POLS 100: Introduction to American Government and Politics

Course Syllabus

Spring 2009 Semester
Section: 3
Time: Monday 6:30-9:10
Location: Dusable 246
Instructor: Jessica H. Jones
Office: Dusable 476 (Political science TA office)
Office hours: T and TH 1:30-3 or by appointment
Contact info: jjones7@niu.edu or 815-753-1818 (TA office #)
Mailbox: Zulauf 415, outside of political science departmental office
Department Web Site: http://polisci.niu.edu

Required Readings
Janda, Berry, Goldman and Hula, The Challenge of Democracy, Brief 6th edition, 2006.

There are also other required readings that must be accessed online. These readings are listed in the syllabus along with where they can be located. The online version of this syllabus, available on Blackboard, contains links that will be helpful in accessing those readings.

Course Goal
The goal of this class is for you to improve your understanding of the American democratic process. Beyond memorizing facts, the course will also focus on critical thinking about American politics and government. By the end of the semester, you will be able to continue to apply skills you have gained by looking at politics in a more analytical manner.

Classroom Procedures and Decorum
This class will combine lectures, discussion as well as other in-class activities. Be prepared by coming to class having read and being able to discuss the readings for each session. If there is something you do not understand or have questions about, please do ask questions. If you have a question, many others may have the same. This will help us all understand the material better and can make the class more interesting and enriching.

To foster a better learning environment, please act courteously by not disturbing others in the class. Please keep disruptions to a minimum. This includes using cell phones or other electronic devices, reading the newspaper, having side conversations or engaging in other unrelated activities during class. It is important for everyone to feel comfortable taking turns participating in class. Please raise your hand to participate when appropriate and give others a chance to participate as well.

Heated topics may arise during class. Even when you strongly disagree with another individual, it is important to listen, respond and act in a civil manner. Above all, it is imperative in our class to treat each other with respect.

Religious Observances
The University asks instructors to make students aware of the following policy. “Northern Illinois University as a public institution of higher education in the State of Illinois does not observe religious holidays. It is the university’s policy, however, to reasonably accommodate the religious observances of individual students in regards to admissions, class attendance, scheduling examinations and work requirements.  Such policies shall be made known to faculty and students. Religious observance includes all aspects of religious observance and practice as well as belief. Absence from classes or examinations for religious observance does not relieve students from responsibility for any part of the course work required during the period of absence. To request accommodation, students who expect to miss classes, examinations or other assignments as a consequence of their religious observance shall provide instructors with reasonable notice of the date or dates they will be absent.” The instructor is respectful and fully supportive of students who wish to participate in religious observances. Excused absences will be provided, but students must understand and follow the above policy with respect to reasonable notice and making up work

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.”

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 acknowledgment 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.  

Please consult NIU’s Academic Integrity webpage at http://www.ai.niu.edu/ai/ for further information

Graded Components of Class

Exams- There will be two multiple choice exams during the semester covering both the assigned readings as well as information disseminated in class lectures.

Quizzes- There will be 5 quizzes over the course of the semester which may include various styles including fill in the blank, short answer, multiple choice, or true/false. These are noted in the syllabus, so please be prepared for them. They are meant to assess basic understanding of concepts before we get to exam time.

Journals- This component of the class involves applying your knowledge of a subject we cover in class. The purpose of the journal assignments is writing a piece using your own critical thinking skills. These journals must be 2-3 double spaced pages in Times New Roman, font size 12. These must be a hard copy turned at the beginning of the class period in which they are due. It is important to bring this in to class because they will be the basis of discussion. To earn credit for these assignments, the instructor also requires that students upload papers on to the safe assign tool on the course Blackboard website. This is in addition to, not in lieu of, turning in a hard copy of the assignment. Further direction will be given in class.

Attendance and Participation- Although points will not be deducted specifically for failing to attend class, attendance will be taken into consideration when points are assigned for participation at the end of the semester. Since we meet only once a week it is especially important to avoid absences. Please discuss with the instructor any extenuating circumstances that may result in an excused absence and be prepared to furnish appropriate documentation if requested. To work towards full attendance and participation points it is necessary to arrive punctually and stay for the entire session. If there are circumstances that require you to come in late or leave early, please make arrangements with the instructor prior to class.

