Northern Illinois University

Department of Political Science

Spring 2006

POLS 100: American Politics & Government                                   Instructor: Halima Kaiser-Khan    

Section 9: TTh 12:30-1:45 p.m. DU 461                                                 E-mail:

Office Hours: TTh 11:00 a.m.- 12:15 pm                                                Office: DU 476 

                                                                                                                 Phone: (815) 753-1818



                                                         Interrogo, Percipio, Adicio

                                                     Question, Understand, and Apply


Course Objectives:

Most students have some idea of what a democracy means and the institutions that are necessary for the successful establishment of such a system.  However, very few are able to understand and articulate why these institutions were established, the practical considerations surrounding the decisions of the framers, what it takes to sustain a democracy both on the part of the individual citizen and government at large, and what it is that makes the American system unique in a comparative perspective.  For instance, we will ask: Why a system of federalism?  Why separation of powers?  Why checks and balances? With these and other questions informing our discussion, this course will help students apply critical thinking skills to go beyond the “what is” and ask the more important “why?”  Lastly, we will discuss current events and integrate them into the topics covered to gain a better grasp of American institutions and practices.


Required Text and Readings:

Patterson, Thomas H.  The American Democracy Seventh Alternate Edition (New York: McGraw

      Hill, 2005)


The Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, and Washington Post (to name a few) are available free online and students will be required to read at least one newspaper a week for current events discussion.


Additional readings may be assigned either on the web and/or hard copies will be made available at the reserve desk in the library. The instructor will give further information regarding these during the course of the semester.




Scoring Weights:                                                                                      Grading Scale:

Exams 1 and 2: 15% each                                                                         A = 90% and above

Final Exam: 20%                                                                                      B = 80-89%

Journal: 25%                                                                                             C = 70-79%

Attendance: 10%                                                                                       D = 60-69%

Class Participation: 10%                                                                           F = 59% and below                                                                                            

Assignments: 20%                                                                                    No incompletes allowed


Course Requirements

Exams (300 points total): There will be three examinations over the course of the semester and will be a combination of (very few) multiple choice, short answers, and one or two essays, depending on the material covered, and may include geographic identification.  The final exam will be weighted more because it will be longer, cover more chapters, and may be comprehensive, depending on the performance of the class during the course of the semester.  In order to avoid a cumulative final exam, make sure that you perform well on Exams I and II and actively participate in class discussions.  It is understood that there will be no make-up exams and will only be given if extraordinary circumstances arise.  In such instances, documentation will be required and I reserve the right to change the format of the exam. 


Assignments:  At the end of each chapter, under the Critical Thinking section, there is a question which asks for some analysis pertaining to the readings for the week.  You will be required to write a thoughtful two page (minimum 300 words) essay answering the question of your choice.  Students are free to use which question they would like to answer.  Please make sure the essay is pertinent to the topic and not a restating or summary of the chapter.  The essay should give me an insight as to what you think is wrong or right with the system and some ideas for further improvement.  The author also lists some websites and further ideas to participate.  You need to check those websites and incorporate information found there in your essay.  You need to turn in 4 written assignments during the course of the semester.  I need the essays typed, double spaced, 12 point font Times New Roman and 1” margins.  Please also remember to type the question which you are answering at the start of your assignment.  Essays not meeting these requirements will not be accepted. 


Journal: “Government and the Media” This journal exercise is designed to help students follow media coverage of the government.  Comprehensive guidelines for the assignment will be handed out during the second week of class. 


Attendance: Attendance is mandatory and will be taken promptly at the start of each class.  All students are expected to be present and seated before attendance is taken.  Late-comers will not be allowed into class unless prior permission has been taken.  It is the duty of the student to inform the instructor before class in the event an absence is necessitated.  More than two unexcused absences will translate into the final grade being lowered by half a grade.  Sleeping in class is counted as an absence. 


