United States Government
PSC 201 Honors, High Point University
Tuesday and Thursday: 9:30 - 10:45
Congdon Hall, rm. 355
MWF: 11:00 - 12:00
TTH: 3:30 - 4:30
and by appointment
Office: Smith Hall (Library), cub. 429
Phone: 336/841-9018 (office); 336/834-0185 (home, before 8:00 p.m. only)
Class Website: http://www.highpoint.edu/~msetzler
UNIVERSITY CATALOG COURSE DESCRIPTION:
An analysis of the institutions and processes of government in the United States and the values on which they are based. Emphasis will be placed on the role of the individual in the political system. This version of the class has been approved as an honors class by the university honors committee.
COURSE OVERVIEW AND METHOD OF INSTRUCTION:
This class will survey the constitutional foundations, behavioral dynamics, and central institutions of American political life. We will examine and critique a broad sampling of the questions and theories that political scientists use to explore the nation's political values, behaviors, and choices. In the first unit, we will analyze the constitutional principles and “rules” that have shaped the practice of democracy in America for over two centuries. We will tackle a number of questions: What influences led our country's founders to adopt our specific constitutional arrangements? How concerned were the architects of American democracy with making it inclusive of everyday citizens? And, most importantly, how have the Constitution and the practice of democracy in America evolved over time? The second unit of the course will critically evaluate citizen representation and political participation: How can everyday citizens make their voices heard by government? Why do so few individuals choose to closely follow and participate in politics? What other institutions, if any, will hold our government accountable if citizens cannot or will not do so? The final weeks of the term will be devoted to analyzing the performance of political institutions: Where have American institutions like the Presidency and the Congress excelled? Where are they most in need of rethinking? How well equipped is the American political system to respond to today's most pressing economic, social, and foreign policy concerns?
One of the main goals of this class is to stimulate student input, questions, and discussion. The course also will provide you with an opportunity to better understand and apply the analytic tools and theories of the political science discipline to reach and articulate your own conclusions about the strengths and limitations of America’s democracy. In most seminars, I will either present new materials or lead discussions of your assigned readings. In both cases, I typically will organize our conversation around a loosely-structured, lecture format that relies on your active, informed class participation. Please make the most of our seminar discussions by consistently coming to class well-read and fully prepared to ask questions, to comment insightfully on the day's reading assignments, and to engage the ideas and perspectives of other students.
COURSE OBJECTIVES (After completing this course, you should be able to do the following):
Understand the main historical, philosophical, and institutional foundations of the American political system.
Apply and analyze the central concepts and theories used by political scientists in the study of American politics.
Identify and critically evaluate a wide range of current policy issues and problems confronting the American political system and society as a whole.
Be able to explain why rates of political participation, policy preferences, and attitudes toward government differ across age, racial, ethnic, gender, and class cleavages in American society.
Be able to effectively articulate orally and in writing your own opinions about the strengths and limits of America’s democratic system.
REQUIRED TEXTS, READINGS, AND MATERIALS:
Benjamin Ginsberg, et al. 2007. We the People: An Introduction to American Politics, Essentials Edition, 7th edition. New York: WW Norton.
Numerous academic journal and news magazine articles. High Point's library subscribes electronically to almost all of your non-text reading assignments. While you are free to locate these materials in the library on your own, most students will probably want to download the readings from the electronic archives I have placed on the course's website (you can access readings by following the electronic links I have embedded in the on-line version of the assignments schedule). To open and read assignments downloaded from the course website, you will need to have a recent version (7.0 or newer for some readings) of the free Acrobat Reader program installed on your computer. You will also need a class-specific password that is listed in the paper version of the syllabus. Most computers on campus will already have Acrobat installed; if yours does not, you can download Acrobat Reader by following links on the class website.
E-Mail and access to the internet.
All students are required to have an active
High Point University email account that they
regularly check. Like all faculty and staff at the university, I
assume that any message sent to your
university mailbox will be
accessed by you within a few days; be advised that I may use your High Point
e-mail account to distribute important course materials or
announcements. If you have any
questions about how to communicate with me through e-mail, please consult my
on-line handout addressing e-mail usage.
