Gilkey 310

rormonster@hotmail.com

541-737-2811

Office Hours: Via email.

 

Introduction to U.S. Government and Politics

"Here is not merely a nation, but a teeming nation of nations…"

~ Walt Whitman

 

"We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way. The third is freedom from want. The fourth is freedom from fear."

~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

Introduction:

Understanding the operation and influence of government on our daily lives is critical. Without an aware and educated citizenry, a government by and for the people is a myth. Additionally, those criticizing the government without such understanding do so unfairly. Criticism with such knowledge can powerful and effective. Therefore, this course will provide you with the basic tools necessary for understanding and participating in our representative democracy, as well as criticizing governmental efforts judiciously.

Throughout this course, we will address questions such how does our Constitution, though only amended a few times in our history, remains vital and flexible? Why do so few U.S. citizens vote? Do a select and wealthy set of pressure groups control our government? Why do members of Congress retain their seats easily even though most people dislike Congress? Why did George W. Bush win a second term in office? What is the nuclear option being discussed regarding the Senate and judicial nominees? What are the implications of dropping that bomb? To answer each of these questions, we must have a general knowledge of the basic structure of our government, and a working knowledge of how Americans behave. Both of these subjects are the core of Political Science, and therefore, this course will introduce you to both U.S. government and Political Science.

To advance our goals, this course will begin at the beginning by examining our Constitution-how was constructed and why. Then we will take a quick look at the composition of our nation today so that we understand who comprises "the people". From there, we will begin our study in earnest by examining the linkage institutions of the media, political parties and interest groups. Once we understand the various ways that we communicate with our government, we dissect that government into comprehensible parts. We will take each institution in turn from the presidency to the judiciary. Our course ends with an examination of two broad areas of policy-making-domestic and foreign policy.

The material presented in this course fulfills a BCC requirement in the category of Perspectives-Social Processes and Institutions. By learning about how our government operates-from rules and regulations to theories of behavior-and learning to think critically about the operation of our government, you will gain an understanding of how institutions, both social and governmental, affect and are affected by individual behavior.

 

Student Learning Outcomes: The course seeks to develop in students:

• Knowledge of the structure, and operation of the institutions of our federal government.

• Comprehension of terminology associated with the study of the actors the institutions within and affecting our federal government.

• Awareness of the role of citizens, interest groups, political parties, and politicians within the American political system.

• Recognition of the role of politics and strategy in the operation and impact of the government.

• Awareness of the institutions within our government and how their roles intersect, compete, and complement each other.

• An understanding of some of the major general theories underlying the study of American government.

• The ability to synthesize the material from the course to develop their own opinion regarding the proper role of the government in our society.

 

 

Advisories :

I am required to advise students of certain policies:

1. Plagiarism: This concept causes many students confusion, so I will try and put it plainly. Academic work must be your own work. It is plagiarism to claim work (such as writing, exams, or presentations) done by anyone other than the author named. Plagiarism also includes cutting and pasting information from internet websites without attribution or paraphrasing someone else's ideas or writing without attribution. It is not sufficient to re-arrange or re-state someone else's writing or ideas. Plagiarism is unacceptable. Any plagiarized writing or work turned in for this course will result in a course grade of "F."

2. Disrespectful behavior: In the university we are all students, seeking truth and understanding. Skin color, gender, age, or other characteristics over which individuals have no choice are irrelevant to that pursuit, as are religious preference or sexual orientation. Students will be expected to treat all others with the same respect as they would want afforded themselves. Disrespectful behavior to others in the course is unacceptable and can result in a course grade of "F."

3. Disabilities: Students with documented disabilities should be registered with the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (OSSD). Students with documented disabilities who may need accommodation should make an appointment with the professor as early as possible, but no later than the first week of the quarter. The same requirements apply to students who may need to have known emergency medical information. Students should make alternative testing requests and arrangements at least one week in advance of the test.

