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CSU Long Beach

POSC 100: Introduction to American Government (3.0 Units)


Fall 2019

Class Information
Instructor: Savannah Johnston
Location: CBA 140
Meeting Times: T/TH 9:30am – 10:45am
Office Hours: T/Th 11am – noon & by Appt
Email: savannah.johnston@cgu.edu

Course Description:
Introductory survey of American political institutions, politics, and policy, including government
and politics in California. Constitutional foundations and current controversies. Satisfies the
general education requirement and the California teaching credential requirement. The course is
split into three sections. The first section will cover the principles and foundations of American
democracy. The second section will cover the governing institutions. The third section will cover
democratic politics and public deliberation. All of this will help us understand why government
forms, the merits of government, and how it changes over time.

Student Learning Outcomes:


Upon completion of POSC 100, students will a)know and b)be able to do the following:
• The student will be able to articulate an understanding of the relationship between politics and
society, including factors such as social class, race, ethnicity, and gender.
• The student will demonstrate knowledge of the ideological foundations of the Constitution and
its influence on U.S. political institutions and cultures present day.
• The student will demonstrate an understanding of the comparative forms of government, such
as federalism, republicanism, direct democracy, oligarchy, dictatorship, etc.
• The student will develop an understanding of the complexities of political participation. Who
participates? What are the means of participation? How can students become active in politics?
• The student will demonstrate an understanding of the evolution and development of American
political institutions, including the Presidency, Congress, the judicial system, cabinet agencies,
independent agencies, political parties, interest groups, elections, news and media organizations,
citizens, mass demonstrations, etc.
• The student will be able to identify/and or explain and critically assess hypotheses which
purport to explain outcomes of U.S. and California governmental institutions. These may
include institutionalism, historical materialism, chaos theory, elite theory, pluralist theory,
theories of power, etc.
• The student will demonstrate an understanding of the structure and functions of American
political institutions at the national, state, and local levels.
• The student will demonstrate an understanding of California’s place in the world, the U.S., and
local communities.
• The student will be able to place him/herself within the context of the American political system
and identify how his/her own life chances are shaped by political institutions.
• The student will engage in self-reflection on his/her own political orientation, its origins, and its
consequences.
• The student will demonstrate his/her ability to critically assess political writing, past and present
political conditions, and the role of citizenship in America’s representative democracy.
• The student will demonstrate skills in political research and information tech by gathering and
assessing information from sources such as the internet, newspapers and magazines, electronic
media, systematic interviews, etc.

Prerequisites:
This class has no prerequisites. I assume that you know nothing about American government.

Required Texts:
Bessetts, Joseph M. and John J. Pitney Jr. American Government and Politics: Deliberation,
Democracy, and Citizenship. 2nd Edition. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning. 2014. ISBN: 1133587895

All instructor material is copyrighted.

Course Decorum:
We will likely discuss sensitive topics during this course (i.e. slavery, abortion, gender dynamics, etc). I
expect each student to treat others’ opinions with respect. You do not have to agree with an expressed
opinion – in fact, I will do my best to always play devil’s advocate to make sure an echo chamber does
not occur – but you do have to argue your point logically and respectfully. Also, I expect each student
to pay attention during lectures and when fellow students are speaking.

Technology Policy:
Laptops and other electronic devices may not be used during class sessions. All electronic devices must
be off or muted. Numerous studies demonstrate that, on aggregate, students taking notes by hand learn
information more effectively and receive higher grades than those taking notes on an electronic device,
even when those on devices are exclusively focused on class tasks. Moreover, it’s just a part of our
human nature that it is difficult to pull ourselves away from social media, news, e-mail, etc. when we
have screens in front of us. This policy allows students to perform better in class and enjoy a much
richer class experience as a result of everyone being truly “present.” I reserve the right to preserve this
rich classroom experience by dismissing students from class who refuse to adhere to this technology
policy.

If you have a documented need or accommodation to use an electronic device in class, please let me
know and I will be happy to accommodate your need.

