Spring 2006, Section 10
DuSable 246, Tuesday, 6:00-8:40
Instructor Suzanne Kray
Office: DuSable 476
Office Hours: Monday, 7-8 pm
Tuesday, 3-5 pm
Or by appointment
American Government and Politics is a course designed to offer the college student an introduction to the American political system. This class is structured to inform the student how the American form of democracy accomplishes the intricate task of maintaining order while at the same time preserving liberty. Among the topics to be covered are the historical developments of American politics, federalism, institutions (congress, the courts, the president), political participation (voting, interest groups, parties), and public opinion. Further, it aims to develop skills and abilities in analyzing and evaluating issues and public policies in American politics.
The political landscape is fraught with controversial issues. With this in mind, discussions in this class can become heated. It is expected that each student will act and speak with respect for fellow students and the instructor. Should any student behave in an inappropriate manner, s/he will be asked to leave for the remainder of the session and further Departmental or University sanctions will be applied as the case warrants.
The use of electronic devices during class is not allowed. All cell phones and pagers must be turned off for the duration of class unless otherwise authorized by the instructor.
Attendance during each class is expected and will be taken at the beginning of each class period. Should any student need to be absent from class, please make arrangements with the instructor prior to the day to be missed. All absences must be accompanied by documentation to provide the validity of the absence (such as a doctor’s note for a medical excuse). Without proper documentation, the absence will be considered unexcused and will affect the final grade of the student.
Five percent (50 points) of the final grade will be derived from attendance. Frequent occasions of tardiness will also be considered when determining attendance grades; should any student not be able to arrive for class on time every week due to work, please notify the instructor immediately.
Participation is an important element to any class and as such students are expected to offer meaningful participation to each class. Participation involves taking this course seriously, reading the assigned texts, posing questions to the readings assigned, initiating a discussion of the material in reference to current events, and the like. Each form of participation is intended to enable the student to achieve a better understanding of the material.
Participation will make up five percent (50 points) of the final grade. Should it become apparent though discussion that students have not done the assigned readings, the instructor reserves the right to administer pop-quizzes, which will replace that day’s participation grade.
There will be three exams administered throughout the course. Each exam is worth twenty percent of the final grade (200 points); the exams taken together are then worth sixty percent of the final grade (600 points).
Each exam will be handed out at the end of class and will be due at the beginning of the following class, as indicated in the course outline. The exams are not comprehensive, and will consist of short answer and essay questions. The third exam will be due in person in class during finals week, but there is no class that day. Exams must be typed with 12-point font, double-spaced, and one-inch margins; length requirements will be indicated on the exam. Points will be taken off for spelling and grammar mistakes. Cheating on exams will be dealt with serious consequence.
Students must be present in class to receive take-home exams. Exams will be administered outside of class only in cases where absence has been documented. Students must be present in class to turn in exams with the same requirements for documentation applying. Exams can be e-mailed to the instructor only in cases of absence; otherwise exams must be submitted in hard copies on the due date.
There will be three written assignments throughout the course and are each worth ten percent (100 points) of your grade. The topics are listed in the course outline, along with due dates. The same requirements apply for written assignments as for exams, i.e., typed with 12-point font, double-spaced, and one-inch margins. Points will be taken off for spelling and grammar mistakes. Each paper must be 1200 words in length (approximately 4 pages) and must include a title and word count at the heading of the paper.
Extra credit will be offered to any student who wishes to partake in extra work. Extra credit assignments can take the form of an additional paper or a class presentation. All topics must be approved by the instructor and must be completed by April 18th; there will be no exceptions. Extra work will be worth a maximum of 25 points.
Papers and presentations should be related to a topic covered in class but should also extend beyond the class material and cannot be similar to any of the assignments listed in the syllabus. Papers should be at least 1000 words (with word count indicated) and presentations should be 10 minutes in length. There is only one opportunity for extra credit for each student, i.e., complete either one presentation or one paper.
