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OIS:  Forum
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Essay 4 (optional) - due by midnight Friday, December 12 at Drop Box under "Essay 4" subheading

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Renka, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Public Opinion Polls

PS103 Syllabus - Fall 2008 
Professor Russell Renka

PS103 - 07 U.S. Political Systems (#10757) Professor Russell D. Renka
Fall 2008 - Southeast Missouri State University Campus Office:  Carnahan 211L; Mail Stop 2920
Section 07 - TR 11:00-12:15 p.m. Office Hours:  MWF 9:00-9:50 a.m. or by appointment
Course Web page: Office Telephone: (573) 651-2692
Renka's Home Page: Office FAX: (573) 651-2695
Renka's e-mail: Department Telephone:  (573) 651-2183

Internal links:
° Introduction
° Online Instructor Suite (OIS)
° Course Textbook and Readings
° Course Requirements and Credits
° Source Citations and Locations
° What is Expected of You
° How to Reach Me
° Weekly Readings and Examination Itinerary

Introduction                    Next down; Top

    This course addresses government and politics of the United States and its states, including the State of Missouri.  Governments have special authority granted to no other organizations--the power to make laws and regulations and to enforce them, and to collect taxes from all of us.  Government is a nearly universal way human beings regulate themselves and their fellows.  Included here is coverage of our federal and state constitutions which provide the sovereign authority for these governments to exist and exercise powers over us.  The course fulfills the Political Systems requirement of the University Studies Program.

    Politics is the study of the uses of power in pursuit of public objectives.  It's amenable to scientific treatment, and I'm a political scientist.  You must learn some politics to truly understand government.  We'll go beyond dry formalities of government structure and functions such as "how a bill becomes law" (seen in every textbook).  Politics explains why one bill becomes law and a host of fellows fall short.  For example, the Republican-majority 104th Congress passed a minimum wage increase in 1996 despite the traditional Republican disdain of such measures and the ardent hostility of many Members of Congress toward it; but politics can explain why and how this happened.

    This is also a civics course.  Wikipedia acceptably defines civics as "education in the obligations and the rights of the citizen under (some political or ethical tradition such as the American one)."  Not every student wants a dose of this, but it's good medicine.  Many Americans in 2006 dislike politics, politicians, and government.  But it's a democracy, it affects you, and you have no way out of that.  Effective citizenship in democracy is a worthy personal goal.  It requires real knowledge of both government and politics.

    This course is taught at three levels.  Some material is basic description, such as an outline of the trimester system set forth in the Supreme Court's highly controversial Roe v. Wade abortion decision, or a specification of what the First Amendment says about freedom of speech.  Some is analytic; once you know basics, you can interpret whether the distinction in law of first and second trimesters makes sense based on what we know from medical research, or whether public tobacco advertising should be classified as commercial speech.  And ultimately you confront the evaluative or judgmental; you ultimately decide what if anything to accept in Roe v. Wade or in tobacco advertising.  All have the objective of enabling you to understand what you read or hear in the public realm, and to react as an informed consumer and citizen.  Essay portions of exams are designed to let you show knowledge at each of these levels.

    This course emphasizes two core university studies objectives.  See University Studies Program Objectives.  First is effective citizenship.  The course should enhance your ability to be an informed participant and knowledgeable consumer.  This does not mean I promote an automatic acceptance of the American status quo; quite the contrary, blind acceptance is a fool's path.  The second, equally important objective is to master locating and gathering information.  Few things are more confusing to the average American than to figure out sources of the myriad effects our government has upon our lives.  Website access is a great help, but one must still learn navigation and acquisition skills.  Some assignments are therefore designed to ensure that you become conversant in web usage beyond the simple use of search terms in your favorite search engine.

Online Instructor Suite (OIS):                    Next Down; Top

    OIS is run by Center for Scholarship in Teaching and Learning.  We have a class bulletin board called Forum, a locale for posting papers and assignments called Drop Box, and a personal grade and assignment GradebookUtest is available for quizzes and short sample tests taken online (more on that below).

