Political Science 100-8

American Government and Politics

Spring 2005

Tuesday and Thursday 11:00-12:15

DuSable 461

Instructor: Brian Frederick

Office: DuSable 476

Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 1:00-2:00 or by appointment

Phone: (815) 753-1818

E-mail: bfrederi@niu.edu


Introduction: This course will serve as an introduction to the fundamental aspects of American government and politics.It will explore the major issues, ideas, institutions, individuals and debates at the center of American democracy.


Required Text:


Bruce Miroff, Raymond Seidelman and Todd Swanstrom. The Democratic Debate: An Introduction to American Politics, 3rd Edition, Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002.


Course Requirements and Policies:


Syllabus: The syllabus is a tentative schedule for the course. Each course progresses at a unique pace and it is inevitable that changes will be necessary. The instructor reserves the right to announce any changes in class.


Exams: There will be three exams each accounting for 150 points or 15% of the overall grade. Students who miss the exam will be given a chance to make it up with a valid excuse determined at the discretion of the instructor. 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. Extraordinary circumstances are considered those circumstances that personally affect the studentís ability to take the exam (Illness, sudden car trouble must be documented).


Short Essays:Every student will be expected to write three essays of approximately 2-3 pages apiece. It should be stapled, typed and doubled spaced with 12 point font. Each essay will be worth 100 points or 10% of the overall grade.These assignments must be turned in on the due date listed in the syllabus.Late papers will be accepted but, with a penalty of a full letter grade reduction for every class day they are late.


Attendance: Attending every class is mandatory.An attendance sheet will be passed around at the beginning of every class period. It is the studentís responsibility to make sure his or her name is on it.At the end of the semester the instructor will calculate a percentage classes attended by the student which will make up 10% of the overall grade.Anyone with a valid excuse for missing class should contact the instructor with a full explanation and documentation of the circumstances for being absent.If the reason is deemed to be credible (such as a medical appointment) the student will be granted an excused absence, which will not be counted in the final attendance tabulation.


Participation and Quizzes: In order for this course to operate successfully class participation from everyone is crucial.This expectation requires that the student complete the assigned reading prior to the day of class and be prepared to comment thoughtfully upon them.To ensure that all students are keeping up with the readings the instructor will periodically give unannounced quizzes on the specified readings for that particular class day. The remainder of the class participation grade will be based on the frequency, consistency and quality of comments during class discussion.The instructor encourages and expects questions and comments from everyone class and students who do so will find that effort reflected in their grade.Overall class participation and the unannounced quizzes will account for 150 points or 15% of the final grade for the course. A student will not be allowed to makeup a quiz unless documentation is provided.


Appointments: The instructor will make every reasonable effort to be available to students. If you cannot come during scheduled office hours, please contact me to schedule a mutually convenient appointment.




Points Available


Exams: 150 points apiece


Essays: 100 points apiece


Attendance: 100 points


Class Participation and Quizzes: 150 points


Total: 1000 points


Grading Scale:


A = 900-1000 points


B = 800-899 points


C = 700-799 points


D = 600-699 points


F = 0-599 points


Classroom Behavior: All students must conduct themselves with respect for their colleagues and the instructor.Free expression of ideas is encouraged but in a manner that does not impugn the motives or personally attack other members of the class.When someone else is speaking please wait until they are finished and raise your hand before making a comment or asking a question. All cell phones and pagers must be turned off at all times. Failure to do so will result in a ten point reduction in the studentís class participation for each violation. Students are expected to be attentive to the lectures and class discussions. Students who text message, talk on their cell phone or persistently talk with other students or are otherwise inattentive will be asked to leave the class and will be subject to administrative dismissal from the course.



