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Per the course catalog: “Institutions and processes of national and state government, including an analysis of the  Missouri Constitution.” 

Per my vision: University courses in American Government (including a few that I have taught in the past) have become little more than civics refreshers.  We teach and explain The Constitution, some classic readings (usually amounting to one or two of The Federalist Papers with maybe a sprinkling of DeTocqueville), and tell you to read the newspaper.  We walk you through the different parts of the U.S. political system. You learn that there are 535 members of Congress, you are explained the mind numbing logic of the Electoral College, and you debate "current issues."  Your principal reading over the course of the quarter is a textbook written for 8th-graders.  It has pictures and bold words and spoon-feeds you everything you supposedly need to know to be a good American citizen.

That is nice and all, but I really hope you learned (or were at least exposed to) your civics in high school.  My plan for this course is quite different.  I will help spoon feed you the basics that we need and we will use the textbook and do the benchmark readings, but we will more importantly analyze important questions.  Questions such as, “How would the Founders feel about how modern American democracy works?,” “Does the Electoral College work?,” “Are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert legitimate news sources?,” and “Are the branches of government truly equal?” will guide our discussions.

The purpose of this course is to introduce the fundamentals of American government and politics, particularly the major institutions and processes.  Further, it aims to develop skills and abilities in analyzing and evaluating issues and public policies in American politics.  On the one hand, this course wants to stimulate interest in American politics and impart tools that can be of use to all life-long students of politics.  On the other hand, this course hopes to develop critical (that is, analytical) citizens, so that each of us will have examined reasons for the choices we make as we act in the public interest for the common good.