Ms Delia Doss
- Course Name: American Government
- Prerequisites: None
- Course Description: Course presents philosophical principles, governmental machinery and political processes of the federal government. Content includes political culture, the Constitution, civil liberties and civil rights, government institutions, political parties and interest groups, public opinion, and public policy decision-making.
- Learning Objectives: This course is designed to help students achieve an understanding of:
- The American democratic principles and procedures, and the ways in which these are embodied in the U.S. constitution.
- The process by which citizens develop their political values, and how these get expressed in public opinion, party politics, and interest group activity.
- The organization of the national government, including the interrelationships between and among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.
- The relationship between the national government and the states, with an emphasis on Alaska government.
- The nature of public policy issues, including civil liberties.
In addition to the above objectives, this course will help students develop the following:
- Identify, define, analyze, interpret, and evaluate: ideas, concepts, information, and their consequences.
- Communicate ideas, concepts, and information through written means.
- Demonstrate an understanding of cultural diversity as it relates to the individual, the community, and the global society.
- Academic Integrity: Students and employees at Redington J/S HS are required to demonstrate academic integrity and to follow Redington’s Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:
- plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
- falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
- helping others to cheat,
- unauthorized changes on official documents,
- making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
- any other behavior that violates academic integrity.
There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Redington’s
policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you
are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a
disciplinary record will be established. Details of the Code of Academic Conduct can be found in
the Student Handbook.
Outline of Topics: In order to accomplish this, the course will follow this outline of topics:
The Democratic Values and the Constitution
- The basic values of democracy as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, as well as in the writings of the Founding Fathers.
- The background of the Constitution.
- The grants of power contained in the Constitution
- The limitations placed on the federal government by the Constitution: the Bill of Rights
- The U.S. and Alaska constitutions compared
- Political Parties and Voting
- The nature of American political parties: historical development, traditional functions, current structure, strengths, and weaknesses
- Political Socialization: the origins of party, issue, and candidate orientation
- The factors that influence voting behavior
- The nature of campaigning: styles, strategies, impact, etc., and how these have changed over time
- Interest groups and their involvement in the electoral and policy process
- The functions of Congress
- The distribution of power in Congress: seniority, leadership positions, the committee system, voting
- The strengths and weaknesses of Congress
The Presidency and the Bureaucracy
- The constitutional and accrued powers of the President
- Sources of presidential power: formal and informal
- The bureaucracy: an arm of the president
- The bureaucracy: an independent center of power
- The Executive Office of the President
- The power of the President in relation to the power of the Congress
- Law in a democracy
- The origins and uses of judicial review
- The structure and functions of the judiciary
- Politics and the courts
- Civil Liberties
- Comparative Political and Economic systems
- Political Systems
- Economic systems
- Political Participation
VII. Methods of Instruction: Classes will include a variety of instructional methods such as: lectures, in class discussions, group activities, document and film analysis, and the use of new technologies.
VIII. Course Practices Required: Students will be required to:
- Read a standard textbook or research materials.
- Write outside of class the equivalent of a term paper, summaries of journal articles, short
research papers, and/or other kinds of writing.
- Participate in in-class and out-of-class activities.
Course may be taught using face-to-face, media-based, hybrid or online course.
- Instructional Materials: Magruder’s American Government (Prentiss Hall)
Other readings as assigned
- Methods of Evaluation: Exam’s will be given in addition to other required papers and assignments. Student’s can use notes on all exams and assignments. Students will also be evaluated on a combination of written assignments and in- and out-of- class assignments.
- Other Course Information:
- Support Services: Teacher and peer tutoring is available.
- If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability, you are entitled
to reasonable academic accommodations or services. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements.
Here is detailed information about the weekly progress of the course. Please contact the instructor if you have questions about the contents of this section.
Introduction to the course and this syllabus
What is American government? Government is a set of institutions by which one group exercise power over or on behalf of another and by which public policies are implemented. There are many ways in which this is accomplished, and we will investigate the way it is carried out in the US. We’ll study the structure and the functions, the philosophies and ideas and the people and laws involved.
America in this context means the United States. On the way to learning about its government, we’ll see what makes it different and also what makes it the same as in other places. The US is the richest, most powerful country in the world, but it has one of the most dysfunctional governments anywhere that is not involved in a civil war. This confers advantages on certain people and certain classes of people, but in strict terms of the implementation of public policies and the exercise of power, the US government as a whole is relatively weak and inefficient.
Politics are all about power: who has it, what they can and do with it, and the causes and effects of these and why things are the way they are. During the course we’ll discuss factors which affect those components of politics in the US.
Put these pieces together and you have an idea of what’s in store. We will investigate the causes and effects of current events, government structures and policies, and cultural trends in the competition for prize of state power.