Course Textbook and Readings:                  Next Down; Top

Textbook:  Patterson, Thomas E.  2008.  The American Democracy, 8th ed.  New York:  McGraw Hill.  This is issued by Textbook Service.  See Self Study (from The American Democracy Companion Website) with chapter summary, flash cards, glossary, and self-tests.  I recommend you regularly do these Multiple Choice quizzes to stay current with the reading.

Second Book:  Morris P. Fiorina with Samuel J. Abrams and Jeremy C. Pope, Culture War?  The Myth of a Polarized America, 2d ed.  New York:  Pearson Education, Inc., 2005.  Southeast Bookstore has used copies for $10.70 and a handful of new ones at $15.20.  (You can also get it used at Amazon for about $5.75 up, but shipping brings net cost close to $10).  On Itinerary it's cited simply as Culture War? in italics.

Other readings are specified in the Weekly Readings and Examination Itinerary below.

Web Reference Sources:  Paul M. Johnson's website has fundamental terminology used widely in political science, economics, and policy analysis classes, at A Glossary of Political Economy Terms.

Course Requirements and Credits                     Next down; Top

Examinations:  The 16-week course has four sections, each ending with an examination worth 200 points.  Each exam has two sections.  There is an in-class multiple-choice part worth 100 points; and there is a take-home essay also worth 100.

   The multiple choice questions cover all readings, classroom materials, and other materials we may address during that four-week period.  These questions combine the basic and the analytic, but largely bypass the judgmental (although some will require you to recognize an opinion of a writer or your instructor on an issue raised in class and/or readings).  On the proportion of questions taken directly from reading, v. those taken from lecture:  both are important, and single items often blend both.  Net Value:  100 points per exam, 400 points in all.

    Essays are written from two or three essay options.  You'll normally have five days to write a paper of about 2.5 to 3 honest pages with appropriate citation of your sources.  Each option basically consists of a closely related set of 2 or 3 queries that require you to integrate class material and readings.  Typically the first part is basic; for instance, explain the "undue burden" legal standard made in court review of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade abortion decision.  The next part requires analysis; for instance, explain what's in dispute over this burden.  Finally is judgment; considering what you've said before, do you finally accept or reject the Roe v. Wade "undue burden" standard?  Remember this:  analysis first, then judgments.  Moral judgments alone are basically worthless; don't try to substitute your opinion for real evidence.  Net Value:  100 points per exam, 400 points in all.

   The 4th examination covers material from Weeks 13 through 16 only.  The multiple-choice part is done on the date of the final.  There is no comprehensive final exam.  The 4th essay part is done during Week 16 as an option.  So the semester's net value is either 700 points or 800 points.

Polling:  I teach about polling because it is such an important technique in modern life for learning about people.  It's also a very attractive way to lie or mislead.  The web has opened the polling world to millions of people, many of whom cannot distinguish among The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Polling.  So I assign just that in Week 6 on the ItineraryValue:  50 points.

Political Science Symposia:  Our Department or the University will conduct a public symposium this semester on contemporary events of public importance.  You should plan to attend these events.  If that's impossible, then find comparable events elsewhere.  Your assignment is to write a 2 to 3 page summation of what took place at each event.  If the summary is adequate, each Symposium earns you 50 points.   Total Value:  100 points.

    In summary, points are allotted by:
Examinations - multiple choice sections   400 points (100 per exam)
Examinations - take-home essays           400 points (100 per exam); or 300 if 4th essay is not done
Polling Assignment                                50 points
Political Science Symposia                     100 points

All assignments:                                 950 points; or 850 if 4th essay is not done

Grades:   The online Gradebook posts interim grades and the eventual course grade, to let you keep up with your assignments and grades.  It includes a statement on the criteria for A, B, C, and D level performances.

Review for Exams:  I run an oral review before each exam.  We'll set the time in discussion, but for certain it'll be afternoons other than Fridays.  I also do review on the Forum.