Participation and discussion are always important, so be sure to always read ahead of time. During all sessions, as part of participation, be able to answer questions during the lecture, understand what is going on, ask questions, and volunteer as appropriate. During days that journals are due we have more time set aside to discuss the assignment so please be ready to participate through discussing the journal accordingly. The last weeks of class there will also be a chance to participate by giving informal presentations.

Extra Credit- The instructor does not give extra credit. No exceptions. The best way to do well in the class is through the assigned activities. This is what is fair to everyone. If you are not pleased with your performance during the course of the semester, there are many chances to improve.

Missed and Late Work- Late work and missed quizzes will not be accepted. In serious, unforeseen circumstances that result in excused absences where appropriate documentation furnished if requested, the instructor may use her discretion to make arrangements to fulfill assignments. If you have a concern about this, please consult with the instructor as soon as possible.

Grade Calculation

Exams 2 X 25% = 50 %
Journals 4 X 5% = 20%
Quizzes 5 X 3% = 15%
Attendance/ = 15%
Total = 100%

Grading Scale

A: 100-90
B: 89-80
C: 79-70
D: 69-60
F: 59 or below

Class Schedule

The following schedule is tentative and the instructor reserves the right to amend it as necessary

January 12
*Topics: Introduction, Syllabus; Public Opinion and Ideology
* Readings:
JBGH, Ch. 1, pp. 12-17; Ch. 4 up to 102

January 19 NO CLASS- Martin Luther King Jr. Day

January 26
*Topics: Government; Democracy
JBGH, Ch. 1
John Locke, Chapter 9 from The Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690); locate at: http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/l/locke/john/l81s/chapter9.html
W. Saletan, "What Reagan Got Wrong," locate at www.slate.com/id/2101835
Federalist Paper #10; locate at : http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/federal/fed.htm
*Journal 1 due and discussion: Idealog

February 2
*Topic: The Constitution
JBGH, Ch. 2
Declaration of Independence, in JBGH, pp. A1-A3
*Quiz 1: Government and Democracy

February 9
*Topics: Constitutional Principles; Federalism
JBGH Ch. 3
Federalist Paper #51; locate at : www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/federal/fed.htm
*Quiz 2: Constitutional Origins

February 16
*Topic: Bill of Rights: First Amendment and Civil Liberties
JBGH, Ch. 12
Amendments 1-10 & 14, p. A12-A15.
*Journal 2 and discussion: Federalist 51

February 23
Bill of Rights: Civil Rights
JBGH, Ch. 5, pp. 127-130 and Ch. 13.
Loving v. Virginia (1967); locate at www.oyez.org.



March 16
*Topics: Media and Politics; Interest Groups
JBGH Ch. 4 p. 102- end
JBGH, Ch. 7

March 23
*Topic : Political Parties
JBGH, Ch. 6
V.O. Key, A Theory of Critical Elections, Journal of Politics (1955), pp. 3-8 only.
*Journal 3 due and discussion: Interest Groups

March 30
*Topic: Presidential and Congressional elections
Ch. 8, pp. 205-210.
Federalist Paper #68 ( locate at www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/federal/fed.htm)
Jack Rakove, The Accidental Electors,. NY Times (12/19/00).
*Quiz 3: Political parties and critical elections

April 6
*Topic : The Presidency; Bureaucracy
JBGH, Ch. 9 and Ch. 10
*Quiz 4: electoral college

April 13
*Topic: The Supreme Court
JBGH, Ch. 11
C. Krauthammer, "From Thomas, Original Views," locate at:
* Journal 4 due and discussion: The Presidency

April 20
*Topic: U.S. Congress
JBGH, Ch. 8
*Quiz 5: The Supreme Court
*Assignment: Choose committee and present

April 27
*Topic :
Catch up and Review
*Assignment: Bring in review questions

Time: 6:00-7:50pm. Location: Dusable 246