Objectives of the course
By the end of the course you should be able to declaim unprompted on at least two topics from the syllabus, on political, social and economic problems in the US generally and on the pathologies of government and power in civil society there. You also should have a good understanding of American politics. This means that you would be able to describe contemporary political and cultural circumstances there as well as the causes and effects of those phenomena, and that you would be able to offer an evidence-based argument about solutions to some high profile political problems. This does not mean that you should become experts on US government or American politics or the topics we study. It isn’t possible over one course. The material in this syllabus is here to help you develop a solid understanding of problems and cases by presenting a range of material from which you can choose.
During this course, students will:
- Understand the basic concepts of democratic thought
- Analyze the formation, concepts, and components of the United States Constitution
- Investigate the idea of federalism and explain the role of states and the national government in America’s political environment
- Explore America’s political culture and examine the traits and beliefs of the American voter.
- Identify America’s major political parties, the core beliefs, and the impact special interest groups can have on their actions
- Understand the electoral process in the United States
- Examine the components and functions of Missouri’s state government
- Analyze the organization and purpose of the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of government
- Understand the role and structure of the federal bureaucracy
- Investigate the modern media and its impact on public opinion
- Examine the concepts of civil rights and civil liberties and their impact on American society
Components of the course
This course is highly interactive. We will use many learning formats, but discussion is the most important. This means that you will participate as much as possible, so you should come prepared, having done reading and research and the assignments. We will engage a new theme in each unit, and the units are structured such that each is a building block in a larger story. So, it is essential that you prepare thoroughly for each unit in order to perform well in the course.
For each unit you should complete the assignments, read as much as time permits and complete some research so you can participate in discussion effectively. You needn’t commit unreasonable amounts of time to these exercises, and assignments are structured so that you shouldn’t have to. If you’re having trouble with the workload it’s your responsibility to raise the problem.
Grading will account for your performance on exams and on written assignments and your participation in discussion. There will be an exam in the middle of the term and an exam at the end of the course. Completing the exams and written assignments and making comments in discussion each week are the minimum required to pass the course. How well you do each of those things will make the difference between minimum passing marks and something better. Participation in discussion is the most important component of your final grade. One meets the criterion or doesn’t. There are no shades of meaning discerned between letter grades or points on a scorecard attributed to your performance during the course. If you are concerned about these criteria or about your grade or your progress, it’s your responsibility to ask the instructor.
How to use this syllabus
There is more reading here than the average student could complete, but that isn’t the point. The readings that appear here are choices. You decide how much you want to learn and read accordingly. Remember, the more you learn and the more this is evinced on assignments, in discussion and on exams the better your grade. It’s up to you. Still, there’s no substitute for reading. If you want more than a passing understanding of anything in the course, you must engage intimately with the topics we study. Read as much as you have time for, use the internet liberally to keep up with current events, and above all else discuss what you see. The more you read, the more you will develop opinions, and the more you discuss them the better they will get. The better your opinions and the more often you use them, the more sophisticated will be your critical faculties, which are the key to learning.
Unit 1- The Constitution
Assessments During Unit
Review class organization
Write understanding for class
Computer Lab Research
Worksheet to prepare for debate
Partner work; develop proposals for debate
Creating Govt. Debate
In-class debate on how to create govt.
Conclude debate; compare to Constitutional Convention
Analysis of document and video
Worksheet regarding document
Review textbook homework
Open-note quiz over homework
Small group discussions over Federalist 10
Comparison to Anti-Federalist paper
Searching for Constitution
Student search through Constitution for items
Worksheet, “Constitution Search”
Federalism- Take One
Small groups answer Constitutional questions of federalism
Federalism- Take Two
Supreme Court cases dealing with federalism
Student groups predict case outcomes
Checks & Balances
Textbook/Constitution examination of checks and balances
In-class check and balance quiz
Small group explanations of McCulloch and Marbury
Simulations of cases and arguments
Examine on-line newspapers/student homework for modern examples of checks and balances
White-board categorizing of checks and balances
Unit 2- Civil Rights and Liberties
Assessments During Unit
Amending the Constitution
Unit Intro; Video on Civil liberties & 9/11
Amendments to the Constitution
Students categorize amendments and discuss which impact them directly
The “Great Amendment Challenge” Review game
1st Amendment: Got Prayer?
Small group work: Freedom of Religion Supreme Court cases
Students predict outcome of cases
1st Amendment: Speak up!
Group interpretations of free speech cases
Worksheet on hypothetical 1st Amendment conflicts: What’s legal?
2nd Amendment Video
Class discussion on Constitutional meaning and application of 2nd Amendment
Give me Liberties!
Power Point on Civil Liberties
Computer lab research for panel discussions
Civil Liberties & Race
Article on Justice System and Race; Video: Gratz and Grutter vs. Univ. of Michigan
What do my Classmates think?
