PS 103: U.S. Political Systems
Professor: Dr. Brian Smentkowski
Office: 211H Carnahan Hall
Office Hours: Monday and Friday, 11:30am-12:00pm
Teaching Assistant: Jamie Freeman
Office: 211M Carnahan Hall
Office Hours: M: 11:00am-5:00pm; TWR: 12:00pm-4:00pm; F: 11:00am-2:00pm
Class time: Monday and Friday, 12:00pm-1:15pm
Class Location: Brandt Hall 205
Submit work through DropBox
The purpose of this class is to introduce students to the structure, function, and operation of American government, and to address the fundamentals of the U.S. and Missouri constitutions. We will begin by discussing the evolution of American constitutional democracy and the relevance of the Constitution to our system of government and civil liberties. Secondly, we will consider the role of the citizenry in political affairs, debating how, why, and with what effect people participate in politics. Thirdly, we will focus on political institutions and examine how they operate independently and interdependently. The ultimate goal is put together the pieces of information we cover in order to make American government make sense.
Although the material covered in this class can be divided according to four basic subjects (the Constitution and American Government, Civil Liberties and Civil Rights, Political Participation, and Political Institutions), it is important to note that the various subjects are interrelated. Accordingly, this course is designed to facilitate learning in a cumulative manner. Therefore, as the semester progresses you should be able to link "old" and "new" information. Attending every class session is essential to this endeavor. While attendance per se can not and will not be used in the calculation of grades, the nature of the class is such that your grade will suffer as a result of persistent or frequent absences. Please refer to the attendance policy section, below. Also, in-class participation is required, and we will be utilizing personal response systems ("clickers") to register student feedback; therefore, you should plan to attend every class session and to participate meaningfully while you are there.
Participation will be required outside of class, too, and this will come in the form of assignments and Forum posts. Please don't look at this class as a two-day-a-week event; we will meet twice, but remain intellectually engaged in-between class sessions as well. Forum will be used to bridge information from one class session to the next. As the information below indicates, you will be required to address specific questions weekly on the class Forum. For issues requiring more intense investigation, reflection, and critical thinking, I will post assignments. Please refer to the Assignments section, below.
Finally, you must complete all work on time. There will be no surprises, and the high expectations of this class are entirely reasonable.
Expectations and Policies:
Attendance: While attendance per se cannot be required of students, there are consequences associated with absences. Missed assignments, for example, cannot be made up. If you fail to submit an assignment you will earn zero points. If you are not present when you are expected to participate in class discussions or activities, you will lose the opportunity to earn points for those as well. Having said that, please do not hesitate to contact me about any issues relating to your ability to participate fully in this class. Reasonable accommodations will be made for excused absences, but it is your responsibility to keep me posted. For the official rules governing attendance, please refer to pages 19-20 of the Undergraduate Bulletin, at http://www.semo.edu/bulletin/pdf/2010_bulletin.pdf
Academic Honesty: The Undergraduate Bulletin defines academic dishonesty as "...those acts which would deceive, cheat, or defraud so as to promote one's scholastic record...", and states that "[v]iolations of academic honesty represent a serious breach of discipline and may be considered grounds for disciplinary actions, including dismissal from the university." The most basic form of academic dishonesty is plagiarism. Plagiarism involves the application or inclusion of the work of others that is not properly cited. In the vernacular it is called "copying". Cutting and pasting someone else's work is not acceptable. Neither is copying or slightly modifying even small parts of text, imagery, etc. Work that is not your own needs to be documented as such. It is important to avoiding cheating in any way. There are consequences for such action and they are severe. In addition to losing all points for any assignment at issue, I will pursue the severest penalty available. Please refer to pages 20-23 of the Undergraduate Bulletin for further information about policies relating to academic honesty, plagiarism, and cheating (http://www.semo.edu/bulletin/pdf/2010_bulletin.pdf).
Civility: It is our collective responsibility to establish and maintain an environment of mutual respect in the classroom and in our various modes of communication. As a college class that addresses contentious and divisive issues, we will all, inevitably, be shocked from time-to-time. That's fine: We need a good and fertile marketplace of ideas, but we must not contaminate it. Discussion should be wide open and robust but should never involve personal attacks or language that demeans any category of persons however defined. Words or actions that are threatening, racist, sexist, or discriminatory in any way are impermissible in this class. You may attack arguments but not people. In other words: no ad hominem attacks. Violations of civility will be addressed by the instructor immediately and may also be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. Please see relevant information on student conduct at: http://www6.semo.edu/stuconduct/. Also, civility involves creating a place where learning occurs without distraction. As such, you are NOT permitted to use cell phones for any purpose other than genuine emergencies in this class. You may not make or receive cell calls, text messages, wear "ear pieces" for ipod and related devices, or use any recording device of any kind (picture or sound recording) in this class.
Disabilities: One potential caveat to the rule barring recording devices pertains to arrangements made on behalf of the student through Disability Support Services for accommodating documented disabilities. Please refer to http://www.semo.edu/cs/services/lec.htm for information regarding support services for learning assistance and disabilities.
Readings and Materials:
Coleman, Goldstein, and Howell, Understanding American Politics, 2d Edition. This book integrates with "mypoliscilab" via an access code you will receive later this week (as soon as they are received by the department).
Please note that you will be expected to do some outside reading for this course as well. These readings will be announced in class.
Percent of Total Grade
In-Class Participation Assignments
Letter grades will be assigned according to standard ten-point ranges, e.g.: 90-100=A, etc.
