POLS 100: American Government and Politics      Ms. Kim Dubose

Section 5                                       Office location: DuSable 461

Fall 2004                                       Office hours: W 2:30-3:15 pm

Class meetings: MW 3:30-4:45 pm                 Office phone number: 753-1818

Class location: DuSable 422                     E-mail: kdubose@niu.edu





Introduction: This course is a college level introduction to the American political system.  The obvious objectives for the course are to cover the constitutional principles, political process, policy-making institutions, rights and liberties and national policy of the American government.  The less obvious, but equally important objectives are to develop critical thinking and analytical skills.    


Required Texts:  The required text for this course is Government By the People: National Version (the twentieth edition) by Burns, Peltason, Cronin, Magleby, O’Brien and Light.  This book can be found at either of the college bookstores: Village Commons or the University bookstore.  You need not purchase the study guide.  There will be additional reading assignments throughout the semester, regarding the journal entry assignments. These will be either be given as handouts in class or, more likely, they will be sent to your via e-mail the week before the journal entries are due. 


Grade Distribution


8 journal entries x 10      = 80 pts 

2 mini papers x 60          = 120 pts

4 exams x 100               = 400 pts 

                              600 total pts                                                         


A = 540-600 points

B = 480-539 points

C = 420-479 points

D = 360-419 points

F = Below 360 points


Attendance Policy: When necessary, I will supplement and/or highlight certain information in the textbook.  Therefore, it is important that you attend class since the materials you will be tested on in the exams will not only come from the textbook, but from the lectures, as well.  Although attendance will not be counted as part of your grade, I will still take attendance.  If students are routinely tardy, there will be deductions from their grades. 


Class Format:  Most of the class period will be devoted to the lecture component.  But I will reserve a section of each class period (hopefully) to discussion.  Sometimes, this will take place at the end of the lecture.  At other times, I will ask questions of you throughout the lecture.  While I want to encourage class participation, we have much material to cover and a limited amount of time to cover it in.  Therefore, I would appreciate it if you reserved questions and comments for those moments when I prompt you.  


Class Participation:  Participation is very important.  Students’ grades will be affected favorably by participation.  Although, I recognize that some people are more comfortable speaking in public than others, I would like to encourage everyone to feel free to offer his or her opinion.  Each of us has a unique perspective or insight—one that may be valuable and that may not be considered unless you have the courage to voice it.  There are certain ground rules for discussion.  Some of the topics that we will be discussing may be taboo or controversial.  Often when discussing such issues or topics, debate becomes heated.  It is important to remember that democracy depends upon people being able to express their opinions without fear of reprisal.  It is also important to note that civility should always attend controversy.  In fact, it renders controversy productive.  While we should all feel free to voice our opinions, I will brook no verbal (or physical) bullying or insensitive comments that do not promote the learning process.   


Journal Assignments:  Since it is the case that not everyone feels comfortable expressing their opinions or speaking in front of groups of individuals, I have decided to add the journal entry component.  Throughout the semester you will be given a writing assignment/journal entry. The journal entries are to be typed, a font of 12, double-spaced, and a minimum of two pages.  I will give suggestions for questions you may want to address in the journal entries, which will be a response to newspaper articles or radio interviews.  If you feel that you want to address other issues in the news, topics or comments expressed by your fellow classmates or by myself regarding the specific issue you are to address, please feel free to do so. I will e-mail the reading assignments for your journal writings so it is extremely important that you get an e-mail account if you don’t already have one.  I should have all e-mail addresses by January 14.  


Finally, although the journal entries are less formal than papers, I still expect that they be carefully thought out.  In other words, I want to see or read that you are grappling with the issues assigned for you to review.  The purpose of the journal entries is to have you examine any underlying assumptions of your arguments and to play devil’s advocate.  That is, whatever your opinions are, attempt to look at a situation or issue from a different vantage point, from the vantage point of those who disagree with you.  


Paper Assignments: You will be assigned two small essays (approximately 2 pages).  Unlike the journal entries, spelling and grammar will be taken into account when grading.  This is not to say that grammar and spelling will not be taken into account with regard to the journal entries, since bad grammar and spelling will make it more difficult for me to read and grade any of the written assignments.  If you are concerned that your writing skills may not be up to par or you simply want to get the best grade possible, then I advise you to contact the Writing Center in Reavis Hall 306A.  They also maintain a web site: http://www.engl.niu.edu/writing_center.   


Late Assignments: The journal entries will be due at the beginning of each class period.  For each day that the paper assignments are late, a letter grade penalty will be assessed.  If you cannot give an assignment to me personally, then you should deliver it to one of the secretaries in the Political Science department on the third floor of Zulauf. You should make sure the secretary time-stamps it.  If you turn in the assignment on the day it is due, but it is not time-stamped, then I have no way of knowing this and I will be forced to take off a letter grade or more.  I will not accept assignments by e-mail.  You must either give them to me personally or hand them in at the political science department office.  Do not leave them in my office when I am not there. 


Make-Up Exams: There will be no make-up exams without a very good excuse, meaning a documented medical one.  If you foresee that you will not be able to take an exam at the scheduled time, then you should contact me as soon as possible, preferably before the exam is given.  Without prior notification or a documented medical excuse, you will receive a zero and a grade of F.


Academic Integrity:  NIU’s policy on academic integrity can be found under general regulations in the undergraduate catalogue.  It states that “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.”  If you are uncertain as to how to use proper quoting, paraphrasing or footnoting, you may want to visit the Writing Center in Reavis hall 306A.  Academic misconduct also covers receipt or transmission of unauthorized aid on exams and assignments.  The same penalties apply.   


Extra Credit:  There will probably be no opportunities for extra credit.  Since this is the case, it is imperative that you contact me as soon as you realize that you are not grasping certain concepts or when you feel that you are not living up to your expectations.  I encourage you to see me during office hours.  I am also available by appointment.