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
Department of Political Science Website:
Undergraduate students strongly are encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science website 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 this site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu
Course grades will be based on the following criteria:
60% Exams 1-3 (200 points each)
30% Assignments 1-3 (100 points each)
5% Attendance (50 points)
5% Participation (50 points) .
100% Total score (1000 points)
Grades of incomplete will only be offered in cases of extreme circumstances and must be discussed with the instructor before being granted.
1: January 17 – Introductions (to one another and to politics)
2: January 24 – Ideology and Attitude
Ø AG: pp. 22-31, 419, 442-455
Ø Also, skim the websites listed at the end of the chapter to research ideology in practice (this information will also be necessary for your first assignment).
Ø Written Assignment: The American political system is strongly influenced by the ideological positions of those active in the system. To begin this assignment, go to http://people-press.org/fit/ to identify your ideological stance; then, visit the websites listed above for each ideology (or other websites of preference). In 1200 words, (1) describe the importance of ideology specifically to the American political system, (2) describe the major ideologies present in the American system (indicating important issues, recent activity, etc.), and (3) describe the ideology you were identified as associating with and why, with policy examples, you were identified this way (it is not necessary that you agree with your placement, but if you do not, please explain why you feel this way). This assignment is due February 7th (review assignment guidelines above).
3: January 31 – Origins of the Constitution
Ø AG: pp. 33-67 and 68-80
Ø Federalist #10: AG pp. 613-615
4: February 7 – Principles of the Constitution
Ø AG: pp. 95-123, 127-139, review pp. 49-54
Ø Federalist #51: AG pp. 616-617
Ø Assignment 1 due at the beginning of class
5: February 14 – Civil Liberties
Ø AG: pp. 157-195
Ø Bill of Rights: pp. 81-85
Ø Engel v. Vitale (1962). Available at http://laws.findlaw.com/us/370/421.html
6: February 21 – Civil Rights
Ø AG: pp. 197-235 and 85-93
Ø Exam 1 distributed
7: February 28 – Congress
Ø Exam 1 due at the beginning of class
Ø AG: pp. 237-275
8: March 7 – The Presidency
Ø AG: pp. 277-311
Ø Federalist #68: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/federal/fed68.htm
Ø Written Assignment: To begin this assignment, go to http://www.house.gov/ to locate and research your House representative (this website will link you to your representative’s personal web page). Answer the following questions in 1200 words: Where is the district located, how long has s/he been in office, on which committees does s/he serve, what function does this committee have, on what previous committees has s/he served, how do these committees enable the congressperson to represent his/her district, which other committees might also help to represent this district? This assignment is due March 21st (review assignment guidelines above).
9: March 14 – No Class
10: March 21 – The Federal Bureaucracy
Ø AG: pp. 313-341
11: March 28 – The Judiciary
Ø Assignment 2 due at the beginning of class
Ø AG: 343-383
Ø Marbury v. Madison at http://usinfo.state.gov/usa/infousa/facts/democrac/9.htm
Ø Exam 2 handed out
12: April 4 – Public Opinion
Ø Exam 2 due at the beginning of class
Ø AG: pp. 385-415
Ø Review AG: pp. 442-455
13. April 11– The Campaign Process
Ø AG: pp. 509-545
Ø Written Assignment: In 1200 words, describe how the campaign process is influenced by various aspects of the political process (such as the Electoral College, political parties, etc.) and outside entities (such as interest groups, the media, public opinion, etc.). This assignment is due April 25th (review assignment guidelines above).
14: April 18 – Voting and Elections
Ø AG: pp. 459-507 and 139-142
15: April 25 – The Media
Ø Assignment 3 due at the beginning of class
Ø AG: pp. 547-579
16: May 2 – Interest Groups
Ø AG: pp. 581-609
Ø Review the website of at least one interest group of preference and be prepared to discuss
Ø Exam 3 handed out
17: May 9
Ø Exam 3 due