Forum will be used to establish, maintain, and enhance discussion throughout the semester. The goal is not to fill your days with busy work, but rather to keep you engaged in-between class sessions. Forum Topics will mostly --but not exclusively-- relate to mypoliscilab modules. I will post a Forum Topic every Monday except for weeks including holidays or in the event of extenuating circumstances --all of which will be shared with you in advance. Each Forum Topic will remain open until noon on the Friday following its posting. Using Forum, you will address my post (the Topic) plus at least two other students. You may NOT reply to the same student(s) repeatedly. One of the goals is to experience the breadth and diversity of ideas in the class and not just those of a select few. Additional instructions are forthcoming. Once a Forum Topic is closed you will not be able to post a response, resulting in zero points for that topic. Check the Forum every Monday!
Forum will specifically address University Studies Objectives 1-6. For each post I will look not only at your fidelity to the response rules, above, but also evidence of successfully locating and gathering information from relevant sources, critically assessing the ideas emanating from them, and adequately communicating your own arguments in writing. Communicating with one another on the Forum will reveal sensitivity to cultures and the breadth and diversity of knowledge among and between your peers, professor, and written material.
There are four assignments required for this class. The goal here is to restrict and control the amount of material per exam and, importantly, to give you the opportunity to explore certain topics in greater detail. You will be given advanced notice of all assignments and provided instructions on how and when to submit them. Some will involve "mypoliscilab" exercises. Work that requires written responses ("think pieces, essays, etc) must be submitted through the class DropBox --no email attachments, no paper, no exceptions.
The assignments will specifically address University Studies Objectives 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. These assignments are designed to challenge you. You will be required to locate and critically analyze information, communicate your ideas effectively in written and oral form, variably addressing issues relating to cultures, value decisions, aesthetic responses and functioning responsibly in the political system. Common examples of assignments to which these expectations apply include: art and obscenity, civil rights, political socialization, and interest group politics.
Please note that you are expected to not only attend class, but to participate meaningfully in it. I am an advocate of the Socratic Method and as such I will work diligently to facilitate discussion. Your ideas matter, so please feel free to speak up at (virtually) any time. Discussion will be used to address University Studies Objectives 3, 4, 6, and 7; requiring you to effectively communicate ideas that relate to human experiences and reveal and respond to the breadth and diversity of knowledge and values.
The In-Class Participation Assignments will involve small group discussions and and brief writing assignments every Friday. If you miss the day, you miss the points.
Three exams will be taken in-class. They will be used to measure your comprehension of key facts, theories, and information vital to the field, as well as your ability to think critically about them. (University Studies Objectives 2 and 6). The format of each exam will be discussed in class. There will be no make-up exams. Missed exams equal zeros.
Outline of Topics: The Schedule
You will note that there are no dates corresponding to the material listed below. The pace of the class will determine when we finish one topic and begin another, as well as the exact date of the midterm exam. The assignments will be announced in-class and posted. The final exam date is determined and posted by the University and there will be no deviation from that date and time.
I. The Constitution and American Government
Intro. and Overview
Foundations and Conceptual Frameworks
The Constitutional Framework of American Democracy
Federalism, Separation of Powers, etc.
II. Civil Liberties and Civil Rights
No Rights Are Absolute
The Bill of Rights and Selective Incorporation
Art and Obscenity
Civil Rights and Equal Protection Under the Law
III. Political Participation
Political Culture, Ideology, and Individual Attitudes
IV. Political Institutions
The Legislative Branch
The Executive Branch
The Judicial Branch
Interconnections and Conclusions
Generic Study Guides
Topics commonly covered by midterm. Note that the specific cases and concepts may vary from semester to semester, especially in light of contemporary political developments.
democracy, elitism, pluralism
federalists and anti-federalists
the constitutional convention (what led to it, what resulted from it, competing plans, conflict and compromise)
politics, power, and authority
separation of powers
interstate constitutional relations
constitutional powers of government
enumerated and implied powers
McCulloch v. Maryland
Marbury v. Madison
the bill of rights and the doctrine of selective incorporation
freedom of speech cases (pure and symbolic speech)
freedom of press cases
freedom of religion –the free exercise clause and the establishment clause
the equal protection clause
procedural and substantive due process cases (the rights of
the criminally accused and privacy/abortion rights)
Gitlow v. NY
Schenck v. US
Chaplinsky v. NH
Texas v. Johnson
Miller v. CA
Comm. Decency Act
NYT v. Sullivan
Pentagon Papers Case
Establishment clause.: Engel v. Vitale, Lemon v. Kurtzman, Edwards v. Aguillard, County of Allegheny v. ACLU, Cap. Sq. Rev. and Advisory bd. v. Pinette
Free Exercise clause.: WI v. Yoder, Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah
SDP: Griswold, Roe, Stenberg
PDP: Mapp, Miranda, Giddeon
Topics commonly covered between the midterm and the end of the semester.
Political Parties and Interest Groups: What are the major similarities and differences between political parties and interest groups?
Congress: Elections, money, incumbency, differences between chambers, size, committees, composition, the law-making process (how is the senate process different from the house process), role orientation, the work of congress and where most of it actually gets done, representation (fenno, actual/virtual), realignments, war powers.
Executive: Presidential primaries, media and momentum, party conventions and delegates (activists), the general election and electoral college, various jobs the president performs (chief exec., commander in chief, etc), war powers, foreign policy issues (treaties v. executive agreements), the bureaucracy, oversight.
Judicial: stare decisis, judicial hierarchies, political questions and justicable disputes, certiorari, "rule of 4", class action suits, amicus curiae briefs, judicial selection, implementation and impact.