Incomplete Requests:  Incompletes for the course will only be granted in extreme circumstances.  You must present documentation from a university official to be granted such a request. 


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 current spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated. 


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.


Political Science Department 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, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu




Brief Synopsis


Exam I on February 16

Theme: The Foundation and the Three Branches

Chapters 1-4, 11, 12, 15

The Declaration of Independence (p. A-1)

Federalist Paper No. 10 (A-2)

Federalist Paper No. 51 (A-4)

Article I, II, and III of the U.S. Constitution, p. 47-53



Exam II on March 3

Theme: The Politics of Influence and the Influence of Groups on Campaigns and Elections

Chapters 6, 7, 9


Exam III on April 7

Theme: The Constitution: Give Me Liberty or Give Me…………Security?

Chapters 16-18

The U.S. Constitution


Exam IV on May 3 (The final will be held from 4-5:50)

Theme: Public Policy: The Nuts and Bolts of Liberty, Equality and Security

Chapters 19-21


Due Dates for Written Assignments


Written Assignments                 Due Dates


Essay #1                            January 21

Journal entry 1                     January 26

Essay #2                            February 2

Journal entry 2                     February 4

Journal entry 3                     February 18

Journal entry 4                     February 25

Journal entry 5                     March 17

Journal entry 6                     March 24

Journal entry 7                     April 19

Journal entry 8                     April 26


The Semester in Detail


January 12              Introduction to the Course

                        Collect e-mail addresses


January 14


Reading assignment:     Chapter 1. Constitutional Democracy

                        Chapter 2. The Living Constitution

                        Federalist Paper No. 10


Written assignment:     Essay Assignment #1: Write a paper on Federalist Paper No. 10.  James Madison, the author of Federalist Paper No. 10 is concerned with factions and ways of devising a democratic system to safeguard against divisive factions.  You should address these issues in your essay.  According to Madison: where do factions come from, can they be done away with?  Does Madison favor direct or indirect democracy, majority or pluralistic democracy a large or small nation?  And why?  The due date is January 21.  THIS IS NOT A JOURNAL ENTRY, therefore, you should make sure this paper grammatically correct.  Chapter 5. The American Political Landscape and Chapter 6. Interest Groups: The Politics of Influence illustrate Madison’s point about factions very well. You may want to skim these.  

January 21


Reading assignment:     Chapter 4. Political Culture and Ideology

Chapter 3. Federalism

Review Federalist Paper No. 10.


Written assignment:     Essay on Federalist Paper No. 10 due.


January 26             


Reading assignment:     Chapter 3. Federalism


Written assignment:     Journal Entry #1 due



January 28               


Reading assignment:     Article I—The Legislative Article, p. 47-51

Chapter 11. Congress: The People’s Branch

                        Federalist Paper No. 51


Written assignment:    Essay assignment #2: Federalist Paper No. 51. In this paper, Madison addresses factions again, but he devises a system of checks and balances to deal with their potential divisiveness.  What does he mean that every branch should have a will of its own?  Which branches deserve special attention?  Which is the most powerful branch and how does he recommend curbing its authority?  This assignment is due on February 2.


February 2


Reading assignment:     Article I—The Legislative Article, p. 47-51

Chapter 11. Congress: The People’s Branch

                                                      Federalist Paper No. 51 due



February 4


Reading assignment:     Article II—The Executive Article, p. 51-52

Chapter 12. The Presidency Branch

                        Review Federalist Paper No. 51


Written assignment:     Journal Entry #2 Due


February 9


Reading assignment:      Article III—The Judicial Article, p. 52-53

                        Chapter 15. The Judiciary: The Balancing Branch

 Chapter 3. American Federalism, p. 72-77




February 11            


Reading assignment:     Article III—The Judicial Article, p. 52-53

Chapter 15. The Judiciary: The Balancing Branch       Chapter 3. American Federalism, p. 72-77


February 16             Exam I


February 18                                    


Reading assignment:     Chapter 6. Interest Groups: The Politics of Influence


Written assignment:     Journal Entry #3 due


February 23


Reading assignment:     Chapter 6. Interest Groups: The Politics of




February 25            


Reading assignment:     Chapter 7. Political Parties

                        Chapter 9. Campaigns and Elections


Written assignment:     Journal Entry #4 due


March 1                


Reading assignment:     Chapter 7. Political Parties

                        Chapter 9. Campaigns and Elections


March 3                 Exam II


March 15


Reading assignment:     Chapter 16. First Amendment Freedoms


March 17


Reading assignment:     Chapter 16. First Amendment Freedoms


Written assignment:     Journal Entry #5 due


March 22


Reading assignment:     Chapter 16. First Amendment Freedoms


March 24               


Reading assignment:     Chapter 17. Rights to Life, Liberty and Property


Written assignment:     Journal Entry #6 due


March 29


Reading assignment:     Chapter 17. Rights to Life, Liberty and Property


March 31


Reading assignment:     Chapter 18. Equal Rights Under the Law


April 5                


Reading assignment:     Chapter 18. Equal Rights Under the Law


April 7                 Exam III



April 12


Reading assignment:     Chapter 19. Economic and Regulatory Policy


April 14


Reading assignment:     Chapter 19. Economic and Regulatory Policy


April 19


Reading assignment:     Chapter 20. Social Policy


Written assignment:     Journal Entry #7 due


April 21


Reading assignment:     Chapter 20. Social Policy


April 26


Reading assignment:     Chapter 21. Making Foreign and Defense Policy


Written assignment:     Journal Entry #8 due


April 28
Reading assignment:     Chapter 21. Making Foreign and Defense Policy


May 3                   Final Exam