POLS 260: Foreign and Comparative Politics

Spring 2006, Section 3; DuSable 459: TTh 9:30 – 10:45 a.m.


Gregory D. Schmidt                                                                    Blake Klinkner                                                          

Office: Zulauf 426 (thru 415)                                                   Office: DuSable 476                                                          

Phone: 753-7039                                                                       Phone: 753-1818                                

Office Hours: TTH 11-12                                                          Office Hours: W 3:30-5                                   

                       T 2:30-4:30                                                                                TH 2-3          

E-mail: gschmidt@niu.edu                                                        E-mail: blakeklinkner@yahoo.com


Welcome to the world of comparative politics!  This course is NIU’s introduction to the study of political systems outside of the United States.  During the first half of the course we will explore key issues in comparative politics and contrast the political development of Great Britain and France, two early modernizing countries in Europe.  After the midterm exam, we will examine different patterns of political development in Germany, a late modernizing European country, and Peru, one of the most interesting countries in Latin America.


Course Policies and Requirements


1. Attendance.  Regular attendance is expected and will account for 10 percent of your final grade.  After three grace absences, I will subtract 1 point for each additional absence.  If you arrive after roll is checked, please notify me at the end of class so that you can receive a tardy.  The first tardy is excused.  The second tardy counts as a half-absence.  The third and each subsequent tardy count as absences.  Students with very poor attendance may even receive negative grades for this component.


I will normally excuse absences only for a recognized religious holiday of your faith that happens to coincide with a class meeting.  Otherwise, I will excuse absences only under extraordinary circumstances, such as a prolonged illness, extended jury duty, or a major personal crisis, and then only after the three grace absences have been exhausted.  Any excused absences must be documented.


Please do not ask me to excuse absences for minor illnesses, funerals, or scheduling conflicts (e.g. sports practices or games, play rehearsals, meetings, conferences, appointments with other professors or advisors, student teaching, doctor's appointments, court dates, jobs, job interviews, having your cable installed, etc.).  I realize, of course, that students occasionally become ill, but it is unlikely that minor illnesses will force you to miss class more than three times.  Moreover, even if you should be so unlucky, it is unlikely that an additional absence or two will make a difference in your final grade.  I also am well aware that students have other interests and obligations, but you should nevertheless make this class a priority.  If you are likely to have recurring conflicts, please take another course.


2. The Learning Environment.  I am committed to the principle of active learning.  For me, this means that learning cannot take place without students' active involvement in, commitment to, and responsibility for their own education.  Hence, it is important that students conduct themselves in ways that indicate respect for the learning community and the learning process. 

Faced with declining classroom decorum in recent years, the Undergraduate Committee of the Department of Political Science has encouraged faculty to state explicit expectations regarding behavior in their syllabi.  Please be advised that each occurrence of the following during class time may result in the deduction of one point from your final course average:


a. Leaving the room, unless the instructor has previously agreed or there is an emergency, such as a fire alarm, tornado alert, or a bona fide illness.  If you must leave early for any other reason––including going to the restroom––please do not return during that class period.  (An additional half point may be deducted if you come back).  If you are truly sick, please explain later.


b. Allowing your cell phone to ring more than once during the semester.  (If there is a true emergency that may necessitate receiving a call, please let me know before class.)


c. Using a cell phone for conversation, text messaging, or as a camera.  (However, students are welcome to tape record the class, if they so wish.)


d. Engaging in a private conversation.


e. Reading the newspaper, studying for another class, or undertaking some other activity that is not related to this course.


f. Eating or falling asleep.  (Students may discreetly drink non-alcoholic beverages).


g. Listening to music or the radio, even with headphones.


h. Smoking (All NIU classrooms are smoke-free environments).


i. Any other behavior that is coarse, rude, noticeably inattentive, or inconsiderate of others.


If a student persists in behavior that is disruptive or that undermines the learning environment, I will request that he or she be barred from the class, following the procedures outlined in the 2004-05 Undergraduate Catalog, pp. 49 and 306.  This sort of behavior also constitutes grounds for dismissal from the university.


3. Readings and Lectures.  Please purchase the two texts that will be used in this course

at the Student Center or Village Commons Bookstores:


Michael G. Roskin, Countries and Concepts: Politics, Geography, Culture, 8th edition (Prentice Hall, 2004)


Gregory D. Schmidt, Peru: The Politics of Surprise (McGraw-Hill, 2004).


Some short readings may also be handed out in class or placed on Blackboard.


Lectures will parallel and complement, but not merely repeat, the material in the textbook.  You are responsible for material covered in the readings but not in the lectures and vice versa.  You should complete reading assignments for each date before coming to class.


