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PS103 Syllabus - Spring 2007
Professor Russell Renka

PS103 - U.S. Political Systems Professor Russell D. Renka
Spring 2007 - Southeast Missouri State University Campus Office:  Carnahan 211L; Mail Stop 2920
Section 03 (#21839) - MWF 9:00-9:50 a.m. in Carnahan 202 Office Hours:  MWF 10:00-10:50 a.m. or by appointment
Section 09 (#21845) - TR 2:00-3:15 p.m. in Carnahan 202 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, a Republican 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 record called GradebookUtest is available for quizzes and short sample tests taken online (more on that below).

Course Textbook and Readings:                           Next Down; Top

Textbook:  Fiorina, Morris P., Paul E. Peterson, Bertram Johnson, and D. Stephen Voss.  2005.  The New American Democracy, 4th ed.  New York:  Pearson Longman.  This is issued by Textbook Service.  Also see The New American Democracy Companion Website (URL: for Student Resources.  Each chapter has summary, multiple choice test, flashcards, and Web Destinations.

Supplement:  The second book is 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 it used for $10.50.  You can get it used at Amazon for about $5.75, but there's shipping that brings net cost close to $10 (so don't go there unless you're there for other books).  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.  Use it along with Wikipedia--and be careful in using the latter.

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.

    The take-home essays are written on your choice from two or three essay options on a basic problem cited in that section.  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 will conduct two public symposia this semester on contemporary events of public importance.  You should plan to attend both 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

    Essay writing in PS103 means using and citing sources, including but not limited to those cited as reading in this Syllabus.  Use any style guide you wish, but do not fail to cite the source when copying or paraphrasing a source.  If you have an established major, use the style guide from that profession.  I don't care which one you use in PS103; just pick one 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 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.

    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.

    For links on American government and politics, see Grace York's University of Michigan Documents Center and click on appropriate categories, including Federal Government Resources on the Web.  Or try Rich Timpone's Interactive American Government Links.

    The best way to avoid plagiarism is to acquire the habit of properly citing your source material as you go along.  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's final touches - 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 are a special problem for proper citation.  Please do not cite a URL alone, as URLs are frequently changed.  If I cannot find your URL, then it won't count as a source.  Cite the author, the filename, the URL, and the date or dates of access.  Filenames are easily acquired from Google, or just take the article's self-assigned title at its heading.  A general guide on separating good from crappy websites is Evaluating Websites from Donnelley and Lee Library in Chicago.  On use of blogs:  better establish why it is authoritative enough to use.  Some are, but others are just rants.  As a professional skeptic, I won't assume a blog is valid; you have to establish that it is.  On Wikipedia, I will accept these, but only when coupled with another source on same subject.  Wikipedia is useful, but error-prone; so cross-check anything you get from them.

    To do a web search now, proceed here: Google

What is Expected of You:             Next downTop

Attendance:  Those who attend typically do well in my classes.  Those who don't, do poorly.  Attend each class session unless there’s a valid reason to miss (i.e., personal illness, ill child, death in immediate family, motorcycle wreck, full blown Midwestern blizzard, New Madrid Fault disturbance of 6.5 or higher on the Richter Scale, Armageddon witness, documented seance with Elvis).  I frequently use material not from the readings, and you're responsible for it.  We often use class discussion for short writing assignments and/or assignments to find relevant information from journals, the library, or websites (per Miscellaneous assignments, cited above).  Many of these are done impromptu, and I'm not likely to have it written down in detail where you can be absent and then get everything despite that.

Lateness to class:  Just come in quietly.  I don’t encourage deliberate lateness, but traffic, weather, and professors in earlier classes all can cause you to arrive at five after.  But one caution:  if you routinely amble in ten minutes late, then find a new class.  On my part, we have a clock in class, and I'll try to close on time.

Cheating:  I had a certain nasty little test-taking cheater in 2003, haven't forgotten that, and have since studied some methods for catching and docking offenders.  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 I have documented evidence of cheating, 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.

Plagiarism:  This is the most common form of cheating.  Plagiarism is a chronic plague, like malaria is.  Plagiarists take work by 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 occasionally brings lawsuits for copyright violation.  In the academic world, it brings verdicts of moral and academic failure on the offenders.  It's discussed at  Southeast's Academic Honesty brochure, or Professor Hamner Hill's Policy on Plagiarism.  Each has helpful links.

   I do not tolerate plagiarism.  Our classes at Southeast are small, so I can check for it--and know from bitter experience and decent web-smarts 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.

On electronic devices in class:  Cell phones may attend my classes ONLY when turned off.  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 only.  If a cell phone disobeys these rules, it's gone (but you can stay).

    And on text messaging:  as with Nancy Reagan on illegal drugs, I 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.  In summer 2005 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:  Those are A-OK in class, and so are tape recorders.  I encourage them both--so long as they're not diverting you.

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.

Services and 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 never use these terms:  "Urgent" or "God Bless You" or "Respond Immediately."  Those are habitually used in Nigerian letter spam mail, and my setup automatically deletes all such.  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 - Spring 2007             Top

Master Calendar - click at upper left corner for Academic Calendar

Week 1 - January 16-19      Politics, Democracy, and Government
    º Fiorina Text, Chapter 1 - Democracy in the United States
    º The Declaration of Independence - textbook Appendix 1, or on-line: National Archives - Declaration of Independence (URL:
    º on-line reading:  America During the Age of Revolution, 1776-1789
Week 1 Notes - "Introduction:  Why Do We Have Government?"