Disability Policy:
“The Bob Murphy ACCESS Center (BMAC) provides support services for students with deaf or
hearing impairments, communication disabilities, learning disabilities, visual limitations, mobility
limitations and other functional disabilities. Prior to a student receiving assistance, documentation from
a qualified professional source must be submitted to BMAC (Success Center #110, (562) 985-5401,
BMAC@csulb.edu; http://web.csulb.edu/divisions/students/dss/.”

Academic Integrity:
Any form of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated in this class. Academic dishonesty includes but
is not limited to plagiarism and cheating. Please respect yourself enough not to cheat, plagiarize, or be
otherwise dishonest. Please see the "General Regulations and Procedures" for clarification.
Semi-Weekly Quizzes (20%):
Students will be required to complete online quizzes before each class. These quizzes can be accessed
on Canvas and are due at the start of class as stated in the course schedule section of this syllabus. The
quizzes will cover material from the previous lecture. Class attendance will greatly improve a student’s
ability to do well on these quizzes. If Canvas is not functioning properly, I expect you to email your
answers to me before the start of class. No make-up quizzes for unexcused absences will be allowed.
The following are excused absences according to the University: 1. Illness or injury to the student; 2.
Death, injury, or serious illness of an immediate family member or the like; 3. Religious reasons
(California Education Code § 89320); 4. Jury duty or government obligation; 5. University sanctioned
or approved activities (examples include: artistic performances, forensics presentations, participation in
research conferences, intercollegiate athletic activities, student government, required class field trips,
etc.). All excused absences require documentation. Absences due to #3-5 above must be discussed with
and approved by the instructor at least one week prior to the planned absence.

Exams (60%):
Two midterms (20% each) and a final (20%) will be administered in this class. Exams will cover
material both from reading and lecture materials. The exams will not be comprehensive. The first
midterm exam will cover section I, the second midterm will cover section II, and the final exam will
cover section III. Make up exams will only be allowed in cases of excused absence. See above.
Students must arrive within the first hour of the exam in order to qualify to take the exam.

Response Papers (20%):


Four response papers will be required during the duration of this course. Students will respond to a ‘big
think’ question – an application of course material to current events – in 350 - 500 words (absolute
maximum). One response paper will be due during section I and II and two response papers during
section III of the class. Each response paper will be turned in on Canvas.

Extra Credit Opportunities:


Extra credit opportunities may be offered periodically throughout the quarter. Take advantage of these
opportunities, and your final grade will thank you!

Grade Distribution:

Daily Quizzes 20%


Response Papers 20%
Midterm I 20%
Midterm II 20%
Final 20%

Grade Scale:
A = 90-100%
B = 80-89.99%
C = 70-79.99%
D = 60-69.99%
F = 0-59.99%
Grade Change Requests: If you feel that you have been unfairly graded on an assignment, please
come and speak to me. After the semester ends, grade changes will only be submitted if the instructor
has made an error.

Add/Drop Period and Withdrawal:


It is the student’s responsibility to verify their registration status for the course, including adding,
dropping, or withdrawing from the course. Students who stop attending or never attend will receive a
failing grade unless they drop or withdraw from the course.

Course Schedule:

Note: Reading assignments must be completed by the date that they are listed. However, the course
schedule, topics, evaluations, and assignments are subject to be changed at the instructor’s discretion.

Part I: Principles and Foundations of American Democracy

Sep 3
Topic: Introduction & Deliberative Democracy
Assignments: No assignments
Readings: No readings.

Sep 5
Topic: Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, State Constitutions
Assignments: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Readings: Declaration of Independence & The Federalist Papers #15, #16, #22 (on beachboard)

Sep 10
Topic: State Constitutions, cont & The Constitutional Convention
Assignments: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Readings: American Governance & Politics ch. 2 pg. 35-46 & The Federalist Papers Intro (on Canvas)

Sep 12
Topic: The Constitution & Ratification
Assignments: Daily Quiz due at 9:30am.
Readings: American Gov &Politics ch. 2 pg. 46-60 & The Federalist Papers #10 and #51 (on
beachboard)