Small groups critique Constitutional arguments of classmates
Small group critiques
10 & 11
Here’s my opinion…
Panel Discussions on Constitutional Issues
Assessment of student arguments and use of research in panel discussions
Unit 3- The Presidency
Assessments During Unit
Review course handouts and assignment regarding Presidential elections
Analysis of electoral college map and census demographic maps
Students write campaign strategies for Republican/Democratic nominees
Money and the Presidency
Notes/Video on campaign fund raising
Compare American election system to British method of selecting a Prime Minister
Washington D.C. and the White House
Power Point/Virtual Tour of Washington D.C.
Right Man (and someday woman) for the Job?
Group analysis of personal and political factors allowing Presidents to win elections
Students diagram history of factors impacting Presidential elections
Powers of the President
Small groups detail President’s ability to impact economy, social, and foreign policy
Students “re-write” Constitution with powers of President and Congress
Balancing the Budget/Bureaucracy
Power Point/Article on Federal Budget and Pork-Barrel Spending
Students predict spending totals of federal government in areas of mandatory and discretionary spending
Lemme Hear Ya Say Amen!
Articles and discussion on role of Catholic voters and religion in politics
View from the Top
Small group discussion of parent interviews
Examination of Current Foreign Policy Topic (e.g. what to do with Iran?)
Controversy Guide Reading over current foreign policy topic
Student review game
Unit 3 Exam
Unit 4- Congress
Assessments During Unit
The First Branch of Govt.
Pass out new unit and explain simulation
Powers of Congress
Examination of Article I of Constitution and Power Point on Lawmaking
Students create flow chart of Lawmaking process based on homework and Power Point
Jigsaw readings of current News Articles on Administration goals in Congress
Students compare legislative strategies in small groups; critique actions of Administration
Political Parties & Committees
Student-created chart detailing differences in Republican & Democratic priorities
Worksheet, “Are You a Liberal or a Conservative?”
All the News That’s Fit to Print
Small group work comparing news coverage of current events
Homework, “Media Analysis Worksheet”
Small group comparisons of interest groups
Peer assessments of Interest groups papers
3-Day Simulation on Lawmaking
Day 1- Prep WorkDay 2- Committee Hearings
Day 3- Media, Polling, Presidential News Conference, Sunday Talk Show
Students assessed upon role portrayed in simulation
Tying it all together
Review of Congress and Lawmaking
Unit 4 Exam
Students write essay critiquing lawmaking process
Unit 5- President & Congress: Making Policy
Assessments During Unit
A prominent topic of debate in Congress over past session is presented in class
Students generate a KWL chart regarding topic
Can we Work Together?
Readings and video presented comparing efforts of President and Congressional factions to influence bill
Students compose list of questions for guest speakers
Guest speakers who would be impacted by bill are brought into class (e.g. doctors/insurance providers for a medical bill; business owners for a tax bill, etc.)
Students conduct interviews with guest speakers
Thumbs up or down?
Small group work- web mapping of bill’s impact
Can I Twist your arm at all?
Lecture and video regarding tactics of President and Congress in influencing legislation
Letter to member of Congress due
Unit 6- Judiciary and Legal System
Assessments During Unit
Discussion: What is Justice?
Flow Charts of Ideal Justice System
Federal Court System
Power Point on Federal Court System and Supreme Court
Small groups assigned and research landmark cases
Lights! Camera! Constitutionality?
Small groups re-created events leading to landmark cases; present legal arguments
Group presentations of cases; student-predicted outcomes
Iowa Court system
Review of Iowa Courts system and steps taken during legal process
Quick Quiz: What parts of Constitution were applicable?
Read me my rights!
Partners compare legal arguments of Miranda case
In-class tv “cop show” presented in small groups, each assigned legal vocab terms
Working in the system…
Small group comparisons of how to search for legal terms; critique of which level of government is most difficult to work in.
Legal search exercise
Unit 6 Exam
Unit 7- Political Involvement
Assessments During Unit
Is this heaven?
Power Point over State of Iowa government
Small groups predict duties of Iowa government
State your case
Current issues of importance to Iowa read in class
Jigsaw readings in small groups
County government duties handed out in class; students either add or subtract 10% from county budget; compare “vital” and “non-vital” services
Students either add of subtract 10% from
Students generate list of “problems in Cedar Rapids”; small groups examine city budget and structure to assess ability to handle problems
Day 5- Future plans of city analyzed
Day 6- City leader comes in to guest speak; address future planning
Letter to mayor composed about future of city
Somebody has to pay…
Taxation Project; students research how taxation impacts their family at federal, state, and local level
Parent interview; Family tax relief plan generated
Platforms of Democratic and Republican parties compared
What do you believe in?
Students bring in issues of importance to them on federal, state, or local level.
Pro/con arguments presented to class