The following computer skills will be required during the semester: the ability to browse the internet, the ability to read *.pdf documents (using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader program), and the ability to send/receive email, including attachments. If you have any difficulties meeting these requirements, please see me for assistance during the first week of the semester.
Three sets of unit examinations (tests and papers): 60 percent of the course
grade. After completing each unit (approximately
every five weeks), you will take an examination that has both an in-class test
and a take-home essay component. Your unit grade will be calculated using both
assignments, but favoring the part on which you perform the best. Thus, if
your in-class test earns a higher
grade than your take-home essay for a particular
unit, then the in-class exam will be worth two-thirds of
that unit's grade and the
paper will be worth only one-third. Conversely, if you perform better
on your take-home essay, the assessment weights will be reversed. Each
of the unit exams will comprise 20 percent of your final grade.
Your in-class tests will include a battery of true false questions and a section of short-answer questions/identification items. You will find it helpful to consult my on-line handout on how these short-answer questions will be graded.
Your take-home essay assignments will each require you to write a paper that is no shorter than 1,500 words, excluding citation and notes (approximately five pages). The topics for these essays are designed to assess your understanding of the unit's numerous readings and any materials reviewed in our seminar meetings. Your papers will be graded on their organization, clarity of writing, content, level of analysis, grammar, citation usage, and formatting. Before submitting any paper in this class, you must consult my on-line handouts on citation requirements and essay grading criteria. These resources are meant to help you to improve your writing and grades.
Class participation (and quizzes if necessary): 15 percent. Your
thoughtful, informed discussion, and reflection on a daily basis will further
this course's objectives. Obviously, you must be in class to participate in
class discussion and to engage the ideas of other students. Your questions,
insights, and opinions on the assigned readings and any of the course
materials are encouraged and valued. Your participation in all class exercises
and discussion sections is required. If it is apparent that many students are not prepared to discuss assigned materials in seminars, I will be forced to resort to using graded pop quizzes as a primary measure of preparation and participation.
I will assign a separate participation grade at mid-term and at the end of the course. If you are unsure of what is expected of you with respect to class participation, please see me or review the participation assessment hand-out that I have placed on the course website. In addition to the assessment criteria noted in the handout, your participation grade can be impacted by our individual conferences. This is an honors section with small enrollments, and you will have the opportunity to meet individually with me to discuss your performance after each unit. We also will have a conference early in the term to provide you feedback on the journal entries described below.
Political events and analysis journal: 15 percent. One of the objectives of this course is for you to strengthen your capacity to eloquently summarize and contextualize major developments in American politics. Beginning in the second week of the class, you will be asked to keep a weekly journal in which you will write a series of short (250-350 word) essays, identifying and analyzing what you see as the three most important political events of the week. Each of your essays should draw upon no fewer than five articles selected from the website www.realclearpolitics.com. With the exception of citation requirements (we will discuss the special rules for citation that apply to this type of essay in class), your work will be graded with the same criteria used to assess your other writing assignments. A single composite grade will be assigned for the essays submitted during each of the three course units. You are permitted one pass (i.e., you may take one week off from your journal entries) for each unit.
Oral briefings: 10 percent. At the beginning of the semester, each of you will select two dates on which you will begin our Tuesday seminar with a 5 minute talk summarizing some or all of your journal entry for the week (you are welcome to focus on a single political development if you see it as especially important or interesting). Once the schedule is set, the presentation dates will be firm, although I will allow you trade places with another student if I am given at least one week's warning. Your performance on the oral presentations will be assessed according to their organization, quality of audience engagement, and the quality of your analysis of multiple news stories.
FINAL GRADE CALCULATION:
The university mandates that its instructors assign course grades that accurately reflect each student’s performance. By university policy, the A grade must be reserved for students whose work is "of a markedly superior quality." Bs are reserved for student work that is "excellent" and thus "clearly above average." C is the grade assigned to students doing "satisfactory work" that is consistent with the performance of an "average student." Ds are recorded where a student's work is "unsatisfactory," such that it is evident that the student does not understand or cannot communicate many of the basic elements and materials covered in the class. Fs are recorded when a student's work has not been completed or is so deficient that it does not merit college credit.