 

Required Texts:

Dynamics of Democracy by Squire, Lindsay, Covington and Smith. 3 rd edition. Atomic Dog Publishing . (on-line version or paperback.) To order the online version, visit www.atomicdog.com . Your course registration ID number is: 2216140504120. For instructions on how to purchase your book directly from atomic dog, navigate to http://www.atomicdog.com/printout/2216140504120 .

Additional short, supplementary, and complementary readings will be uploaded to blackboard.

 

Course Requirements :

Reading :

All reading assignments will be available on-line. All assignments are required and are fair game for quizzes and exams. I strongly suggest that you read and review the material in the text before working through the on-line lecture. Be prepared to ask and to answer questions and to discuss the issues presented in the readings in our discussion boards.

Journals & Alternative Assignments:

Almost every week there will be an assignment of some kind. Some weeks, you will need to hand in a journal. Other weeks, there will be an alternative assignment. The journal assignment is described in detail below. The alternative assignments will vary. They will be listed on the syllabus and on blackboard under "Assignments".

Since we are studying about our federal government, it makes sense that we should pay attention to what our government is doing while we work through the material. Understanding our government means understanding both history and current events, and learning to think critically about the world around you. In order to learn to think critically, you must be able to apply what you are learning in the abstract to reality. To bring the abstract and real together, I have designed a journal assignment. To complete these assignments successfully, you must find a main news story (more than 4 paragraphs long) that complements our topic from that week's newspaper. In other words, students should not use a newspaper story from July 1 st for a topic covered in late August. Students must provide a copy of the article or the web link along with requisite bibliographic information (which paper, which date, and which pages if you use a hard copy…). Students should summarize the story in one paragraph, and then directly relate the story to the unit. In other words, you must show how the topic discussed in the article complements, exemplifies or challenges material presented in the text, or the supplementary readings. Be explicit about the connection. For example when we discuss Congress, you will learn that members of Congress perform a great deal of constituency service. When you read the New York Times, there may be some coverage of Senator Clinton's latest efforts on behalf of the citizens and industries in New York State . So, you would describe how the article exemplifies the concept of constituency service as defined in the text book in section 11-3c.

Students must limit themselves to the following news sources: the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times or the Oregonian, as these papers are available online for no charge. The use of any other news source must receive prior approval from me.

Journals must be typed, double spaced, and in no less than 12 point font. Journals should be no longer than 2 pages, but you should be able to complete each assignment within 1 page. Failure to follow any of these guidelines will result in a zero for that submission.

Journals are due at the end of the week (Friday 5 p.m.). For example, one journal is assigned for week two. You need to hand your assignment in via blackboard by 5 p.m. on the Friday of week 2. Early journals will be accepted. Late journals will not be accepted. Failure to hand in a journal on time will result in a zero for that journal.

 

Midterm Election Assignment:

We have the good fortune to be learning about our government during an election year. This year we are holding midterm elections. These elections are called midterm because they take place during the middle of the president's term. They are also referred to as "off-year" elections. In November, we are holding elections for the House of Representatives, 1/3 rd of the Senate, and many gubernatorial positions. These elections are often considered referendums on presidential performance. Each student will be assigned a "toss-up" race to follow and report on until the November election. Students will write a paragraph about their election each week and post their paragraph to a special discussion board on Blackboard. Other student can ask questions or post additional information as the term progresses-these contributions will be counted toward your "discussion board participation grade (see below). After the election in November, each student will submit a 2-5 page summary of the election. These summaries must be typed and double spaced. The weekly contributions and the final summary should provide the following information: who are the candidates; what are the issues of contention; why the seat is considered a toss-up; what strategies are the candidates using and in particular, is the Republican candidate running away from President Bush's record and is the Democratic candidate aligning himself with the party or not and why are the candidates pursuing these strategies; and finally who won and what was the margin of victory.

These races deserve our attention because according to the pundits, the Democrats have the potential to take back both houses of Congress. President Bush has yet to serve with an opposition Congress and if the Democrats take back either or both houses, it will have major implications for how much he can accomplish in his lame duck years.

