POLS 100 (Section 10): Introduction to American Government

Instructor: Casey LaFrance

T/TH 11:00-12:15

 DuSable 461


American  Government affects each of us on a daily basis.  It is my hope that this class will help you to become more aware of your own interactions with government.  Furthermore, this class will introduce you to various arguments about the size, scope, and functions of government.  Finally, this course will introduce you to the institutions and organizations that carry out the work of governance.



Mid-term 30%

Final  30%

News Article Journal 10%

Scholarly Article Journal 10%

Participation, Assignments for discussion, Quizzes 20%



Total: 100 points possible (100%) Grading: A = 90-100 B= 80-89 C= 70-79 D= 60-69 F= <60

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 28th. 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 current spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.

Make Up Exams/Assignments: If you miss an exam, and have a VERY COMPELLING reason, I will consider offering a make-up exam. Late assignments will automatically receive a 10 percent deduction for each class session past the due date. I will not consider make-up work for quizzes/group assignments missed due to unexcused absences. It is your responsibility to inquire about make up assignments.

Academic Integrity: Please refer to you undergraduate handbook (page 49) for NIU’s policy on Academic Integrity (for Plagiarism and other forms of cheating). It is impossible to learn from one another if any of us recycle the ideas of others. Please turn in your own original work, use quotation marks “ “ when quoting a source, and use a recognized citation style (preferably APA). Please do not speak to one another during the course of an exam. If I suspect that you may be cheating, I will contact the University Judicial Office. If your actions are judged as academically dishonest, you will receive an automatic zero on the assignment and a grade of F in the course.

 Accommodation For 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. Please feel free to discuss any disability issues with me in private, and I will make reasonable accommodations to ensure that you may fully participate in every aspect of this course. Please don’t hesitate to inform me of any needs you have. If I don’t know, I won’t be able to help you.

 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>.

Decorum/Expectations of Proper Conduct: In order to ensure that each member of this class has an equal opportunity to learn from and participate in class discussions and activities, I ask that you please demonstrate the following forms of courtesy to one another and to me: Please make bathroom trips before class and minimize early departure from class (unless you have informed me of your need to leave early) Please turn off electronic devices (cell phones, ipods, pagers, pda’s, and similar devices) upon entering the classroom. Please leave these devices out of sight in a backpack, purse, or pocket. Please feel free to ask a question or make a comment at any point during the lecture and/or your group activities. Please do not interrupt another student while he/she is speaking. Briefly show your hand, and I will call on you in these situations. If you eat or drink in class, please clean up after yourself. Please do not bring distracting food items into the classroom (e.g., rustling chip bags, items that require silverware, alcoholic beverages, very pungent foods, etc.). Please treat your classmates and group partners with respect. Do not raise your voice in a hostile manner to anyone in the room. Please do not use excessive profanity, avoid ethnic/gender/religious/racial slurs. In short, be civil to one another. Some of the ideas in the field of Public Administration (and its subfields) are often controversial. I invite you to share your opinion of these ideas (e.g., Affirmative Action, Federalism, Gun Control, etc.), but please do not use “hate speech” in doing so. Remember, also, to keep your ears open to ideas that may vary greatly from your own. This is how learning takes place. Please back up your comments with empirical evidence/scholarship from this field or other social sciences when possible. Finally, I value debate, but I will not tolerate heated arguments in the classroom. Please refrain from “side conversations” during the lecture/group work. To better facilitate learning in this class, I ask that only registered members of the class be present (i.e., please do not bring guests, children, etc.) If you fall asleep in class, you may be asked to return to your domicile so that you may nap there and avoid distracting the rest of the class. On the day of a test, I ask that you use the restroom before class. You will not be permitted to finish an exam if you leave the room for any reason during the course of taking the exam. Leave backpacks/notebooks/textbooks and other materials beneath your seat during the course of an exam. When you finish an exam, bring your test paper up to me and turn it in face-up so that there will be no possibility of “losing” an exam. If I deem them necessary, additional “decorum/behavior” regulations may be imposed. If you violate these guidelines, you may be asked to leave class and you will not be considered present for the session. Schedule: Please Note that the scheduled contained in this syllabus is subject to change and/or revision at the discretion of the instructor. Please come to class so that you may keep up with the activities of this course.

Additional reading assignments (e.g., Journal Articles, etc.) will be announced as the course progresses. Please make sure that you complete ALL readings before the class session in which they will be discussed. All Articles Listed on this Syllabus are available on J-Stor or On-line.


