PLS 201 SYLLABUS
INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN GOVERNMENT
AT THE END OF THIS COURSE YOU SHOULD:
1) Have a broad understanding of the development of American Democracy
2) Be able to identify specific institutions that are fundamental components of the American Democracy
3) Be able to articulate to a visitor from another country the different roles of our governmental institutions
4) Be inspired to become more involved in civic activities and the political process
Group Projects/Second Paper20%
Class Participation: includes attendance, homework, and class discussions (students do not have to always speak but must be attentive) Readings: should be read by the week that they are listed.
Read Chapter 1
Objective: To explore what government is and what government does? To learn about the Constitution and its significance on American Democracy e.g. Articles of Confederation, Constitutional Convention, branches of the federal government.
--Why do we need government anyway? Free-rider problem, public goods problem, externalities, prisoner's dilemma; learn about the Constitution and the development of the American democracy.
Read Chapters 2 and 3
Objective: To learn basic facts about the Constitution and Constitutional Amendments e.g. Bill of Rights, vague language, due process rights, and branches of government.
-- Introduction to the Constitution, The Continental Congress, and the Articles of Confederation, Philadelphia Convention, New Jersey Plan, Virginia Plan, Connecticut Compromise.
-- The Legislative Branch, Executive Branch, Judicial Branch, A Federal System.
Read Chapter 4
Objective: To learn basic facts about freedoms granted by the first amendment; to learn about federalism and the relationship of the national and local governments.
*Homework assignment due: Write a one page (singled spaced) summary of a First Amendment Freedom of Speech Case. Discuss Who? What? When? Where? What was the court's ruling and its significance? Be prepared to discuss your case in class.
--First Amendment political freedoms, e.g. free speech doctrine, protections for and restrictions on freedom of speech.Discussion of the Homework (Cultural Learning Session).
--Basic facts about federalism: types of national--local relationships, the intergovernmental grant system.
Read Chapters 5 and 6
Objective: To learn about the media's influence on politics; to learn about the significance of public opinion and voting behavior e.g. political socialization, ideology, polling, and political participation.
--Discuss the media's influence on politics e.g. media as agenda setter, watchdog, and gatekeeper.
-- Basic facts about public opinion: Polling, Political Socialization, Political Participation, Voting Behavior (Cultural Learning Session), view vdeo Life Ain't No Crystal Stair and discussion.
Read Chapter 7 & 8
Objective: To learn basic facts about organized groups e.g. labor unions, environmental organizations, civil rights organizations, feminist organizations, and Christian conservative groups.
FIRST PAPER DUE
--Basic facts about organized groups: Profit Sector, Nonprofit Sector, Citizens Groups, Lobbying. GROUP QUIZ.
--Public Forum on Ethics and Public Leadership. Dr. Reese will be the moderator of this forum. It will be open to the public.
*In preparation for debates on Prop 227, Prop 215, Prop 209, and Prop 187, write a one page summary of one of these initiatives. At the end of your summary take a side onthe issue. I will divide the class according to the position you have taken.
Read Chapter 10
Objective: To learn about California State Gov't. e.g. the initiative, proposition, and referendum process; to debate the pros and cons of recent California propositions.
--Discuss California State Politics--Initiative, Proposition, Referendum Process; Homework/Summaries Due; Classroom Debate on Props 227, 215, 209, and 187 (Cultural Learning Session).
Read Chapters 11 and 12
Objective: To learn basic facts about Congress e.g. the role of Congress, Congressional Tasks, Congress and the Public Good; to learn the realities of being a politician; to learn the roles and duties of the President and the executive branch of government.
--How Congress works, Congressional Leadership, Congress and the politics of interests, Congress and the politics of ideas; watch the film "Distinguished Gentleman."
--Who can become president? The process of becoming president, the many roles of the president, special uses of presidential power, abuses of executive power and impeachment; watch the film "The American President.
Read Chapters 15 & 16
Objective: To learn the basic features of the American Legal System and basic jurisprudence concepts; learn basic facts about public policy issues regarding race and ethnicity e.g. immigration, affirmative action, and multiculturalism; to learn about various highlights of the American Democracy by doing group presentations.
--Basic jurisprudence concepts. The different Supreme Court Eras: Landmark Cases. Discuss the development of Civil Rights legislation and immigration policy..
--Watch film "Remember the Titans."
No Readings Due.
GROUP PROJECT BOOKS DUE
Objective: To continue to learn about various highlights of the American Democracy by doing group presentations.
--Group Panel Discussions: Groups 1-3.
--Group Panel Discussions: Groups 4-6.
Objective: To continue to learn about various highlights of the American Democracy by doing group projects.
-- Group Panel Discussions: Groups 7-10.
--Interactive review for final exam: GROUP QUIZ.
First Homework Assignment: Write a one page (single spaced) summary of a First Amendment Freedom of Speech Case. Who, What, When, Where? What was the court's ruling if applicable and its significance?
First Paper: Choose any one of the 27 (except the first) amendments to the Constitution and write a 4-5 page (double spaced) paper on what it states, its significance, and a relevant case that involves this amendment.
Second Homework Assignment: Write a one page (single spaced) summary of one of the following California Propositions: Prop 227, Prop 215, Prop 209, and Prop 187. At the end of the summary take a stand. State your opinion.
Group Projects/Second Paper: The class will be divided up into 10 groups of 5 students. Each group will be assigned a broad topic dealing with American Government. Each person in the group is responsible for being an expert on one of the issues under this broad topic. Each person will write a 5-6 page (double spaced) paper on their specific topic. The group will bind each of the five papers into chapters of the group's book. There will be 5 chapters of this book. During the period of your class presentation your group will form a panel. Dr. Reese will act as the moderator for group panel discussions. You will briefly present your specific area of expertise and then
you will field questions from the audience.
GROUP 1THE PRESIDENT
1. The Role & Duties
2. Franklin D. Roosevelt
3. Lyndon B. Johnson
4. Richard Nixon
5. Bill Clinton
GROUP 2 THE COURTS
1. The Role & Duties
2. Marbury vs. Madison
3. Topeka vs. Board of Education
4. Roe vs. Wade
5. California v. Bakke
GROUP 3 PUBLIC AGENCIES
1. The Role & Duties
2. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
3. Housing & Urban Development (HUD
4. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
5. National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
GROUP 4--POLITICAL THEORY
3. J.S. Mill
4. De Tocqueville
2. Different Forms
3. Federal Grants
4. State Government
5. Local Government
GROUP 6--INTEREST GROUPS
1. Roles & Duties
2. American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
3. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
4. National Rifle Association (NRA)
5. Sierra Club
GROUP 7 THE MEDIA
GROUP 8 CRISIS EVENTS
1. Bay of Pigs
2. Cuban Missile Crisis
3. Assassination of M. L. King Jr. and Robert Kennedy
GROUP 9 FOREIGN POLICY
1. The Marshall Plan
2. The Truman Doctrine
4. Policy on China
5. U.S. Anti-Terrorism Policies
GROUP 10 SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
1. Women's Rights Movement (ERA)
2. Civil Rights Movement
3. Gay Rights Movement
4. Environmental Movement
5. Contract with America