Forum:  My PS103 classes share a Forum discussion site for material pertinent to this class.  It's for addressing what the lecture and readings are about, and for exam preparation.  There are also current events on matters related to this class.

Source Citations and Locations                        Next down; Top

     For assistance with writing, go to The Writing Center in Kent Library 412.  Or go on line to OWL, Online Writing Lab; and see OWL Tutorials.

    Essay writing in PS103 means using and citing sources properly.  That means following a Style Guide.  If your major field has a Guide such as MLA or APA, use that and be consistent in its use.  As a time-saver, whenever you use class readings as sources, you can copy the formal citation straight from this syllabus Itinerary and paste it to your paper.  For PS103 paper links done in APA style, you can also use Poly-Cy Guide to Internet Resources for Political Science - Style and Web Site Citation Guides.  Elsewhere, Kent Library's Web Searching Tools includes "Deep Web Tools" with links to many databases.

Plagiarism:  Plagiarists take source work from others and pass it off as their own.  It's not carefully policed in high school, to say the least.  It can be as simple as taking a quotation and failing to show it properly, to lifting an entire piece verbatim and pasting it to one's own paper or exam.  In the commercial world, plagiarism brings lawsuits for copyright violation or outright theft.  In the academic world, it brings verdicts of moral and academic failure on the offenders.  It's discussed at Southeast's Policy on Academic Honesty, or Professor Hamner Hill's Policy on Plagiarism.  I do not tolerate plagiarism.  Our classes at Southeast are small, so I can check for it--and know how to find it.  If the plagiarism is intentional, I report that as a violation of the University's academic integrity policy while assigning that paper or exam an irreversible grade of zero.  If it is not, I return the paper without a grade to its creator for immediate and thorough correction; but I expect the offense never to recur.

    You can avoid temptation to plagiarize by properly citing source materials as you write or take notes.  I do so above on the listed books for this course.  The books do so as well.  See those, or see Strunk and White's guide.  I do not stipulate a particular source guide, but will expect you to cite one in your References section of any term paper.  See Kent Library Learn - Tools for citing sources for proper use of MLA, APA, Chicago Style, and others.  I usually employ APA but any of them are fine.  The core rule is really very simple:  cite your stuff so that anyone who reads your paper can easily track its sources.  Give full citation to all sources, including names of all authors, the book/article/website file name or name and position of an interviewee, and all publication information (publisher's location, publisher's name, year of pub, volume and issue of journal, URL of a website plus date of its access).  If you got specific information from one page out of 900, cite that page only so I avoid poring through 899 superfluous pages.  Simple.

     Websites:  Websites have file names.  That includes blogs.  Don't cite the URL alone, as URLs are frequently changed.  If I cannot find your URL, then it won't count as a source.  Cite the authors, the filename, the URL, and the date or dates of access.  Filenames are easily acquired from an article's self-assigned title.  A general guide on separating good from crappy websites is Evaluating Websites from Donnelley and Lee Library in Chicago.  On use of weblogs (blogs):  better establish why it is authoritative enough to use.  Many are, but others are just rants or worse.  As a professional skeptic, I won't assume a blog is valid; you have to establish that it is. 

     On Wikipedia:  This is becoming more and more prevalent as a source.  I use it myself and will accept it, but with caution.  Wiki isn't a primary source; it gets everything from somewhere else.  So always corroborate a Wiki source with other sources, using its own footnotes or other outside materials.  When citing it, you rarely see an author, but there's always a title and a specific subject-based URL plus date-of-access.

    To do a web search now, proceed here: Google

What is Expected of You:             Next downTop

Attendance:  You have to attend class, and I record attendance with sign-in sheets.  Those who attend typically do well in my classes.  Those who don't, do poorly.  Attend each session unless you have valid reason to miss (i.e., absence for a university event, personal illness or an ill child in your care, death in immediate family, motorcycle or bicycle wreck, full blown Midwestern blizzard or ice storm, New Madrid Fault upheaval of 6.5 or higher on the Richter Scale, Armageddon witness, seance with Elvis from the beyond).  You can e-mail or drop a written note in case of absence.

