday I will distribute a set of questions I want you to consider in relation to your issue and the weeks topic of discussion. You will also be required to present your project to the class at the end of the semester, but this portion of the project will make up part of your participation grade (see below).

 

Second, there will be two written examinations, each worth 15 percent of the grade for a total of 30 percent. The midterm will take place on October 14th. The noncumulative final exam is scheduled for December 11th. Although these exams comprise a relatively small portion of your grade in comparison to most other introductory courses, I encourage you to take them very seriously. The midterm and final examination will be scored on a 0 to 100 percent scale and assigned a corresponding letter grade (with plus and minus designations).

 

The third requirement is participation. Participation is worth 20 percent of the total course grade and will include two separate components. 10 percent of the grade is based on your regular attendance and in-class participation, including: (a) regular and thoughtful participation in class lectures and discussions, (b) regular attendance (no more than three absences), and (c) arriving on time to class (two late arrivals will be equal to one absence). Although I recognize that some students are naturally more inclined to participate than are other students, a vital part of the learning process in political science courses includes class discussions. Thus, you should do your best to involve yourself in the learning process that takes place each day in class. In general, relevant in-class participation will be evaluated according to the following scale (with plus and minus grades being possible):

A = regular and thoughtful participation

B = occasional and thoughtful participation

C = regular attendance, but little or no participation

D = less than regular attendance

F = little or no attendance

The other half of the participation grade (10 percent) is based on a short presentation of your semester project at the end of the semester. This is also explained in further detail in the additional handout.

 

Grading Scale:

93%-100% A 90%-92.9% A- 87.5%-89.9% B+

83%-87.4% B 80%-82.9% B- 77.5%-79.9% C+

73%-77.4% C 70%-72.9% C- 67.5%-69.9% D+

63%-67.4% D 60%-62.9% D- Less than 60% F

 

SUMMARY OF GRADED REQUIREMENTS

Semester Project, written component = 50 percent

Semester Project, participation component = 10 percent

Midterm Exam = 15 percent

Final Exam = 15 percent

Participation and Attendance= 10 percent

COURSE POLICIES AND LOOSE ENDS

 

1.      Electronic Assignments: All assignments for this class will be distributed and collected electronically via NIUs Blackboard system. As will be explained further in a handout, you will be responsible for a course project that you will expand throughout the semester. Each student will keep one file that includes all of his or her work on that project and submit it online by 11:59 PM each Wednesday night. Each Thursday I will post a new set of questions for you to consider for the week, due the following Wednesday. I will also respond to your posting electronically and turn your assignment back no later than 11:59 PM each Sunday night. This arrangement should give you ample time to examine the new topic for the week as well as revise any issues that you had the previous week before the next assignment is due Wednesday night. Please do not get in the habit of waiting until the last minute to post your contribution each week (see my late assignment policy). Also, please remember that your file should always include all of your previous work on your topic so that we may both go back and review what you have already learned or make changes as current events dictate.

 

2.      Makeup Exams: Makeup exams will only be given in extraordinary circumstances. If such circumstances arise, please contact the instructor as soon as possible and before the scheduled exam. To keep the process fair for everyone in the course, students will be asked to support requests for makeup exams with documentation. A missed examination without prior notification and a documented excuse will result in a zero and a course grade of F as opposed to an incomplete.

 

  1. Late Papers: I do not accept late papers. Any time you want to turn in an assignment and it does not reach me by the time it is due, it will be counted as though you skipped the option or writing that paper. In other words, you will receive a 0 for the paper. Because there are weekly assignments in this course, each student can miss one deadline over the course of the semester without having the 0 grade apply. However, for that week only the assignment must be turned in to me by the next weeks deadline (so you will turn two assignments in that week) or the 0 will apply.

 

4.      Extra Credit: Extra credit assignments will not be given on an individual basis to raise final course grades. Like makeup exams, such projects raise serious questions of equity. If a project is made available, every member of the class would be given the opportunity to complete it.

 

5.      Handouts: Handouts are a privilege for those students who attend class on a regular basis. No student is entitled to supplemental materials simply because they are registered for the course.

 

6.      Classroom Etiquette: Students are to arrive at class on time. Two tardy arrivals are equivalent to one class absence. Students are to remain for the entire session unless excused by the professor beforehand or confronted with a serious personal emergency. For instance, it is not acceptable for students to walk in and out of class to answer cell phones, take casual bathroom and smoking breaks, or attend to other personal matters. Cell phones, pagers, or any electronic devices that make noise must be placed on vibrate during class unless the instructor has been notified beforehand of a special circumstance (e.g., sick family member, pregnant wife, special childcare situation, etc.). It is not acceptable to use an iPod, read a newspaper, use a laptop for anything other than taking class notes, or engage in other behavior that distracts one from the class proceedings once the session has begun. No one should talk while someone else is talking; this includes comments meant for a classmate rather than the entire group. What may seem like a whisper or a harmless remark to one person can be a distraction to someone else. Overall, classroom dialogue and behavior should always be courteous, respectful of others, and consistent with the expectations set forth by the university.

 

7.      10-Minute Rule: Just as I expect you to arrive at class on time each day, you can expect that I will do the same. However, if some extraordinary event occurs and I am not in class within 10 minutes of the start time, you can assume that class is canceled and leave the classroom.