Week 1: 01/16 and 01/18: Course Introduction/Meet and Greet, Purposes of Government, Ideology, Models of Democracy

Read: JBG Chapters 1-2

Assignment 1 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 2: 01/23 and 01/25: Foundations and The Constitution


Federalist #51,

The Constitution,

 JBG Chapter 3

Week 3: 01/30 and 2/01: Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations

Read: JBG Chapter 4

Gonzales V. Raich (2005): <http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/03-1454.ZS.html>

U.S. V. Lopez (1995): <http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/93-1260.ZO.html>

From Cooperative to Coercive Federalism John Kincaid Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science > Vol. 509, American Federalism: The Third Century (May, 1990), pp. 139-152

Week 4: 02/06 and 02/08: Public Opinion and Political Socialization and the Media Read

Abramowitz & Saunders: “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? The Reality of a Polarized America” <http://www.dartmouth.edu/~govt/docs/Abramowitz.pdf>

Book Review: Fiorina, et. Al. Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America, Reviewed By: Krista Jenkins <http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdf?vid=2&hid=118&sid=c6aa288e-c4cc-42ba-acc8-d5dc8f533301%40sessionmgr103> JBG Chapters 5-6

Week 5: 02/13 and 02/15 Civic Engagement and Citizen Participation

JBG Chapter 7

Week 6: 02/20 and 02/22: Interest Groups Read

: JBG Chapter 10

 Federalist #10 (available at: <http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/>)

Review: [untitled] Author(s) of Review: Kay Lehman Schlozman Reviewed Work(s): The New Liberalism: The Rising Power of Citizen Groups. by Jeffrey M. Berry The American Political Science Review > Vol. 94, No. 1 (Mar., 2000), pp. 186-187 Stable URL: <http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0003-0554%28200003%2994%3A1%3C186%3ATNLTRP%3E2.0.CO%3B2-L>

Review: [untitled] Author(s) of Review: Roland Young Reviewed Work(s): The Governmental Process: Political Interests and Public Opinion by David B. Truman Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science > Vol. 278, The Search for National Security (Nov., 1951), pp. 200-201

Week 7 02/27 and 03/01 : Political Parties,


The Two-Party System and Duverger's Law: An Essay on the History of Political Science William H. Riker The American Political Science Review > Vol. 76, No. 4 (Dec., 1982), pp. 753-766

 Parties and Partisanship: A Brief Introduction John G. Geer Political Behavior > Vol. 24, No. 2, Special Issue: Parties and Partisanship, Part One (Jun., 2002), pp. 85-91

Week 8 03/06 and 03/08: Nominations, Elections, and Campaigns A Theory of Critical Elections V. O. Key, Jr. The Journal of Politics > Vol. 17, No. 1 (Feb., 1955), pp. 3-18 Mid-term  03/08


Week 9:  Spring Break.  No Classes 03/13-03/15



Week 10: 03/20 and 03/22

The Supreme Court (and lower courts)

Read Review: [untitled] Author(s) of Review: Melinda Gann Hall Reviewed Work(s): The Supreme Court and the Attitudinal Model. by Jeffrey A. Segal; Harold J. Spaeth The Journal of Politics > Vol. 57, No. 1 (Feb., 1995), pp. 254-255 Stable URL: <http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-3816%28199502%2957%3A1%3C254%3ATSCATA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-C>

JBG  Chapter 14


Week 11: 03/27 and 03/29: Congress

ReadRichard F. Fenno.1977. "U.S. House Members in Their Constituencies: An Exploration." American Political Science Review 71: 883 917. (JStor)

A Silver Anniversary Retrospective on David Mayhew's "Congress: The Electoral Connection" John R. Bond PS: Political Science and Politics > Vol. 34, No. 2 (Jun., 2001), pp. 253-254

JBG, Chapter 11


Week 12: 04/03 and 04/05: The Presidency

Read: JBG Chapter 12

 Review: [untitled] Author(s) of Review: David Fellman Reviewed Work(s): Presidential Power: The Politics of Leadership with Reflections on Johnson and Nixon by Richard E. Neustadt The Final Days by Bob Woodward; Carl Bernstein Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science > Vol. 428, The American Revolution Abroad (Nov., 1976), pp. 163-165

Review: [untitled] Author(s) of Review: Tom Rice Reviewed Work(s): Going Public: New Strategies of Presidential Leadership by Samuel Kernell The American Political Science Review > Vol. 81, No. 4 (Dec., 1987), pp. 1368-1369 Stable URL: <http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0003-0554%28198712%2981%3A4%3C1368%3AGPNSOP%3E2.0.CO%3B2-%23>


Week 13: 04/10 and 04/12 The Bureaucracy

 Read: JBG, Chapter 13 The Study of Administration Woodrow Wilson Political Science Quarterly > Vol. 2, No. 2 (Jun., 1887), pp. 197-222 Stable URL: <http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0032-3195%28188706%292%3A2%3C197%3ATSOA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-W> Public Administration in Today's World of Organizations and Markets Herbert A. Simon PS: Political Science and Politics > Vol. 33, No. 4 (Dec., 2000), pp. 749-756 Stable URL: <http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=1049-0965%28200012%2933%3A4%3C749%3APAITWO%3E2.0.CO%3B2-I> NOTE: This article contains high-quality images.

 Week 14: 04/17 and 04/19: : Public Policy Models and Policy Processes

Read JBG Chapter 17

 Week 15: 04/24 and 04/26: Economic Policy and Public Budgeting

 Read JBG Chapter 18


Week 16: 05/01 and 05/03: Civil Rights and Gender in Politics and Loose Ends to be Tied

 JBG Chapter 16


FINAL EXAM: Tues. May 8, 10-11:50 a.m.