Week 2 - January 22-26     A Constitutional Democracy
    º Text, Chapter 2 - Establishing A Constitutional Democracy
    º The Constitution of the United States - text Appendix 2, or National Archives - Constitution of the United States at URL:
    º Roger A. Bruns, A More Perfect Union:  The Creation of the U.S. Constitution (web version) at URL:
    º James Madison, The Federalist No. 10 in text, Appendix 3 or at
Week 2 Notes - "Creation of the U.S. Constitution"

 Week 3 - January 29 - February 2     Federalism; U.S. and State of Missouri Constitutions
    º Text, Chapter 3 - Federalism:  Division of Power Among National, State, and Local Governments
    º James Madison, The Federalist No. 51 in text, Appendix 4 or at
    º Russell D. Renka, Madison and Federalism
Week 3 Notes - "American Federalism"

 Week 4 - February 5-9     Civil Liberties    **
    º Text Chapter 16 - 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 -February 12-16     Civil Rights; and American Political Culture
    **Monday and Tuesday, February 12-13 - Exam no. 1 (multiple choice, in class) is held.  The essay part is handed out during this time and is due by class time five days later.  You'll also see the essay part posted atop this Syllabus (Top).
    º Text Chapter 17 - Civil Rights
    º Ronald L. F. Davis, The History of Jim Crow at at
Week 5 Notes - "Civil Rights as a Growth Industry"

 Week 6 - February 19-23      Public Opinion and Polling
    º Text Chapter 4 - American Political Culture
    º Text Chapter 5 - Public Opinion
    º Russell D. Renka, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Public Opinion Polls
Week 6 Notes - "American Political Culture"

 Week 7 - February 26- March 2     Political Participation and Voting
    º Text Chapter 6 - Individual Participation
    º Voter Turnout from Michael P. McDonald, including Turnout Rates for Voting graph, and 2004 Voting-Age and Voting-Eligible Population Estimates and Voter Turnout
    º Morris P. Fiorina, Culture War?, Chapters 1,2
Week 7 Notes - "Voters and Nonvoters"

 Week 8 - March 5-9      Political Parties and Elections
    º Text Chapter 8 - Political Parties
    º supplement:  The Atlas of Canada - The 39th Federal Election, 2006
Week 8 Notes - "The Two-Party System in America"
**Essay 2
- due by Friday, March 16 at my office

 Week 9 - March 12-16     The Elections of 2000 and 2004
**Monday and Tuesday, March 12-13 - Exam no. 2 (multiple choice, in class) is held.  The essay part is handed out during this time and is due by class time five days later.  You'll also see the essay part posted atop this Syllabus (Top) and above in Week 8.

Note:  The readings cited below will not be on Exam 2.  They start our third section of the course.  But you may find them useful for answering at least one of the Essay 2 questions.
    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 Culture War?, Chapters 3-4, 5-6

 Spring Recess - March 19-23     Spring Recess

 Week 10 - March 26-30     Interest Groups and the News Media
    º Text Chapter 7 - Interest Groups
    º Text Chapter 9 - The Media
    º Culture War?, Chapters 7-10
Week 10 Notes - "Interest Groups and Free Riders"

 Week 11 - April 2-5     The U.S. Congress
Friday, April 6 is Good Friday, with no classes held.
    º Text, Chapter 11 - Choosing the Congress
    º Text, Chapter 12 - The Congress and Its Work
    º Russell D. Renka, Presidents and Congresses
    º Reference source (on Culture Wars? and for Essay 3 option) - Pew Center's Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes:  1987-2007 (pdf file) - See Section 4, Religion and Social Issues, pp. 30-38.
Week 11 Notes - "The Incumbency Advantage in the U.S. Congress"

 Week 12 - April 9-13     The U.S. Congress
    º Text, Chapter 12 - The Congress and Its Work
    º data site:  Psephos - Adam Carr's Election Archive - 2007 U.S. House Congressional Districts, by state
Week 12 Notes - "Congress At Work"
** Thursday and Friday, April 12-13 - Exam no. 3 (multiple choice, in class) is held.  The essay part will be posted in advance atop this Syllabus (Top).   Due dates for Essay 3 are Monday and Tuesday, April 16-17 (in class).

 Week 13 - April 16-20    The Presidency
    ° Text Chapter 10 - Electing the President
    ° Russell D. Renka, Presidential Elections through 2004; Renka, The Election of 2004
    ° Professor Renka's Presidential Election Maps, by County
    ° Timeline of Modern Presidents
Week 13 Notes - "The Election of Presidents"

 Week 14 - April 23-27     The Presidency
     º Text Chapter 13 - The Presidency: Powers and Practice
     º Renka on succession in the modern presidency (using Timeline of Modern Presidents)
     ° Text Chapter 20 - Foreign and Defense Policy (start)
Week 14 Notes - "Powers of the Modern Presidency"
- Essay 4 (optional)
- due Thursday, May 3 by 5 p.m. -

 Week 15 - April 30 - May 4    War, Peace, and Diplomacy of a Superpower; The Federal Bench
    ° Text Chapter 20 - Foreign and Defense Policy (finish)
    ° Text Chapter 15 - The Judiciary
Week 15 Notes - "The Judiciary as a Lightning Rod"

 Finals Week - May 7-11   ** This is Exam no. 4, not a comprehensive exam.  It covers Weeks 13 through 15.
   º Section 03 (MWF 9:00--9:50 a.m.) - Wednesday, May 9 at 8:00 a.m.
   º Section 09 (TR 2:00--3:15 p.m.) - Tuesday, May 8 at 2:00 p.m.


Copyright©2007, Russell D. Renka
May 14, 2007 03:24 PM