Political Science 201 - American Government and Politics - Fall 2003
R.Van Sickel, Ph.D.
Holmstedt Hall 314, 237-2503
Welcome to the wild and wacky world of American politics. Civic and political life in our country can be alternately inspiring, disheartening, uplifting, comical, disappointing, and just plain weird. This semester, my goal is to provide you with a broad overview of the many facets of American government and politics. We will study and analyze the Constitution, American political culture, the institutions of government, campaigns and elections, the impact of the mass media, and the nature of public policy. Hopefully, you will acquire not only a greater level of factual knowledge about government structure and processes, but will also develop an increased ability to intelligently engage in the civic life of your communities, state, and nation. Thus, we will also place great importance on connecting class material to actual contemporary events in American society and in the world. In sum, it is my hope that this course will make you a more informed and discerning citizen.
Required Reading Materials
1. Patterson, Thomas, We the People: A
Concise Introduction to
American Politics, 5th edition (NY: McGraw-Hill, 2004).
2. Ehrenreich, Barbara, Nickel and Dumed:
On (Not) Getting By In
America (NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2001).
3. Quinn, Bill, How Wal-Mart is Destroying
America and the World
and What You Can Do About It (Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press,
4. The New York Times (www.nytimes.com)
Final Examination (Cumulative) 200
Film Review (List to be Distributed) 100
500 total points possible
Examinations will consist of multiple choice, short answer, short essay and extended questions. Final course grades will be assigned based on the traditional "90-80-70-60 scale". At semester's end, your course grade may be raised or lowered up to 1/3 based on your attendance, class participation, and overall effort. To earn an "A" in this course, your performance must be truly outstanding. Similarly, you will not receive a "C" merely for showing up occasionally and performing marginally on examinations. However, if you make a genuine effort to grapple with the course material in an open-minded manner, and to keep up with the reading, you can expect to do just fine in this course.
Class meeting will consist predominately of traditional lecture and discussion. There will be a number of outside activities that you will be required to attend this semester. These will include lectures, films, and departmental events. A commitment to significant reading (about three hours per week) and to actively participating in classroom discussions is essential to success in this course.
A Word About Attendance
Your presence in class each day is not optional. It is very important that you attend each class meeting, as there will be much discussion of material no contained in your textbooks. I will take attendance regularly, and repeated absences will be strongly noted. If you anticipate that you will have a problem making it to class, you should probably consider taking the course during another semester.
Overview of Lectures and Discussion Topics
Weeks 1-2 Introduction and
Overview of the Course
Political Terms and Concepts
American Political Culture
Approaches to Democracy
Economics, Values, and Politics
Patterson, chapter 1
NO CLASS 9/1/-03
POLITICAL SCIENCE PICNIC 9/6/03
The Founding and the Constitution
Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations
Patterson, chapters 2-3
Weeks 4-5 Civil Liberties
Patterson, chapter 4
Weeks 6-7 Equality and Civil
Patterson, chapter 5
BARBARA EHRENREICH LECTURE 10/7/03
NO CLASS 10/10/03
Voting and Elections
Patterson, chapters 6-7
TAKE BACK THE NIGHT 10/15/03
Week 9 Mid-Term Examination (All Week)
Week 10 The
Mass Media and Politics
Patterson, chapter 10
Patterson, chapter 11
Patterson, chapter 12
ADVISING AND SCHEDULING FOR SPRING SEMESTER
The Judicial System
Film Reviews Due
Patterson, chapter 14
Read Ehrenreich and Quinn!
Weeks 15-16 Public Policy
Patterson, chapters 15-16
"Wal-Mart Wages Don't Support Wal-Mart Workers"
"The Wal-Mart Way Becomes Topic 'A' in Business
Week 17 Final Examination
CLASS PARTY (TBA)
This syllabus is definitely subject to change and revision. You are responsible for keeping abreast of any such changes. If you require special accommodations or arrangements due to a documented disability, I am happy to assist you, but please consult with me as early in the semester as possible.