American Government and Politics

sPRING 2005

Dusable 452, 12:30-1:45 PM



Instructor: LeAnn Beaty

Office: DuSable 476

Office Hours: TTH 10:30 am – 12:30 pm; and by appointment

Email: lbeaty1@niu.edu

Phone: 753-1818

Blackboard: http://webcourses.niu.edu/ 



Course Objectives


This course is designed to provide students with knowledge and understanding of American government and politics; the role of citizens in a democratic society; to develop in students an appreciation of public affairs issues; the role of the United States in a global context; and to encourage students to use analytical tools to enhance society’s understanding of public problems and search for solutions. 




 Required Textbook


The Challenge of Democracy, Brief Edition, 5th Ed., Kenneth Janda, Jeffrey Berry, Jerry Goldman, and Kevin Hula (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004). 


Additional required reading assignments are to be located 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 (for example, www.jstor.org or http:webcourses.niu.edu/).


Useful  Websites:          www.senate.gov           www.house.gov            www.fec.gov

www.whitehouse.gov         www.supremecourtus.gov      www.legis.state.il.us     CNN Inside Politics    Washington Post On Politics    Drudge Report     New York Times        Los Angeles Times    FactCheck.org: Annenberg Political Fact Check



Grades and Assignments


5 Quizzes                                    50 points  (Unannounced)

Idealogue Essay                          50 points  (Feb. 01)

First Exam                                100 points  (Feb. 10)

Second Exam                            100 points  (Mar. 24)

Third Exam                               100 points  (Apr. 19)

Fourth Exam                             100 points  (May 05)

Total                            500 points


Your course grade will be based on total points earned for the course.  The following grading scale will be used in assigning course grade:


450-500 points               A

400-449 points               B

350-399 points               C

300-349 points               D

Below 349 points           F


Exams:  There will be four exams during the semester consisting of 50 multiple choice questions covering material from class readings, lectures, and discussions.


Essay:  Run IDEALOG at www.uspolitics.org (do the readings and the survey you find there). Then write a 2-3 page essay explaining which ideological category you wound up in (liberal, conservative, libertarian or communitarian) and why.  Due  February 1, 2005.


Quizzes:  There will be 6 unannounced quizzes (the lowest grade will be thrown out) worth 10 pts.each given throughout the semester – no makeups will be provided.  The format of the quizzes will include either matching terms and definitions from the assigned textbook readings, or a short reaction essay to the assigned articles for classroom discussion.


Extra Credit:  Extra credit points worth five (5) points will be made available for each exam, and will be announced in class or announced on the Blackboard prior to each Exam, with specific guidelines.  ALL ASSIGNMENTS ARE DUE ON OR BEFORE DAY OF TEST.  No late assignments will be accepted – no exceptions.





Attendance:  Attendance will be taken at the beginning of each class period for record-keeping purposes.  Students arriving after roll call will not be added.  Attendance may be used for consideration if the final grade is borderline or participation is exceptional.


Blackboard Discussion:  Course materials, notes, announcements, and grades will be posted on the blackboard site.  Students may refer to the Discussion Board on the site to discuss topics or questions raised by the text, or to use it as a forum for asking questions about the lecture, articles, tests, etc. 




Classroom Etiquette


Cell Phones: Cell phones are forbidden and should be turned off upon entering the auditorium. A first violation of this rule will result in a friendly warning. A second violation will result in your removal from the classroom for that day. A third violation will result in a grade of F for the course. Any exceptions to this general policy must be explicitly negotiated, in advance, with the instructor.


Behavior and Attendance: Please demonstrate courtesy and respect toward others in class. This includes respecting the opinions of others and refraining from talking while they are speaking. Students who sleep, read the paper, 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.


Because class attendance and course grades are demonstrably and positively related, the University expects students to attend all class sessions of this course.  Information covered in class may not be found in the texts, and test questions may be taken from this material.  Also, please make every effort to come to class on time. If you must leave early let me know before class begins.  Students who are having difficulty arriving on time may be barred from class. Occasional difficulties do arise and are understandable if an appropriate explanation and apology are offered after class. If there are any scheduling problems that cannot be avoided, please consult with the instructor immediately. 


Make-Up Exams

You are expected to take the exams at the scheduled times. If you must miss one of the four in-class exams because of illness, family emergency, or some other legitimate reason, you must contact me before the date of the scheduled exam. Requests to take a make-up exam will require some documentation or other evidence attesting to your circumstances. If you fail to contact me within 24 hours of the date of the missed exam, you automatically forfeit the opportunity to take a makeup exam, and your grade for that exam will be recorded as zero. All makeup exams will be scheduled by the Instructor during course office hours. 


Academic Integrity

Plagiarism, cheating, and other novel forms of academic dishonesty will be dealt with seriously.  The instructor reserves the right to fail the student for the rest of the course in the event these offenses are detected.  “Academic misconduct,” is defined by the NIU Student Judicial Code as the “receipt or transmission of unauthorized aid on assignments or examinations, plagiarism, unauthorized use of examination materials, or other forms of dishonesty in academic matters.”


