Political Science 100-8

American Government and Politics

Spring 2006

Monday and Wednesday 3:30-4:45

DuSable 246

Instructor: Brian Frederick

Office: DuSable 476

Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday 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:


Kenneth Janda, Jeffrey M. Berry and Jerry Goldman. 2005. The Challenge of Democracy: Government in America, 8th Edition. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company.


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 student’s 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 student’s 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: 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 in the class and students who do so will find that effort reflected in their grade.  Students can also gain participation credit by posting comments on readings or other topics covered in class by using the discussion board feature in Blackboard, http://webcourses.niu.edu/. Overall, class participation will count 10% of the final grade for the course.


Reading Quizzes: Students 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. There will be 5 quizzes given throughout the semester accounting for 10 points apiece and 5% percent of the overall grade. 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 100 points


Quizzes 10 points apiece


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 student’s 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 instructor’s discretion. All requests for incomplete must be submitted in writing to the instructor by May 5, 2006. The written request must include the reason for the request and when the incomplete will be completed.


Readings, Exam and Assignment Schedule


Week 1:

January 18: Introduction and Review of the Syllabus.


Week 2:

January 23: The Role of Government.

Read JBG Chapter 1.

January 25: 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 3:

January 30: Majoritarian or Pluralist Democracy?

February 1: Continue Chapter 2


Week 4:

February 6: The US Constitution.

Read JBG Chapter 3.

February 8: Read Federalist 10 and 51, located in the appendix (17-20) of the text book.


Week 5:

February 13: Federalism.

Read JBG Chapter 4.

February 15: 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.  Be prepared to discuss in class.

Review sheet for Test 1 posted.


Week 6:

February 20: Test 1.

February 22: The Media.

Read JBG Chapter 6.


Week 7:

February 22: Public Opinion and Political Socialization.

Read JBG Chapter 5.

March 1: Go to: http://www.pollingreport.com/ and pick an issue for which there is a public opinion poll.  Be prepared to discuss in class.


Week 8:

March 6: Political Parties.

Read JBG Chapter 8.

March 8:  Essay # 2 due: Go to www.democrats.org and www.rnc.org and review the web sites of the two major political parties. In a 2-3 page essay answer the questions: Do you identify with a political party? If so why?  If not, why not?  Which of the two major political parties most closely reflects your views?


Week 9:

March 20: Nominations, Elections and Campaigns.

Read JBG Chapter 9.

March 22: Read Alan Abramowitz, "Terrorism, Gay Marriage, and Incumbency: Explaining the Republican Victory in the 2004 Presidential Election." available in Blackboard. Be prepared to discuss in class.


Week 10:

March 27: Participation and Voting.

Read JBG Chapter 7.

March 29: Read Michael P. McDonald, "Up, Up and Away! Voter Participation in the 2004 Presidential Election” available in Blackboard. Be prepared to discuss in class.

Review sheet for Test 2 posted.


Week 11:

April 3: Test 2.

April 5: Interest Groups.

Read JBG Chapter 10.


Week 12:

April 10: Congress.

Read JBG Chapter 11.

April 12: 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?


Week 13:

April 17: The Courts.

Read JBG Chapter 14.

April 19: Go to: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=case&court=us&vol=5&page=137 

Read Chief Justice Marshall’s opinion in Marbury v Madison.  Be prepared to discus in class.



Week 14:

April 24: The Presidency.

Read JBG Chapter 12.

April 26: Read Noah Feldman, “Our Presidential Era: Who Can Check the President?” available in Blackboard. Be prepared to discuss.


Week 15

May 1: Civil Liberties.

Read JBG Chapter 15.

May 3 Civil liberties continued.

Final Exam Review Sheet posted.


Week 16

May 8 Final Exam, 4:00-5:50 in DuSable 246.