PLSC 101: American Politics
JOHN FELICE ROME CENTER
Course Title: Introduction to the American Political System
Course Number: PLSC 101
Period: 2013 Spring Semester
Time: Two 1’20” sessions per week (Tuesdays & Thursdays, 2:20-3:35 p.m.)
Professor: Claudio Lodici (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Office hours: T. & Th. 3:45-5:00 p.m. (by appointment)
Required Text: Government by the People, Brief Edition, David B. Magleby, Paul C. Light, Christine L. Nemacheck, Longman 2011
Recommended: Alexis De Tocqueville, "Democracy in America "
James Bryce, "American Commonwealth".
Louis Hartz, "Liberal Tradition in America"
Everett Carll Ladd, “The Ladd Report”
Robert Putnam, "Bowling Alone"
Richard Hofstadter, "American Political Tradition."
James Madison, "The Federalist"
C. Wright Mills, "The Power Elite"
Robert Dahl "Who Governs?"
Robert Dahl, "A Preface to Democratic Theory"
Woodrow Wilson, “Separation of Powers”
James Sterling Young, "The Washington Community 1800-1828,"
Daniel Elazar, “American Federalism”
V.O. Key, "Public Opinion"
Walter Lippman, "The Phantom Public"
Thomas Cronin, “Direct Democracy”
Harrison Salisbury “A Time of Change”
Larry Sabato, "Feeding Frenzy"
Walter Dean Burnham, “The Current Crisis in American Politics”
David Broder, “The Party’s Over”
Xandra Kayden & Eddie Mahe, "The Party Goes On"
EJ Dionne, "They Only Look Dead"
E. E Schattschneider, “The Semi sovereign People”
Theodore Lowi, “The End of Liberalism”
Jeffrey Birnbaum, “The Lobbyists”
David Mayhew, "Congress: Electoral Connection."
Richard Fenno, "Home Style"
David Price, “The Congressional Experience”
Richard Neustadt, "Presidential Power and the Modern President"
Arthur Schlesinger, “The Imperial Presidency”
Thomas Cronin and Michael Genovese, “The Paradoxes of the American Presidency”
Charles Black, “Impeachment: A Handbook”
Hugh Heclo, “A Government of Strangers”
James Q. Wilson, “Bureaucracy”
David Osborne and Ted Gaebler, “Reinventing Government”
John Stuart Mill, “On Liberty”
Eugene Rostow, "Democratic Character of Judicial Review."
David O'Brien, “Storm Center”
Peter Irons, “Brennan vs. Rehnquist”
Course description: How does one make sense out of the American political process? What are the key themes and concepts that undergird all political events? What are the larger trends that are occurring over time? What is the relationship between the individual attitudes and behaviors of decision-makers? How are grievances heard in the system? This course will provide answers to these and other questions about how the system works. The primary objective of this course is to stimulate thinking and discussion about American government and politics. Many of the most important issues debated by the founders in 1787 are still disputed today, as is the relevance of their views to other problems probably inconceivable two centuries ago. In any case, students are expected to read assignments on time and participate in spirited yet civil discussions of the material in class.
Course objectives: A. To enhance the knowledge of constitutional principles of American polity and the workings of the political institutions of government, Congress, the presidency, bureaucracy, the judiciary, political parties and interest groups.
B. To develop the skills as a citizen, such as obeying the law, registering to vote, serving on juries or the rights of citizens including first amendment rights to speak, write or demonstrate in order to protest injustice.
C. To improve understanding for the importance of democracy, electoral process, and human rights at home and abroad by comparing different political systems of the world.
D. To heighten the sensitivity to matters of race, class and gender and increase their tolerance for different cultures.
E. To improve the ability to read actively and to think critically.
Course procedure: Students are expected to have completed their reading before the end of the semester. Each student will write a review of approximately 600 words for a book among the recommended readings. These will be submitted no later than the week prior the oral presentation in class. They are also expected to actively participate in all sessions, and their participation will be taken into consideration. Some sessions are in seminar format.
After studying the material presented in this course of study, the student will be able to:
• Define and describe federalism and Intergovernmental Relations, the basis for federalism in the Constitution, and its changing character and development as well as explain other ways of organizing government.
• Identify and explain the three branches of government in the U.S.
• Explain the Constitutional powers and limitations of political actors.
• Identify and define the rights of U.S. citizens.
• Explain the philosophical development, theoretical concepts of the state, government, limited government, democracy, and authoritarian government and demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of each concept.
Credits: Three credit hours
Evaluation: Class participation and daily readings. There are 80 points awarded at the discretion of the instructor for attendance, participation (it is not necessary to speak, but it is necessary to be "present"), and questions. Students will be expected to bring to class each Tuesday one question related to the chapter from the textbook for that week. As you read the chapter[s], there should be something that either is of interest to you or that is not clear to you. The success of this class depends upon the quality of the dialogue in class. It is expected that students will attend every class and that they will be fully prepared to discuss the material assigned for that day. Class participation grades will reflect their attendance record, the frequency of their contributions to class discussions, and the quality of their questions, observations, and conclusions.
There will be daily readings worth 40 points. Each of the students will report once on a short reading assignment on class days. Students are to read one or two chapter sections
summarizing the most significant or revealing points in the day's readings.