Dropping the Course

It is your responsibility to understand the University’s procedures for dropping a class. If you stop attending this class but do not follow proper procedure for dropping the class you will receive a failing grade and will also be financially obligated to pay for the class. Check the drop deadline in the Academic Calendar for the semester.


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.


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 reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu




Note: This schedule and the reading assignments are tentative.  Any changes will be announced in class. 




A.                 The Theoretical Framework: The Dilemmas of Democracy
[1] The Purposes of Government
[2] American political culture
[3] Models of Democracy
Required Readings: Janda, et al., Chapter 1


B.                 The Constitution: To Create A Union
[1] The Declaration /of Independence
[2] The Articles of Confederation: The First Attempt at Creating a Union
[3] The Constitutional Convention
[4] The
U.S. Constitution and Principles: To Create a More Perfect Union
ReadingsJanda, et al., Chapter 2 and Appendix pp. A1-A3 



C.    The Federalism – Federal & State Governments: Cooperation vs. Competition
        [1] Theories of Federalism
        [2] The Courts and Federalism
        [3] Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations

         Required Readings: Janda, et al., Chapter 3

FIRST EXAM – Thursday, February 10




D.     Public Opinion, Socialization, and the Media: Enlightenment vs. Ignorance
[1] Public Opinion
[2] Opinion Formation and Political Socialization
[3] Groups, Political Values, and Ideologies
[4] Mass Media

Required Readings: Janda, et al., Chapter 4;


E.    Political Participation and Elections: Activism vs. Apathy & Indifference
[1] Democracy, Political Participation, and Voting
[2] Types of Political Participation
[3] Patterns of Political Participation

Required Readings: Janda, et al., Chapter 5; Read also

Bowling Alone:  The Collapse and Survival of American Community  on Civic Participation


F.      Political Parties, Campaigns and Elections: Rational Persuasion vs. Emotional Manipulation
[1] Political Parties
[2] Elections
[2] Campaigns: Presidential and Congressional
[4] Campaign Finance Reforms

Required Readings: Janda, et al., Chapter 6; andread also: 

Federalist Paper #68 ( locate at www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/federal/fed.htm) and John Roche, "The Founding Fathers: A Reform Caucus in Action," American Political Science Review (1961), Part V, pp. 810-811 (at www.jstor.org ).


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, Political Scientist John Roche has a different analysis of the origins of this peculiar institution.


G.    Interest Groups: Private Interests vs. Public Good

        [1] The Federalist Paper # 10 – Mischief of Factions

        [2] Role, Functions, Resources            

        [3] Lobbying
Readings: Janda, et al., Chapter 7; Also read Federalist 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 eliminated? In dealing with factions does he favor: (1) direct or indirect democracy? (2) majority rule or pluralistic democracy? (3) a large nation or a small nation?



SECOND EXAM – Thursday, March 24




H.    The Legislature: Representatives of People vs. Assembly of Feudal Lords
        [1] Powers of Congress
        [2] Election to Congress
        [3] The Organization and Structure
        [4] Leadership
        [5] The Legislative Process 
        [6] The
Illinois Legislature

        Required Readings: Janda, et al., Chapter 8; review also:

 thomas.loc.gov (not www.thomas.loc.gov). Click on "House Committees."  


Which committee you would like to work on if you were a member of the House of Representatives. 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? (c) How would this committee affect your power and prestige within the House of Representatives?


I.     The President: Public Servant vs. The King
[1] Presidential Powers and Election
[2] The Organization and Structure
Readings: Janda, et al., Chapter 9;


J.     The Bureaucracy and Policymaking: Public Service vs. Self Service?
[1] Origins and Development
  [2] The Organization, Structure, and the Process
  [3] Process

 Required Readings: Janda, et al, Chapter 10 and 14  


K.    The Judiciary: Activism vs. Restraint
[1] Types of Laws and Jurisdictions
[2] The Organization and Structure of the Federal Judiciary
[3] The U.S. Supreme Court 
[4] Recruitment to the Federal Judiciary
Required Readings: Janda, et al., Chapter 11;

THIRD EXAM – Tuesday, April 19




L.     The Civil Liberties: Freedom vs. Order

[1] The Bill of Rights: Incorporation of Bill of Rights to the States

  [2] Freedom of Religion, Expression, Speech, Press, and Criminal Justice
[3] Right to Privacy

Required Readings: Janda, et al., Chapter 12; also


Engel v. Vitale (locate at www.findlaw.com):  Read Justice Black’s opinion of the Court in Engel v. Vitale and Justice Stewart’s dissenting opinion. Compare and contrast these two conflicting interpretations of the establishment clause. Which is most convincing to you? Why?



M.   Civil Rights and Equality: Freedom vs. Equality

        [1] Different concepts of equality

        [2] Constitutional Amendments

        [3] Racial and Gender Equality

        [4] Affirmative Action
Readings: Janda, et al., Chapter 13


FOURTH EXAM – Thursday, May 12 @ noon-1:50 pm.