Lateness to class:  Just come in quietly when late.  I recognize that traffic, weather, and professors in earlier classes all can cause you to arrive at five after.  But if you routinely amble in five or ten minutes late, then you should find another class.  On my part, we have a clock in class, and I'll close on time.

Children:  Those responsible for kids will sometimes ask if the child can attend class.  I'm fine with that so long as the child is quiet and well-behaved. 

Cheating on tests and papers:  I had a nasty little test-taking cheater in 2003, haven't forgotten that, and have since studied methods for catching offenses.  If a student cheats on an assignment, it's an automatic zero grade on that work.  If there's evidence of cheating on more than one assignment, it's a zero on each affected assignment.  Once cheating is documented, then I first confront the offender to elicit an explanation of the behavior, after which I file a report with the Department chairperson.  If I catch the evidence post hoc and cannot confront the offender, I proceed directly to that report.

On electronic devices in class:  Cell phones may attend ONLY when silenced.  Should one somehow ring anyway, please silence it immediately and avoid any repeat.  Otherwise I'll have to eject the offending instrument.  If you must be on phone alert, use vibrate mode.  If a cell phone disobeys these rules, it's gone (but you can stay).

    And on text messaging:  as with Nancy Reagan talking about drugs, just say no.  There's two reasons why.  One is that I don't buy into the general belief that this generation is adept at multi-tasking so that they can pay attention in class and send messages to and fro at the same time.  Automobile drivers are dangerous when a cell phone is attached to one hand and ear, because they pay no damned attention to other drivers.  Once I saw a woman on Montreal's principal commercial street (Rue St. Catherine) clicking a cell phone number while riding a bicycle in rush hour!  Not good.  As for the second reason, it's cheating during exams.  Messaging is a modern version of whispering the answer or glomming your neighbor's paper--old hat cheating.

     Laptops are welcome in class, and so are tape recorders.  Music devices aren't, as I've never met someone into music who also was into class proceedings (unless it's in a music class).

On guns:   Real guns may not attend any of my classes.  The Missouri General Assembly passed a "concealed carry" gun statute in 2003 but didn't bother to say when and where it's permissible to pack heat.  So I was obliged to write my own law.  It's a simple one:  no firearms of any kind are permitted in any of my classes, or in my office, under any circumstances.  Should there be a violation, I will not confront the offender.  Instead I will contact the university's legal authorities and have them press action to ensure that the offender may not continue this practice.  There are no exceptions to this rule unless the student is:  a) a law enforcement authority authorized to carry a gun in the normal performance of duties, and b) this student gets my advance clearance to carry in class.  Note:  None of this refers to minor weapons such as Swiss Army knives, Gerber tools, nail files, or the like.  I refer to guns.

Special Needs:  Just advise me directly if you have specific difficulties that I can help you handle.  For example, I'll do oversized-print handouts if someone is visually impaired so that the usual 12-point type doesn't work; or you can use computer-assisted expansion of hypertext. The Learning Enrichment Center offers special services for those with learning or other disabilities.

How to Reach Me:                      Next down; Top

    I have an open door policy, and can very often be found at or near my office computer.  My office is Carnahan 211-L; it's in a suite of offices immediately next to Carnahan 202.  You can reach me any of the following ways:
a)  Leave a message at my Department mailbox or with the Department office in Carnahan 211.
b)  Leave a message at the mail drop outside my door at Carnahan 211-L.
c)  Leave a voice mail message at my office telephone number, (573) 651-2692.
d)  E-mail me at; but don't use these terms:  "Urgent" or "God Bless You" or "Respond Immediately."  Those are used in Nigerian letter spams and are automatically deleted.  Same for anything in all capitals.
e)  If you’re out of town and cannot send a paper or assignment by email, deliver it to the Drop Box along with an e-mail notifying me of this.  Or if no on-line access, then FAX it to 573/651-2695.
f)  Consult Renka's Home Page (URL: for other details about myself and my courses, including this syllabus.