 

Discussion Board Participation:

Each week I will posit questions relating to the reading, your journal, lecture, or an alternative assignment for discussion and/or debate on-line. I will monitor the discussion boards frequently, although I will maintain a role only as moderator. I will intervene if the discussion gets off-track. I may also intervene if posts reveal misperception or misunderstanding of the material. I will also end threads and ask you to move on to the next topic. You should feel free to begin new threads that are related to our current topic or respond to your colleagues' statements. My thread only begins the discussion. Our discussion board is your space to interact with your colleagues and I expect and hope that you will take this opportunity seriously. One post a week is insufficient for a lively discussion. Students should check in and react to posts frequently during the week.

Discussion boards are collegial environments. I expect each student to participate in a mature and respectful fashion. Skin color, gender, age, or other characteristics over which individuals have no choice are irrelevant to our discussions as are religious preference or sexual orientation. Students will be expected to treat all others with the same respect as they would want afforded themselves. Disrespectful behavior to others in the course is unacceptable and can result in a course grade of "F."

There will also be a general discussion board set up for posting inquiries about the material presented in lecture, from the text or readings, general questions about current events. I also encourage students to use this forum for clarifying parts of the syllabus, assignments, or readings. Additionally, if I receive emails with questions that I believe are relevant to the rest of the class, I will post the question and my answer to this discussion board.

 

Quizzes:

There will be several quizzes throughout the term. These quizzes will only cover the reading. Quizzes consist of 10 multiple choice and/or true or false questions. Quizzes will be available for 3 days and then they will be removed from Blackboard. Quizzes will be posted randomly throughout the week. To ensure that you do not miss a quiz, you should check in with Blackboard daily. Once you open the quiz you will have no more than 20 minutes to complete the quiz. No make-up quizzes will be offered unless a student provides documentation of an exceptional circumstance. Consistent attention to the readings will ensure that students are able to perform well on the quizzes. No outside materials can be used while taking the quizzes. These are not open book or open note quizzes and you cannot use any other materials from other sources while taking the quizzes. Your performance on the quizzes will be averaged at the end of the term. If you take longer than the time allotted to take a quiz, points will be deducted for each minute beyond the 20 minutes provided.

 

Exams :

There will be three examinations-two midterm exams and a final examination. The format will likely be some mixture of multiple choice, matching and short answer questions. The exams will be available for the entire week. Once you open an exam, you will have two hours to complete the exam. No outside materials can be used while taking the exams. These are not open book or open note exams and you cannot use any other materials from other sources while taking the exams. Exams will be available from Monday through Sunday to accommodate your schedules. If you take longer than the time allotted to take an exam, points will be deducted for each minute beyond the hour and a half provided.

 

Grading :

Midterm #1 15%
Midterm #2 15%
Journal 10%
Midterm Election Assignment 10%
Discussion Board Participation 15%
Quizzes 10%
Final 25%
  = 100%

 

Make-up Assignments :

ALL students are expected to take exams and quizzes at the scheduled times in class. Makeup exams will be allowed only under EXCEPTIONAL circumstances and with PRIOR consent of the instructor. Make-up quizzes also require such circumstances. Exceptional circumstances will require documentation of that circumstance. Makeup exams will be essay exams without the benefit of choice among questions.

 

Contacting me:

Throughout the session, I will be available via email. Students should feel free to contact me with questions or concerns about the material. I will be sure to check my messages at least every other day (M-F). If I will be unable to check messages (due to travel or illness), I will post a notice on Blackboard indicating when I will be back on-line and adjust assignments accordingly. If you have questions or concerns, please do not wait until before an exam or an assignment is due to contact me. Be sure you sign each message, and use an address that accepts replies. I do not respond to anonymous messages.

Course Outline and Reading Assignments

TOPIC

DAYS

READING

Introduction & Designing our Government

Week 1

Text Ch.1 & 2;

http://www.law.ou.edu/hist/federalist/

read number 10

Anti-Federalist paper from October 18, 1787 (see blackboard)

Understanding our Demographics

Week 2

Text Ch. 3;

Navigate to http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/ and examine Oregon's demographics in comparison to the nation. How does Oregon compare to the nation? What makes us similar? What makes us different? Then compare Oregon to another state. Can you hypothesize (provide an educated guess) why there are similarities or differences? Drop your answers to these questions into the grade book (typed, double-spaced, no more than 3 pages long!)