4. Study Guides, Quizzes, and Website.  Study guides and other ancillary materials will be posted on Blackboard before most, if not all, classes.  These resources and the website for Roskin (http://wps.prenhall.com/hss_roskin_countries_8) will help you prepare for the 6-8 unannounced quizzes to be given in class on the reading assigned for that day. Make-ups of quizzes will be given only under extraordinary circumstances at the discretion of the instructor.


You should review the relevant study guide, especially any “quizzable” questions, before coming to class.  The study guides should also help you to integrate material from the readings and lecture for the exams.


Materials for Tuesday classes will be posted no later than 9:30 a.m. of the previous Saturday.  Materials for Thursday classes will be posted no later than 9:30 a.m. of the preceding Wednesday.  Only if there is a technical or human problem with Blackboard will the relevant materials be distributed in class.


5. Accessing Blackboard.  You can access Blackboard by following these steps:


a. Type the URL http://webcourses.niu.edu/ in the address box of your browser (Internet Explorer works best) or go to the NIU homepage and click on "Current Students," then "Online Academic Resources," and then "Blackboard Course Server."  You can also access Blackboard with the A-Z feature of the NIU homepage.


b. Type username (Novel ID = student ZID) and password.  Your Novell network password is also your Blackboard password. Your initial password is your birth date in the form of YYYYMMDD.  This initial password is temporary and must be reset before five usage attempts. Passwords expire every 130 days. You can change your password over the Internet at password.niu.edu or by calling 815-752-7738 (815-752-RSET).  For help with your password, please go to password.niu.edu or phone 753-8100.


c. Click Login.


d. Click on the title of this course.


e. Click on assignments.


f. Open and print out the relevant assignment.


If you have problems in accessing Blackboard, please call 753-8100.


6. Videos.  I will show a number of videos on course-related topics to the extent that time and scheduling permit.  These are not "blow-off" classes; indeed, some exam questions will be based on audiovisual materials.  I will help you to focus on the most pertinent information and perspectives.  You should print out any study guides for the videos before coming to class.


7. Exams.  A mid-term exam, scheduled for March 9, will be comprised of multiple choice and true/false questions.  The final exam, scheduled for May 11, will follow the same format.  Each exam will cover a discrete section of the course, though some of the material has a cumulative character.  If necessary, exam grades will be curved in accordance with overall student performance.  I will hand back the mid-term for review in class, however, departmental policy requires me to retain all objective questions and answers on file.  The final exam will remain on file and available for review until the end of the Fall 2006 semester.


Make-up exams will be given only in the case of a documented medical or personal emergency.  In such an event, you must notify me before the exam.  Make-up exams may be all short answer, a format that requires more intensive preparation.


8. Paper.  Drawing on recent periodicals, academic journals, and possibly on-line sources, each student will write a 5 page paper analyzing a major contemporary political issue or significant recent event in Great Britain, France, Germany, or Peru.  More specific instructions will be passed out by the third week of class.  Papers will be due at the beginning of class on April 27.  Late papers will be penalized 5 points for each day of tardiness.  I will not accept papers that reach me after class on May 4.  Graded papers will be returned on May 11 at the time of the final exam.


9. Extra Credit and Class Participation.  I will not accept extra credit projects to improve low quiz or test grades.  I will, however, be glad to help students improve their study habits.  Moreover, you can earn up to 3 points of extra credit through class participation.  I will add 1 point to the final averages of those students who, in my judgment, made a significant contribution to class discussion.  I will add 2 points for above-average class participation and 3 points for outstanding participation.  In assessing class participation, I will emphasize quality, rather than mere quantity.


10. Course Grade.  The following weights will be use in determining your course average:


Attendance       10%

Quizzes            20%

Paper               20%

                                                            Mid-term          25%

                                                            Final                 25%




Any extra points for class participation will be added to this average.





Course Grades will be distributed as follows:


Final Average and Extra Credit                                     Final Grade

                            90-100%                                                                         A       

                            80-89%                                                                           B                                

                            65-79%                                                                           C

                            50-64%                                                                           D

                            Below 50%                                                                     F


11. Seating and Checking Attendance.  After the first week of class, all students will sit in permanently assigned seats to facilitate the checking of attendance and so that I can learn your names.  If you arrive after roll is checked, please notify me at the end of class and I will mark you tardy.  


12. Incompletes.  No incompletes will be given for reasons other than a medical or personal emergency and then only after presentation of verifiable documentation.  Academic hardship does not qualify as an acceptable excuse.