PS103 Weekly Readings and Examination Itinerary - Professor Renka - Fall 2008             Top

Master Calendar - click at upper left corner for Academic Calendar

Week 1 - August 25-29      Politics, Democracy, and Government
    º Patterson Chapter 1 - American Political Culture
    º The Declaration of Independence - textbook Appendix 1, or on-line: National Archives - Declaration of Independence
    º on-line reading:  America During the Age of Revolution, 1776-1789
    º Missouri tax increase raising ire in Kansas - AP story by David A. Lieb, Monday, 20 August 2007
    º supplement:  Professor Rick Althaus,  Presidential Nomination Process 2008 with Becoming a Delegate:  2008
Week 1 Notes - Why Do We Have Government?

Week 2 - September 2-5     A Constitutional Democracy
    º Patterson Chapter 2 - Constitutional Democracy
    º The Constitution of the United States - Patterson Appendix, pp. A5-A16, or Constitution of the United States
    º Roger A. Bruns, A More Perfect Union:  The Creation of the U.S. Constitution at
    º James Madison, Federalist No. 10 in Patterson A-17 to A-20, or
Week 2 Notes - Creation of the U.S. Constitution

 Week 3 - September 8-12     Federalism and the American States; U.S. and State of Missouri Constitutions
Monday, September 3 is Labor Day.  No classes are held.
    º Patterson Chapter 3 - Federalism
    º Patterson Chapter 18 - State and Local Politics
    º James Madison, The Federalist No. 51 in Patterson A-21 to A-23 or
    º Russell D. Renka, Madison and Federalism
Week 3 Notes - American Federalism

 Week 4 - September 15-19     Civil Liberties    **
    º Patterson Chapter 4 - Civil Liberties
    º Future of the First Amendment - Key Findings (poll from Knight Foundation’s High School Initiative)
Week 4 Notes - Civil Liberties As A National Concern

 Week 5 - September 22-26     Equal Rights
    ** Tuesday, September 23 - Exam no. 1 (multiple choice, in class) is held; Essay 1 - due by midnight W, September 24 at the Drop Box
    º Patterson Chapter 5 - Equal Rights
    º Ronald L. F. Davis, The History of Jim Crow at
    º Pew Center's Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes:  1987-2007 at  - Section 5 on Race, pp. 39-44
Week 5 Notes - Civil Rights As a Growth Industry

 Week 6 - September 29-October 3      Public Opinion and Polling
    º Patterson Chapter 6 - Public Opinion and Political Socialization
    º Russell D. Renka, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Public Opinion Polls (** and 50 point Polling Assignment due by Monday night, October 6 **)
    º supplement to Patterson 6, p. 172 - subtle bias in polls:  USCCB - (Office of Media Relations) - New Poll Americans Continue To Oppose Funding Stem Cell Research That Destroys Human Embryos v. Polling Report's Science and Nature section on Stem cell research

 Week 7 - October 6-10     Political Participation and Voting
    º Patterson Chapter 7 - Political Participation and Voting
    º Voter Turnout from Michael P. McDonald; 2004 Voting-Age and Voting-Eligible Population Estimates and Voter TurnoutMidterm 2006 Voter Turnout; and 2008 Presidential Primary compared to Voter_Turnout_2004_Primaries
Week 7 Notes - Voters and Nonvoters

 Week 8 - October 13-17      Political Parties and Elections
Fall Break is Thursday and Friday, October 16-17.  No classes are held.
    º Patterson Chapter 8 - Political Parties, Candidates, and Campaigns
    º Pew Center's Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes:  1987-2007 at  - Sections 1 & 2, pp. 7-18 (on parties, and size of government)
    º Morris P. Fiorina, Culture War?, Chapters 1 and 2
Week 8 Notes - The Two-Party System in America

 Week 9 - October 20-24     The National Elections of 2000 to 2008    **
**Thursday, October 23 - Exam no. 2 (multiple choice, in class) is held.  Essay 2 - due by midnight Friday, October 24 at the Drop Box under "Essay 2" subheading.
    º Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections - 2000 and 2004 presidential election results
    º Russell D. Renka, The Election of 2004 and Presidential Election Maps, by County
    º supplement:  Canada Votes 2006 - Election Night results and Map