I will calculate your course grades using a numerical system:
A: Students with a final course grade that is equal to or greater than 92.5-100 %
Academic dishonesty. I fully support and enforce the university's honor code . As a condition of membership in the university community, every High Point Student is honor-bound to refrain from cheating, collusion, and plagiarism. You are also honor-bound to confront violations of the honor code should you observe them. Students taking or facilitating an inappropriate academic advantage will be reported to the appropriate university authorities and disciplined. The most common form of academic dishonesty is the presentation of another student's or author's ideas as one's own. Before submitting any paper or take-home essay in this class, please carefully review my on-line instructions regarding when and how supporting materials must be acknowledged.
Instructor availability outside of the classroom. Please know that I want students to learn as much as they can from this class and to receive good grades. You are strongly encouraged to make an individual appointment with me should you have undue difficulty successfully completing your work. Please feel free to call me at home (834-0185) if an issue is urgent, and I am not available at the office. I am willing to schedule meetings outside of my posted office hours for reasons of privacy or when your schedule requires it. I have young children, so please do not call me at home after 8:00 p.m. or before 8:00 a.m. If you need to leave a message for me outside of class or scheduled office hours, you may also contact me via electronic mail. I usually check to see if I have new messages a few times each day. Meeting with students during office hours is one of the most important and enjoyable aspects of my job. If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions, my door is almost always open and special appointments will be made as necessary.
Make-up tests, early examinations and missed quizzes. You are required to take exams and quizzes on the days they are given, and make-up work for unscheduled absences will not be allowed except for serious extenuating circumstances that can be verified (e.g., a serious illness). As likely will be the case with your future employers, I am much more flexible about rescheduling work and giving extensions when you provide advance notice and a reasonable justification for needing to move an assignment's due date. If you know you will not be able to make a paper deadline or take a test on the scheduled day for justifiable reasons (e.g. participation in university-sponsored event), you need to make arrangements with me, in person, well before the day the test is given. Please note that I reserve the right to alter the structure of make-up exams from what was given to the rest of the class. For reasons of exam security and out of fairness to all students, I will not give early examinations (including the final), so you need to make your travel plans accordingly.
Late and e-mailed assignments. No essays may be submitted electronically unless you have made advanced arrangements with me. No late papers will be accepted after the start of your final examination. Otherwise, assignments generally will be penalized five percent for each day they are tardy, including the first day if the essay is not submitted prior to the time deadlines listed in the course schedule. In cases where explicit, prior arrangements have been made with me, the late penalty may be reduced or waived at my discretion.
Class attendance policy. Your punctual attendance at every class meeting is expected. Except in cases of serious illness, university-excused absences, or similar circumstances (with acceptable proof), any student who misses more than five classes during the semester may be withdrawn from the course at my discretion. If you are unable to attend class for any reason, you are responsible for obtaining all missed materials. Please be aware that punctual, regular attendance makes up an integral part of your class participation grade.
The use of phones and laptops. Please turn off your phone and remain disconnected from the internet during our seminars. Please turn off your phone and remain disconnected from the internet during our seminars. Your computer should be used exclusively for the instructor-approved activities that will be discussed the first day of class. The inappropriate use of electronic devices is distracting to you, me, and other students, and it will adversely impact your participation grade.
Disability accommodations. If you have a diagnosed disability that necessitates accommodations in the classroom or testing environment please contact Mrs. Irene Ingersoll in the Academic Services Center (Smith Library, Lower Level) to arrange for your accommodation memos. Mrs. Ingersoll also can be reached at (336) 841-9037 or email@example.com. By university policy, accommodations are not retroactive, so please take care of accommodations in the first two weeks of the class.
Course evaluations. At the end of the semester, you will be asked by the university's office of assessment to fill out an anonymous, on-line survey on the quality of this class and its instruction. Please take the time to complete the survey for this course and all of your classes. Your feedback not only is a critical component of the university's evaluation of instructors, but also it provides information that helps instructors to improve their teaching.
READING ASSIGNMENTS AND TENTATIVE SCHEDULE OF ACTIVITIES:
Please follow this link for all updates that have been made to assignments and readings.