13. Adjustments in Course Schedule.  I will do my best to follow the course schedule outlined below, but I reserve the right to make reasonable adjustments with adequate warning if unforeseeable or uncontrollable circumstances (e.g. weather, illness, travel) so warrant.  It is not fair, however, to modify the class schedule or previously set exam dates simply to accommodate the preferences of some students, since other students inevitably suffer.


14.  Academic Integrity.  Students are expected to know and comply with NIU policies on academic integrity (see p. 49 of 2005-06 Undergraduate Catalog).  Any student found guilty of cheating will receive an “F” for the course.  He or she may also be subject to additional sanctions imposed by the University.


Course Outline



Introduction to Course



Basic Concepts: Nation and State

Roskin, pp. 1-9, box on p. 17.




Roskin, boxes on pp. 9 and 15.



Great Britain: The Impact of the Past

Roskin, pp. 20-34.



Social Cleavages and Political Culture: Comparative Perspectives and Britain

Roskin, pp. 11-12, boxes on pp. 13-14, 53-64.



Electoral Systems and Parties: Comparative Perspectives and Britain

Roskin, p. 10 (paragraph on parties), pp. 50-51; review pp. 56-58 and 61;

pp. 66-73.

Video on Proportional Representation



Governmental Institutions: Comparative Perspectives and Britain

Roskin, pp. 9-10, 12-16, 36-50, 73-77.



Video: Order! Order! Britain’s Parliament at Work



Quarrels: Comparative Perspectives and Britain

Roskin, pp. 17-18, 79-92.



France: The Impact of the Past

Roskin, pp. 94-110.

Video: The French Revolution



France: The Impact of the Past (continued)

France: Political Culture

Roskin, pp. 130-145.

Video, The Essential History of France



France: Elections and Parties

                        Roskin, box on p.119, pp. 124-126, review boxes on pp. 136

and 144; pp. 147-157.



France: Governmental Institutions

Roskin, pp. 113-124, 127-128 157-160.



France: Quarrels

Roskin, pp. 162-175.








Mid-Term Exam





Go Over Mid-Term Exam in Class

Germany: The Impact of the Past

Roskin, pp. 176-195.



Germany: The Impact of the Past (continued)

Video: The Germans: Portrait of a New Nation



Video: The Germans: Portrait of a New Nation (continued)

Germany: Political Culture

Roskin, pp. 215-228.  



Video: The Essential History of Germany

Germany: Elections and Parties

Roskin, pp. 207-213, 230-236, boxes on 237-238, 241-244.



Germany: Governmental Institutions

Roskin, pp. 197-207, 209 (Bundesrat), 236-241,



Germany: Quarrels

Roskin, pp. 245-258.



            Peru: The Setting and Impact of the Past

                        Schmidt, pp. 2-18, 18-23 (skim), 23-37.



            Peru: Tenuous Democracy 

                        Schmidt, pp. 37-42, 78-79 (pre-reform malaise)

Video: Fire in the Mind

Video, Mario Vargas Llosa: The Story of the Novelist Who Would be President



            Finish Vargas Llosa Video

            Peru: Fujimori’s Tsunami

                        Schmidt, pp. 42-45.



            Peru: Fujimori’s Tumultuous First Term

                        Schmidt, pp. 45-51 (very top), 79-82.

            Video, Interview with Alberto Fujimori (Robert Novak) (selected portions)

Video, Peru: Road to Recovery (selected portions)



            Peru: Fujimori’s Polarizing Second Term

                        Schmidt, pp. 51 (1st full paragraph) to 53.

Video, The Fujimori Empire (selected portions)



Peru: Fujimori’s Fall and the Disappointing Toledo Presidency

                        Schmidt, pp. 53-58, 81-82 (re-read).

            Video, Peruvian News Coverage of 2000 election                    

Video, A Hazy Transparency: Peru’s 2000 Elections


Papers Due



Peru: Political Culture, Organizations, and Conflict

                        Schmidt, pp. 58-69.

            Peru: Political Institutions and Processes

                        Schmidt, pp. 69-78.

            Peru: The 2006 Election and the Future



Teacher Evaluation and Review


MAY 11

Final Exam: 10 – 11:50 a.m.









Additional Information for Students Taking Political Science Courses


1. Undergraduate Writing Awards.  The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies.  Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing.  Winners are expected to attend the Department’s spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50.00. Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 28.  All copies should have two cover pages: one with the student’s name and one without the student’s name.  Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award.  However, papers completed in the Spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition, even if the student has graduated.


2. 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.


3. Department of Political Science Website.  Undergraduates are strongly 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 the site, go to http://www.niu.edu/acad/polisci/pols.html