Sep 17
Topic: Federalism & Nullification
Assignments: Daily Quiz due at 9:30am.
Readings: American Gov & Pol ch. 3. Kentucky Resolution (on beachboard) & Virginia Resolution (on
beachboard) & “Welcome Back, Federalism” (The Hill – beachboard) &“Marijuana and States’
Rights” (The Atlantic- beachboard)

Sep 19
Topic: California State Constitution
Assignments: Daily quiz due at 9:30am. Response Paper #1 due at midnight.
Readings: TBD.
Sep 24:
Midterm I

Part 2: Governing Institutions

Sep 26
Topic: Legislature
Assignments: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Readings: Article 1 of U.S. Constitution (online) & American Gov & Pol ch. 12 pg. 345-356 & How
Congress stopped working (on blackboard) & Productivity Scorecard of Congress (on blackboard)

Oct 1
Topic: Legislature, pt. 2
Assignments: Daily Quiz due at 9:30am.
Reading: American Gov & Pol ch. 12 pg. 357-372.

Oct 3
Topic: Executive Branch, pt. 1
Assignments: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Reading: U.S. Constitution Article II & American Gov & Pol ch. 13 pg 376-387. Trump’s Approach to
Presidential Power (The Atlantic – on beachboard) & How Powerful is the US President? (Vox – on
beachboard)

Oct 8
Topic: Executive Branch, pt. 2
Assignments: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Reading: American Gov & Pol ch. 13 pg. 387-407.

Oct 10
Topic: Judiciary, pt. 1
Assignments: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Reading: U.S. Constitution Article III & American Gov & Pol ch. 15 pg. 437-450 Here’s What’s Wrong
with the Supreme Court (Mother Jones – beachboard) & Why Court Packing is a terrible idea
(Washington Post – beachboard)

Oct 15
Topic: Judiciary, pt. 2
Assignments: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Reading: American Gov &Pol ch. 15 pg. 451-470

Oct 17
Topic: Bureaucracy & Administrative State
Assignments: Daily quiz due at 9:30am. Response paper #2 due at midnight.
Reading: American Gov & Pol ch. 14

Oct 22
MIDTERM II

Part III: Democratic Politics & Public Deliberation

Oct 24
Topic: American Citizenship and Civic Culture
Assignments: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Reading: Amer gov and pol ch. 4 & The Federalist Papers #2 (on beachboard)

Oct 29
Topic: Civil Rights, pt 1
Assignment: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Readings: American Gov & Pol ch. 6 & Frederick Douglass’ What to a Slave is the 4th of July? (on
beachboard) & Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail (on Canvas)

Oct 31
Topic: Civil Liberties
Assignments: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Readings: American Gov & Pol ch. 5

Nov 5
Topic: Public Opinion & Political Participation
Assignments: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Readings: American Gov & Pol ch. 7

Nov 7
Topic: Interest Groups
Assignments: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Readings: American Gov & Pol ch. 8

Nov 12
Topic: Political Parties (California emphasis)
Assignments: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Readings: American Gov & Pol ch. 9.

Nov 14
Topic: Elections & Campaigns, pt. 1 (California emphasis)
Assignments: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Readings: American Gov & Pol ch. 10 pg. 288-302

Nov 19
Topic: Elections & Campaigns, pt. 2
Assignments: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Readings: American Gov & Pol ch. 10. pg. 302-315

Nov 21
Topic: Mass Media
Assignments: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Readings: American Gov & Pol ch. 11.
Nov 26
Topic: Social Policy & the Welfare State
Assignment: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Reading: American Politics & Gov ch. 16.

Nov 28: Thanksgiving Break. No class.

Dec 3
Topic: Economic Policy
Assignment: Daily quiz due at 9:30am.
Reading: American Politics & Gov ch. 17

Dec 5
Topic: National Security & Foreign Policy
Assignment: Daily quiz due at 1pm.
Reading: American Politics & Gov ch. 18. Response Paper #4 due at midnight.

Dec 10 Reading Day/No Class

Dec 17
FINAL EXAM at 10:15-12:15am.