Class Participation:  It is crucial that students actively participate in class discussions.  Each student is capable of bringing a unique perspective to the subject at hand and in so doing, adds to the enrichment of all in the classroom.  It is for this reason that class participation will be graded.  I am aware that some of you are more hesitant to speak than others and would rather be active listeners.  However, I strongly encourage you to overcome these inhibitions and meet me for guidance.  It was not too long ago that I was sitting where you are now (and still continue to sit) and have felt the same fears.  I know that these fears can be dealt with and participating will not only help in combating your hesitation but will also add to your personal enhancement.  I personally believe that teaching is one of the best ways of learning.  Not only does an educator impart knowledge and skills, he or she also learns from the students.  Let’s make this an enjoyable course for all, try to learn, and have fun. J 


Course Policies:

Classroom Decorum:  Usage of cell-phones and other methods of communication with the outside world are strictly prohibited in the classroom.  Please make sure these instruments are turned off and stored away upon entering the room.  It is strongly advised that you take care of all personal business before the start of the class.  Once you are in the classroom, you are expected to remain in your seat until the end of the class period and be respectful of others present.  Violations of these policies will adversely affect your grade.  Any exceptions will have to be explicitly negotiated, in advance, with the instructor.


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.

Unannounced Quizzes:  The instructor reserves the right to give pop-quizzes if it becomes grossly apparent that the students are not keeping up with reading assignments.  These grades will be averaged into the class participation component.  
Disability: NIU abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which mandates reasonable accommodations be provided 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 provide or facilitate in providing accommodations you may need. 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 and administer exams with accommodations for students with disabilities. The CAAR office is located on the 4th floor of the University Health Services building (815-753-1303). I look forward to talking with you soon to learn how I may be helpful in enhancing your academic success in this course.
Academic Dishonesty: 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.  Please do not purchase papers online or have others do the writing for you.  It is not at all difficult to detect writing that does not belong to you. 
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. 

General Advice:   This is not a particularly “hard” course.  Keeping up with the readings, turning in assignments on time, attending class, taking notes, and participating will assure the student of a good grade. It is recommended that students read the chapter before coming to class and pace the assignments according to their schedules.  Do not wait until the last week to cram everything in.  The scoring weights are provided to help you keep track of your grades as they are turned in.  Also, as most other instructors, I do not purport to have all the answers.  I will do my best to answer your questions and I strongly recommend that you challenge the instructor so that everyone may benefit.  Please feel free to ask questions because there are no such things as “dumb” questions.  The best way to learn is by constantly questioning what we are taught and told.  Lastly, do utilize the services provided by the Writing Center to help improve your writing and editing skills.  A well-written paper is among the first steps to success.  


Disclaimer:  The instructor reserves the right to change the schedule. Every effort will be made to follow the syllabus.  However, certain topics may demand a longer discussion which will necessitate in modifications to the syllabus.  In such an event, the instructor will provide ample notice about the changes instituted.  However, please read the assigned chapters for the week even if the chapter for the previous is carried over. 













Reading, Exam, and Assignment Schedule


Week 1:  Jan 17:  Introduction and Overview of the Syllabus

                Jan 19: Chapter 1


Week 2:   Jan 24 and 26:  Chapter 2


Read “Federalist Papers 10 and 51” and The Declaration of Independence


Note: The reading load is considerably heavier the first two weeks.  This is necessitated because of the nature of the material covered.  Please make sure you are familiar with the readings because they provide the foundation upon which the rest of the course proceeds.


Week 3:   Jan 31: Chapter 2 continued

                 Feb 2:  Begin Chapter 3; Assignment 1 due


Week 4:   Feb 7 and 9: Chapter 3


Week 5:  Feb 14 and 16:  Chapter 4

                Feb 16: Assignment 2 due


Week 6:  Feb, 21 and 23:  Chapter 5


Week 7:  Feb 28: Exam I

                Mar 2: Begin Chapter 7


Week 8:  Mar 7 and 9: Chapter 7 continued

                 Mar 9: Assignment 3 due


Week 9:  Spring Break


Week 10: Mar 21 and 23: Chapter 8


Week 11: Mar 28 and 30:  Chapter 9

                 Mar 30: Assignment 4 due


Week 12: April 4 and 6: Chapter 10


Week 13:  April 11:  Exam II

                  April 13: Chapter 11


Week 14:  April 18 and 20:  Chapter 12


Week 15:  April 25 and 27: Chapter 13

                   April 27: Journal Assignment “Government and the Media” due


Week 16:  May 2 and 4: Chapter 14


Week 17: Final Exam

Tentative date: Tues, May 9 Noon -1:50 p.m.