 

8.      Incomplete Requests: Such petitions will be granted only in extraordinary circumstances. The instructor reserves the right to ask for documentation to verify the problem preventing completion of the course by the normal deadlines. If the student does not present documentation from a university office or official, the matter will be left to the instructors discretion.

 

 

9.      Academic Dishonesty: Regarding plagiarism, the NIU Undergraduate Catalog states: students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging them. Students guilty of, or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university. The above statement encompasses the purchase or use of papers that were written by others. Please note that your assignments will be analyzed by the SafeAssign feature in Blackboard. In short, students are advised to do their own work and learn the rules for proper quoting, paraphrasing, and footnoting.

 

10.   Class Participation: I recognize class discussion comes more easily for some people than for others. By temperament or habit, some individuals are talkers while others are listeners. Learning to be both is an important subsidiary goal of this course. Comments that are not relevant to the ongoing discussion and off the point will not be rewarded. Remarks that are disruptive to the discussion, insensitive to others, or attempt to dominate the discussion will not be tolerated. I strongly prefer students to participate on a voluntary basis. If you are particularly uneasy about talking in class, or feel closed out of the discussion for another reason, please speak with me. Remember: communication skills and self-confidence are extremely important assets in the professional world. Thus it is better to develop these things in the collegial environment of this class rather than under more difficult circumstances later in life.

 

11.   Withdrawal Policy: If you choose to stop attending class you, the student, are responsible for withdrawing from the course. The instructor will not do so for you. If you stop attending and have not withdrawn, a failing grade will be entered.

 

12.   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 for which they may require accommodations should notify the University's Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR). 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.

 

13.   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, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to: http://www.niu.edu/polisci/

 

14.   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 Departments 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 students name and one without the students name. Only papers written in the previous calendar can be considered for the award. However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following years competition even if the student has graduated.

 

15.   Amendments: This syllabus is subject to change with written notice. However, I will not change any graded components of the course.

 

 


COURSE SCHEDULE AND READING ASSIGNMENTS

Reading assignments are to be completed before arriving at class on the assigned date.

 

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Sunday

August

26th:

Course Introduction and Questions

 

28th:

Read Chapter 1

Lecture, American Political Culture

Topic questions posted

 

September

2nd:

Read Chapter 2

Lecture, The Founding and the Constitution

3rd:

Post topic idea and paragraph

4th:

Discussion of topics and posting issues

Continue lecture

Federalism questions posted

7th:

Instructor returns postings

 

9th:

Read Chapter 3

Lecture, Federalism

10th:

Post revisions and responses

11th:

Continue lecture

Discuss responses

Civil Liberties and Civil Rights questions posted

14th:

Instructor returns postings

 

16th:

Read Chapter 4

Lecture, Civil Liberties

17th:

Post revisions and responses

18th:

Read Chapter 5

Lecture, Civil Rights

Discuss responses

Presidency questions posted

21st:

Instructor returns postings

 

23rd:

Read Chapter 13

Lecture, The Presidency

24th:

Post revisions and responses

25th:

Continue lecture

Discuss responses

Bureaucracy questions posted

28th:

Instructor returns postings

October

30th:

Read Chapter 14

Lecture, Bureaucracy

1st:

Post revisions and responses

2nd:

Continue lecture

Discuss responses

Congress questions posted

5th:

Instructor returns postings

 

7th:

Read Chapter 12

Lecture, Congress

8th:

Post revisions and responses

9th:

Continue lecture

Discuss responses

Federal Courts questions posted

12th:

Instructor returns postings

 

14th:

Mid-Term Exam

15th:

Note change in schedule for this week

16th:

Read Chapter 15

Return Mid-Terms

Federal Courts lecture

Political Parties questions posted

Post revisions and responses by 11:59 pm

19th:

Instructor returns postings

 

21st:

Read Chapter 9

Lecture, Political Parties

22nd:

Post revisions and responses

23rd:

Continue lecture

Discuss responses

Political Participation/ Voting/Campaigns and Elections questions posted

26th:

Instructor returns postings

 

28th:

Read Chapters 8 & 10

Lecture, Political Participation/ Voting/ Campaigns and Elections

29th:

Post revisions and responses

30th:

Continue lecture

Discuss responses

Groups and Interests questions posted

 

2nd:

Instructor returns postings

 

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Sunday

November

4th:

ELECTION DAY

Read Chapter 11

Lecture, Groups and Interests

5th:

Post revisions and responses

6th:

Continue lecture

Discuss responses

The Media questions posted

9th:

Instructor returns postings

 

11th:

Read Chapter 7

Lecture, The Media

12th:

Post revisions and responses

13th:

Continue lecture

Discuss responses

Public Opinion questions posted

16th:

Instructor returns postings

 

18th:

Read Chapter 6

Lecture, Public Opinion

19th:

Post revisions and responses

 

20th:

Presentations

23rd:

Instructor returns last set of postings

 

24th:

Presentations

 

26th:

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

2nd:

Presentations

 

4th:

Presentations

7th:

Instructor returns final presentation and semester project grades

 

 

 

11th:

Final Exam, 8-9:50am