Post and discuss your some answers to the discussion board!!

How do people feel about government & why do they vote?

Week 2

 

Text Ch. 6 &7;

Netlibrary…http://osulibrary.oregonstate.edu/research/srg/polsci.htm#Opinion and click on Voters Guide to Election Polls. Read chapter Nine then find a poll and see if you can identify the appropriate information and determine if your poll is accurate. Continue to read Chapter 10. Respond to some of the points here in your discussion board.

Complete one journal due on either topic (public opinion or voting behavior). Journal is due at the end of Week 2.

The omnipresent mass media

Week 3

Text Ch. 8;

http://www.bostonreview.net/BR26.3/sunstein.html

Read each section except "Changing Filters".

Do you agree with Sunstein's argument? Do you create a "daily me" or do you seek out alternative information? Is the Internet hurting democracy? Is it contributing to our increasing polarization? What does this say about the effect of the media on society?

Complete one journal on the media. Due at the end of Week 3.

Midterm Exam #1

Week 3

 

Political Parties

Week 4

Text Ch. 9;

"Did the 1994 Elections Bring on a Political Realignment?" by Peter Schramm

"Elections & Temperment…" by Dwight Kiel

"'04 Voting: Realignment-or a Tilt?" by John F. Harris

Are we in the midst of a political realignment? Was 2000 or 2004 a critical election? Will the Republicans be able to consolidate their victories and control the federal government for the next generation? Why or why not?

Interest Groups

Week 4

Text Ch. 10;

"The Logic of Collective Action" by Mike Moffat

"The History of the National Youth Rights Association"

"Interest-Group Conservatism: George Bush's philosophy of government" by Jacob Weisberg

Think critically about Weisberg's arguments, given what you know about interest groups. Can they be so powerful? If they are, who is to blame? And, should we blame anyone or is it the price we pay for democracy? Are we in an era of hyperpluralism? Does unified government help alleviate hyperpluralism?

Complete one journal on political parties or pressure groups. Due at the end of Week 4.

The Presidency

Week 5

Text Ch. 12;

"SideStepping Congress…" by Louis Fischer

Is Fischer right? Have we allowed the President to sidestep the constitution and Congress in times of crises? Is this deference justified? If we wanted to, how could we restore the checks and balances?

Complete one journal on the topic of the presidency. Due at the end of Week 5.

The Fourth Branch (Bureaucracy)

Week 6

Text Ch. 13

 

Midterm Exam #2

Week 7

 

Congress

Week 8

Text Ch. 11;

"The Case of the Vanishing Marginals: The Bureaucracy Did it, " by Morris Fiorina

Since incumbents are quite safe, we see increasing partisanship and polarization in Congress. Is incumbency the problem? Would there be more compromise if members of Congress were less "safe" in their districts? What changes to the rules would help promote more compromise and/or focus on good public policy instead of re-election?

Midterm Election Assignment Due at the end of Week 8.

 

 

 

The Judiciary

Week 9

Text Ch. 14;

http://www.law.ou.edu/hist/federalist/

Read Federalist paper #78

Marbury v. Madison 1803 (excerpted on Blackboard)

First, do you agree with Marshall's arguments? Does the Constitution provide the Court with the power of judicial review? Given what you now know about the Supreme Court, and the hoopla surrounding the recent nomination to this Court, should the Supreme Court continue to have the power of judicial review? How would our system change if we took this power away?

Complete one journal on the topic of the judiciary. Due at the end of week 9.

The ultimate zero sum game: the national budget

Week 10

Text Ch. 16;

OMB Summary of the 2006 Budget and Priorities

On line assignment due at the end of week 10.

Civil Rights and Liberties

Week 10

Text Ch. 4 & 5

Did you think your rights were universal? Are you surprised by how some of your rights developed? Are you surprised by the limitations?

Post your answers and other questions regarding the topics covered to the discussion board.

Final Exam

Week 11