 Week 10 - October 27-31     Interest Groups and the News Media
    º Patterson Chapter 9 - Interest Groups
    º Patterson Chapter 10 - The News Media
    º Fiorina, Culture War?, Chapters 3 through 6
Week 10 Notes - Interest Groups and Free Riders
Week 10 Notes - Political Bias in the News Media

 Week 11 - November 3-7     The U.S. Congress; Does America have a Culture War? and Election 2008
Note:  Election Day is November 4, and on Wednesday Nov. 5 we'll have a Symposium at 12 to 1:15 p.m. on the Election Results at Johnson Hall, Room 200.  This is worth 50 points out of 50 for those who write a review of this event.
    º Fiorina, Culture War?, Chapters 7 through 10
    º Patterson Chapter 11 - Congress, to p. 317
    º Pew Center's Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes:  1987-2007 (pdf file) - Section 4, Religion and Social Issues, pp. 30-38.
   º Election data sites:  Michael McDonald, Voter Turnout 2008 General; Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections - 2008; Gallup Daily Consumer Confidence
   º data site:  Psephos - Adam Carr's Election Archive - 2008 U.S. House Congressional Districts, by state
   º data sites: - Reelection Rates of Incumbents in the U. S. House, and Duration of Representatives’ Incumbency in the U. S. House; both cover 1st through 110th Congresses of 1789 through 2008
Week 11 Notes - The Incumbency Advantage in the U.S. Congress

 Week 12 - November 10-15     The U.S. Congress
    º Patterson Chapter 11 - Congress, from p. 317
    º Russell D. Renka, Presidents and Congresses
    º data site:  Keith Poole, The Ideological Structure of Congressional Voting, 1927-2000 (still shots of each Congress); and Keith Poole's NOMINATE Roll Call Data, 1st to 109th Congresses
Week 12 Notes - The U.S. Congress At Work

 Week 13 - November 17-21    The Presidency
** Tuesday, November 18 - Exam no. 3 (multiple choice, in class) is held, with Fiorina as "open book"; Essay 3 - due by midnight Wednesday, November 19 at Drop Box under "Essay 3" subheading
      ° Patterson Chapter 12 - The Presidency
     ° Russell D. Renka, Presidential Elections through 2004; Renka, The Election of 2004
     ° Professor Renka's Presidential Election Maps, by County
     ° Renka on succession in the modern presidency (Timeline of Modern Presidents)
Week 13 Notes - The Election of Presidents

 Week 14 - November 24   The Presidency 
Thanksgiving Holiday is Wednesday through Friday, November 26-28.  No classes are held.
    ° Renka, Party Control of the Presidency and Congress, 1933-2010
    º Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist No. 70 - "The Executive Department Further Considered"
    ° Renka on succession in the modern presidency (Timeline of Modern Presidents) - conclusion
Week 14 Notes - Powers of the Modern Presidency

 Week 15 - December 1-5    Presidential Succession; War, Peace, and Diplomacy of a Superpower
    ° Renka on succession in the modern presidency (Timeline of Modern Presidents) - conclusion
     ° Patterson Chapter 17 - Foreign and Defense Policy
     ° NOT DONE (for lack of time) - Patterson Chapter 13 - The Federal Bureaucracy

 Week 16 - December 8-12    The Federal Judiciary
    ° Patterson Chapter 14 - The Federal Judicial System
Week 16 Notes - The Judiciary as a Lightning Rod

Essay 4 (optional) - due by midnight Friday, December 12 at Drop Box under "Essay 4" subheading

 Finals Week - December 15-19  ** This is Exam no. 4, not a comprehensive exam.  It covers Weeks 13 through 16.
     º Section 07 (TR 11:00) - Thursday, December 18, 10:00 a.m. in Carnahan 202


Copyright©2008, Russell D. Renka
August 20, 2009 03:50 PM