Introduction to American Government and Politics

POLS 100: Section 9

Reference #- 5938

Spring '08

Instructor: Mr. Neil Wright

Time : T,TH: 9:30-10:45am

Place: DU 252


Contact Information: Phone: 815.501.4181



Office Hours: T, TH: 11- 12:30 in DU 476


Course Goals:  This course will challenge students to consider the foundations of American Democracy (its ideals, its institutions, its functional efficacy, etc. ) in a manner which encourages critical thought.   Through this process, it is hoped that students will come to understand how the American system functions and work to develop a concept of their own role within it.


Required Text:

Janda, Kenneth, Jeffrey Berry, and Jerry Goldman.  The Challenge of Democracy. Boston: Houghton

            Mifflin Company, 2008.


Other Materials: At times, the instructor will present videos, in-class readings, hand-outs, as well as readings from external sources.  The instructor will see to it that all such readings are provided in class or are at least easily accessible (either from the library or on the Internet).


Readings: All assigned readings should be completed BEFORE the class period at which they will be discussed.  


Written Papers:   Students will complete 2 papers for this course.  These papers will address pertinent topics chosen by the instructor.  The objective of this portion of the class is to allow students to apply knowledge and concepts they have gained from the course.  Students need to show that they have digested this information and made it their own.  Excellent papers will include the concise  and coherent development of a strong thesis backed by compelling and relevant information.


The papers should be 3-4 pages long, 12 pt. Times New Roman, double-spaced.  Students should utilize at least 2  scholarly sources outside of course material.  Cite these sources properly!  Do not fret, your instructor will make himself available for guidance on these projects along the way.


Quizzes: 6 Quizzes will be given over the span of this course.  Only the highest 5 quiz grades will count toward final grades.  Quizzes will cover the required text materials, material presented in class / discussions, and all other supplementary material, including hand-outs and videos.  They will be administered on dates to be determined by the instructor.  Although the weeks in which quizzes will be administered will be provided, the exact class session in which they will take place will not be.  There will be NO MAKE-UPS granted for quizzes. 


Exams: Exams in this course MAY consist of any combination of multiple-choice, true / false, short answer, and/or essay type questions.    Exams will cover required text material, material presented in class lectures / discussions, and other supplementary material, including hand-outs, and videos.


The FINAL EXAM will not be cumulative and will only cover material from the final portion of the semester.  (It will be administered on Thurs. May 8, 10-11:50 a.m in our regular classroom, DU 252).


Participation and Attendance:  Students are expected to attend class regularly.  Exams and quizzes administered in this course will cover both required text materials and information presented in class.  Students are responsible for any material missed due to an absence.  Also, remember that your participation grade is an important factor in your evaluation... and obviously, one cannot participate in a class if they are not present in that class.  ALL students are expected to participate in class discussions.

In case of absence  PLEASE call or email BEFORE 7:00 a.m.


Make-up Policy: Make-up exams will be administered and late papers will be accepted ONLY in case of EXTREME emergency.  Prior arrangements should be made if at all possible.  Proof of the emergency will be required from the student and the decision whether to administer a make-up exam or accept a late paper will be made by the instructor.   NO MAKE-UP quizzes will be given (keep in mind that the instructor counts only the highest 5 of 6 quizzes).


**All class assignments will be handed in at the BEGINNING of class on the due date.


Point distribution:

            3 Exams: 100 pts/per

            6 Quizzes: 30 pts/per (only 5 count, I will drop your lowest)

            2 Papers: 50 pts/per

            Class Participation: 50 pts

Final Course Grades:

A = 540-600

B = 480-539

C = 420-479

D = 360-419

F = 0-359

University Policies

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 a paper written in whole or in part by another; a paper copied word-for-word or with only minor changes from another source; a paper copied in part from one or more sources without proper identification and acknowledgement of the sources; a paper that is merely a paraphrase of one or more sources, using ideas and/or logic without credit even though the actual words may be changed; and a paper that quotes, summarizes or paraphrases, or cuts and pastes words, phrases, or images from an Internet source without identification and the address of the web site.

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 an impact on their coursework must register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building (753-1303). CAAR will assist students in making appropriate instructional and/or examination 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.


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, research career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities.  To reach the site, go to


Tentative (TENTATIVE!) Course Calendar

Week 1

Jan. 15, 17


Chapter 1: Freedom, Order, or Equality?

Week 2

Jan. 22, 24

Chapter 2: Majoritarian or Pluralist Democracy?

Week 3

Jan. 29, 31

Quiz #1

Chapter 3: The Constitution

Week 4

Feb. 5, 7

Chapter 4: Federalism

Chapter 15: Order and Civil Liberties

Week 5

Feb. 12, 14

Quiz #2

Chapter 16: Equality and Civil Rights

Tuesday, February 19th

 TEST #1

Week 6

Feb. 19, 21

Chapter 5: Public Opinion and Political Socialization

Week 7

Feb. 26, 28

Chapter 6: The Media


Thursday, February 28th


Week 8

Mar. 4, 6

Quiz #3

Chapter 7: Political Participation and Voting


Week 9

Mar. 18, 20

Quiz #4

Chapter 8: Political Parties

Chapter 9: Nominations, Elections, Campaigns

Week 10

Mar. 25, 27

Chapter 10: Interest Groups

Thursday, March 27th

Test #2

Week 11

Apr. 1, 3

Chapter 11: Congress

Week 12

Apr. 8, 10

Quiz #5

Chapter 12: The Presidency

Chapter 14: The Federal Judicial System

Week 13

Apr. 15, 17

Chapter 18: Economic Policy

Chapter 19: Domestic Policy

Week 14

Apr. 22, 24

Quiz #6

Chapter 20: Global Policy


Thursday, April 24th


Week 15

Apr. 29

Semester Recap


Thurs. May 8, 10-11:50 a.m