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 may require some type of instructional and/or examination accommodation, please contact me early in the semester so that I can help you obtain needed assistance. If you have not already done so, you will need to register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR), the designated office on campus to provide services for students with disabilities. The CAAR office is located on the 4th floor of the University Health Services building (753-1303). I look forward to working with you to enhance your academic success in this course.It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester


Extra Credit:  Without exception, extra credit is not an option.  There are plenty of opportunities to improve your grade with the course requirements and if you find you are having trouble, please seek help early in the semester.  Efforts will be made to give extra help but it is generally assumed that you will be responsible for the work in accordance with the stated deadlines.


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. In short, students are advised to do their own work and learn the rules for proper quoting, paraphrasing, and footnoting.


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.


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


Incomplete Requests: Such petitions will be granted rarely and 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 instructorís discretion. All requests for incomplete must be submitted in writing to the instructor by MAY 2, 2005. The written request must include the reason for the request and when the incomplete will be completed.


Readings, Exam and Assignment Schedule


Week 1: Introduction

January 18: Introduction and review of the syllabus.

January 20: Introduction to the Democratic Debate.

Read MSS Chapter 1


Week 2: The Origins of the Constitution

January 25: Read MSS Chapter 2

January 27: Read Federalist 51, A-1


Week 3 The American Political Economy

February 1: Read MSS Chapter 3, pp. 47-63

February 3: Read MSS Chapter 3, pp. 64-80


Week 4 Public Opinion and Ideology

February 8: Read MSS Chapter 4

February 10 Essay 1 Due: First Go to http://www.uspolitics.org and run IDEALOG (do the readings and the survey you find there). Write a 2-3 page essay describing what category you wound up in (liberal, conservative, communitarian or libertarian) and why.Discuss whether you wound up where you thought would have expected before taking the test.


Week 5: Political Participation

February 15: Read MSS Chapter 5

February 17: Read Michael P. McDonald "Up, Up and Away! Voter Participation in the 2004 Presidential Election." To be distributed by the instructor.

Review for Exam # 1.


Week 6: The American Media

February 22: Exam # 1

February 24: Read MSS Chapter 6 147-171


Week 7 Political Parties

March 1: Read MSS Chapter 7, pp. 172-185

March 3: Read MSS Chapter 7, pp. 186-198


Week 8: Campaigns and Elections

March 8: Essay # 2 Due.In a 2-3 page essay answer the questions: Are you a member of a political party? If so why? If not, why not?Which of the two major political parties most closely reflects your views?

Read MSS Chapter 8, 199-227

March 10: Read Alan Abramowitz "Terrorism, Gay Marriage, and Incumbency: Explaining the Republican Victory in the 2004 Presidential Election." To be distributed by the instructor.


Week 9 Spring Break No Classes


Week 10 Interest Groups

March 22: Read MSS Chapter 9, pp. 235-252

March 24: Read MSS Chapter 9, pp. 253-265

Review for Exam # 2


Week 11 US Congress

March 29 Exam # 2

March 31 Read MSS Chapter 11


Week 12 US Presidency

April 5 Essay # 3 Due. Go to http://www.house.gov/ and click on the list of committees. In a 2-3 page essay explain what committee you would most like to sit on if you were a member of the US House of Representatives. What kinds of legislation does the committee deal with?How would serving on this committee help you get reelected? How would serving on this committee enhance your prestige within the House of Representatives?

Read MSS Chapter 12, pp. 325-337

April 7: Read MSS Chapter 12, pp. 346-356


Week 13 US Judiciary

April 12 Read MSS Chapter 14

April 14†† Go to: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=case&court=us&vol=5&page=137

Read Chief Justice Marshallís opinion in Marbury v Madison.


Week 14 Federalism

April 19: Read MSS Chapter 15, pp. 417-434

April 21 Go to: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=000&invol=U10287&friend=oyez

Read the opinions of Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Breyer in US v. Lopez.


Week 15 Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

April 26 Read MSS Chapter 16

April 28 Go to:


Read the opinions of Justice Black and Justice Stewart in Engel v. Vitale.



Week 16 Mass Movement Politics

May 3 Read MSS Chapter 10

May 5 Review for the final exam


Week 17 Final Exam

May 10: 10-11:50 AM