American Government (POLA 2100)

This course is an introduction to the theories, institutions and processes that define the workings of the government of the United States. There is no better time to learn about the founding of the United States government and how it works today. We will look at these issues, and many others, as we cover the basics of who, where, when and how of U.S. politics. As such, students should be prepared to keep up with current events.

Learning Outcomes:
Upon completion of this course, students will have demonstrated a basic understanding of the operations of American government. They should have reached a threshold of political knowledge that will enable them to understand what they read and hear in the news, and to allow them to fully participate as active democratic citizens. Students will demonstrate this knowledge through exams and written assignments, as well as active class participation. Students will also examine several thoughtful arguments about what some theorists view as problems with American government. They will need to demonstrate that they understand these arguments and can defend their own position on them.

Required Materials:
Karen O’Connor, Larry Sabato, and Alixandra B. Yanus, Essentials of American Government: Roots & Reform, 2012 Election Edition (Pearson, 2014) [Denoted OSY in Course Readings]
This book is available in the bookstore, or students may purchase a cheaper online copy. Make sure to get the proper edition with ISBN # 978-0205950010.

Course Requirements:
Regular Attendance, Active Class Participation, Quizzes: 15%
All students are expected to attend class, be on time, and be prepared to discuss the readings. Participation is a function not only of attendance, but also the quality of contributions. There will also be a pop quizzes on the reading throughout the semester. Note that active participation will not compensate for poor performance on quizzes, nor will a perfect quiz average compensate for inactive participation. I will do my best to make class a positive experience and to make myself available outside of class for students with problems, questions, concerns or who simply want to talk about politics. Please note, however, that students who attend regularly and participate in class are entitled to the bulk of my time outside of class. I am willing to help any student who seeks it, but do not expect too much sympathy if you are not holding up your end of the bargain. If you are struggling, do not wait to contact me.

Exams: 55% (25% for Midterm & 30% for Final)

Writing Assignments: 30%
Assignment 1 – Civic Engagement (15%): See the list of options at the bottom of the syllabus.

Assignment 2 – Simulation paper (15%): After midterm, each student will be assigned a fictional role as a voter in an on-going congressional election simulation. You will be given basic information about your “character,” such as name, age, ethnicity/race, religiosity, etc. I will at that time hand out an assignment asking you to create a political profile for this “character” based on the material we learn about public opinion and political socialization.

Grading Scale:
93+=A, 90-92=A-, 88-89=B+, 83-87=B, 80-82=B-, 78-79=C+, 73-77=C, 70-72=C-, 60-69=D, 0-59=F

Advice: The highest correlating factor with good grades in college is attendance. Beyond showing up, students who take notes during class and read assigned material prior to class earn higher grades than their counterparts who don’t write anything down and don’t open a book until test time (or worse). This class is a note-heavy course, meaning you should never come to class without a notebook and a pen.

Special Circumstances:
If you have any kind of special circumstances, such as a disability, illness or handicap, or if you are involved with a university activity that requires you to miss class, let me know as soon as possible. This information is confidential. All students attending Tulane University with documented disabilities are eligible and encouraged to apply for services with the Office of Disability Services (ODS). Please see me for information, or go to Students needing accommodations must provide me with a Course Accommodation Form and if applicable, an Exam Request Form in order to schedule an exam to be taken at ODS. Accommodations involving exams must be requested to me at least seven days before a test or fourteen days before a final exam. Any student receiving an exam-related accommodation should plan to take the exam at ODS and is responsible for picking up the exam from me beforehand.

Absence Policy:
Attendance is mandatory. I realize that sometimes absences cannot be avoided. Excused absences include university-sponsored events (not including athletic practices – games only), deaths in the family, religious observance, and illnesses with appropriate documentation. In cases of unforeseen absences, you should contact me ASAP to make arrangements. Any unexcused absence on an exam or quiz means you forfeit all points. There are no exceptions and do not bother to ask for one. If absences, tardiness, or under-preparation becomes a problem, your grade will suffer. In addition, any student with perfect attendance (no unexcused absences) will receive two points added onto their final grade.

Academic Dishonesty:
Academic honesty is expected of all students at Tulane. Your responsibilities as a Tulane student include being familiar with the honor code and the plagiarism policy of the University. Cases of cheating or plagiarism will be reported to the Honor Board, and may result in a failing grade for the class, academic probation, or expulsion. Ignorance is not a valid excuse.

Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to the following actions:
a) presenting another’s work as if it were one’s own;
b) failing to acknowledge or document a source even if the action is unintended (i.e., plagiarism) (this includes copying & pasting material from the internet);
c) giving or receiving, or attempting to give or receive, unauthorized assistance or information in an assignment or examination;
d) submitting the same assignment in two or more courses without prior permission of the respective instructors;
e) having another person write a paper or sit for an examination (includes online paper-mills);
f) using tests or papers from students in prior semesters

Other Classroom Rules
1. No electronic devices may be used in class, including lap top computers (unless you have documentation from ODS), cell phones, tablets, etc. I will assume that any student who handles or looks at an electronic device during an exam or quiz is cheating and the student will fail the assignment – no excuses, no questions asked, no exceptions.

2. Students must not be chronically late, absent or disruptive; otherwise, your grade will suffer. Once class has started, students should only leave the room in cases of emergency. Students may not come and go during class because it is disruptive to me and to other students. This means students should take care of all personal business before class begins. Except in emergencies, students will not be allowed to leave and return to the classroom during an exam.

NOTE: If you have an activity (class, work, athletic practice, etc.) that meets just before this class, you are still expected to make it to class on time. If you cannot make it to class on time, then do not take this course. Be aware that delays due to traffic, parking difficulty, or computer or printer problems are to be anticipated and are not considered valid excuses for tardiness, late papers or missing quizzes or exams.

Extra Credit Events:
When there are public lectures or other scholarly events on campus (or off), students may attend the event for extra credit. These events must be open to the public and available to everyone in class. I must announce the event to everyone, but if you see something that seems relevant, feel free to let me know. I need a few days’ notice. Note: Events cannot retroactively be counted as extra credit. You may get credit for no more than three events. In addition to attending approved events, students must write a short paper (2-3 pages) analyzing the speaker’s remarks. Papers are due one week from the class immediately following the event. It is the student’s responsibility to remember to turn in the papers. No late papers will be accepted. At the end of the semester, I will add the extra credit to the part of the grade most in need of help.

Course Schedule and Reading Assignments

ug 26: Introductions
Reading: None Aug 28: No Class
Sept 2: The Constitution
Reading: OSY, chapter 2
Sept 4: Federalism before the 20th century
Reading: OSY, chapter 3 (up to pg 66)
Sept 9: Federalism in the 20th century
Reading: OSY, chapter 3 (pg 66-end)
Sept 11: Federalism Case – Education policy
Reading: “The Politics of Educational Federalism” (BB)
Sept 16: The First & Second Amendments
Reading: OSY, chapter 4 (up to pg 92)
Sept 18: The Rights of Criminal Defendants
Reading: OSY, chapter 4 (pg 92-101)
Sept 23: Case Study: Drug Testing in High School
Reading: “Differing Views on Value of HS Tests” (BB)
Sept 25: The Right to Privacy
Reading: OSY, chapter 4 (pg 101-end)
Sept 30: Civil Rights
Reading: OSY, chapter 5 (up to pg 124)
Assignment 1 Due
Oct 2: Civil Rights Case Study – Affirmative Action
Reading: “The University Admissions Debate” (BB); “White Definitions of Merit” (BB)
Oct 7: Women’s Rights & Other Groups
Reading: OSY, chapter 5 (pg 124-end)
Oct 9: No Class – Fall Break
Oct 14: Midterm Exam
Oct 16: Congress
Reading: OSY, chapter 6
Oct 21: The Presidency
Reading: OSY, chapter 7
Oct 23: Presidential Power
Reading: None (Movie in class)
Oct 28: The Bureaucracy
Reading: OSY, chapter 8
Oct 30: The Judiciary
Reading: OSY, chapter 9
Nov 4: Public Opinion
Reading: OSY, chapter 10 (up to pg 263)
Nov 6: The News Media
Reading: OSY, chapter 10 (pg 263-end)
Nov 11: Media Case Study – Sex Scandals
Reading: “The Scandal of the News” (BB)
Assignment 2 Due
Nov 13: Political Parties
Reading: OSY, chapter 11 (up to pg 296)
Nov 18: Interest Groups
Reading: OSY, chapter 11 (pg 296-end)
Nov 20: Interest Group Case Study – “Obamacare”
Reading: “Obama’s Healthcare Reform” (BB)
Nov 25: Campaigns
Reading: OSY, chapter 12 (up to pg 333)
Nov 27: No Class – Thanksgiving
Dec 2: Voting
Reading: OSY, chapter 12 (pg 333 to end)
Dec 4: Review and Catch-up

Final Exam: Dec 13, 1pm-4pm