There will be a term project worth 200 points Each student will also write a paper of approximately 3000 words (or about 12 double-spaced typewritten pages) analyzing one aspect of American politics. Students should choose their topic in consultation with the instructor. The completed paper will be due by April 11.
The following schedule will be strictly observed:
1. Consultation with the instructor on your research idea (by February 7).
2. A typed project proposal, including the central questions, a plan for research, and a preliminary bibliography (due February 21).
3. A rough draft of the paper (due March 28).
4. A final draft (due April 11).
Plagiarism: Students of this university are called upon to know, to respect, and to practice a high standard of personal honesty. Plagiarism is a serious for of violation of this standard. Plagiarism is the appropriation for gain of ideas, language, or work of another without sufficient public acknowledgement that the material is not one’s own. Plagiarism on the part of a student in academic work or dishonest examination behavior will result in failure and will be reported to the Office of the Director.
Examinations: There will be two examinations (Midterm: essay, with some choice--1 of 3, e.g.; Final: 10 short answer essays). The Midterm exam will be worth 200 points, the final will be worth 400 points.
The first exam will cover the first half of the class; the final exam will be cumulative.
Each student will write a book review of approximately 600 words. This will be submitted no later than April 4. Each review should include a brief synopsis, followed by the reader’s reaction. What was the author’s point. What did the editor provide. What do you think of the book. What did you learn. What did you like about the book. What didn’t you like about the book. How did the book relate to your understanding of democracy and government today. Why was the assignment worthwhile. Why wasn’t the assignment worthwhile. THIS ASSIGNMENT MUST BE WORD PROCESSED, SPELL
CHECKED AND PROOF READ. Failure to follow these directions will result in either a lowered grade or having the assignment returned ungraded to be resubmitted. Late assignments (including those returned for resubmission) may have points deducted for each day late.
Reviews are worth a possible 80 points.
Added together, the total number of points is 1,000.
Please note that there is often, although not always, a positive correlation between class attendance and "participation" and the student's ability to earn a better than average grade.
The grading scale: A 4.00 Excellent 950 or more points
A- 3.67 920-940 points
B+ 3.33 880-919 points
B 3.00 Good 840-879 points
B- 2.67 800-839 points
C+ 2.33 770-799 points
C 2.00 Satisfactory 730-769 points
C- 1.67 700-729 points
D+ 1.33 650-699 points
D 1.00 Poor 600-649
F 0.00 Failure 599 and below
P 0.00 Pass with credit.
The minimum passing grade for a course taken under the Pass/Fail option will be C minus (C-)
WF Withdrawal Failure
C- will be the minimum acceptable grade for university undergraduate requirements, such as the University Core Curriculum and the Values Across the Curriculum requirements.
Grade Tabulation: Class participation 80 points
Reading assignments 40 points
Book review 80 points
Midterm exam 200 points
Tem project 200 points
Final exam 400 points
Please note that there is often, although not always, a positive correlation between class attendance and participation and the student's ability to earn a better than average grade.
Grading philosophy: A Excellent. Indicates the highest level of achievement in the subject and an outstanding level of intellectual initiative.
B Good. Indicates a good level of achievement, intelligent understanding and application of subject matter.
C Satisfactory. Indicates academic work of an acceptable quality and an understanding of the subject matter.
D Poor. Minimum credit. Indicates the lowest passing grade, unsatisfactory work and only the minimum understanding and application.
F Failure. Indicates the lack of even the minimum understanding and application.
Disagreement: Political attitudes and opinions tend to reflect one's social background and self interest, and since we all have different backgrounds and interests there is no reason why we should be expected to agree. A student does not have to agree with the professor to get a grade in this class. It is both legitimate and desirable for you to disagree with me and independently and critically evaluate the material. I will exercise my academic freedom and say what I think is accurate about politics; you have the same right. Political Science is a way of thinking about politics, not a set of right answers and airing your disagreements is an excellent way to learn how to think. So please, if you feel I am wrong, challenge me. Former Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn had two bits of advice for the new members: "Learn to disagree without being disagreeable", and "Don't turn political differences into personal differences".
Behavior: Civility and toleration are essential for an academic atmosphere conducive to learning. Incivility in the classroom will not be tolerated. Students should make sure to turn off cellular phones and other electronic devices before class. Students are not allowed to eat, drink, or smoke in the classrooms.
Honor Code: Lying, cheating, attempted cheating, and plagiarism are violations of our Honor Code that, when identified, are investigated. Each incident will be examined to determine the degree of deception involved.
Jan 15-17: Introduction, objectives, requirements. Basic concepts of Government and Politics. American democracy and Political culture.
Jan 22-24: The Constitution.
Jan 29-31: Federalism.
Feb 5-7: Public Opinion.
Feb 12-14: Political Parties.
Feb 19-21: Interest Groups.
Feb 26: Campaigns, Elections.
Feb 28: Midterm Exam
Mar 1-10: Spring Break
Mar 12-14: Campaigns, Elections.
Mar 19-21: Executive Power: The Presidency
Mar 26-28: The Congress.
Apr 2-4: The Judiciary.
Apr 9-11: The Bureaucracy.
Apr 16-18: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights.
April 19: Study day