Syllabus
Texas State and Local Government

Texas State and Local Government

GOVT-2306

Fall 2011
08/22/2011 - 12/11/2011

Course Information

Section 057
Lecture
TTh 7:30AM - 8:50AM
NRG2 2110
Kris Seago
kseago@austincc.edu
(512) 223.4231

Office Hours

  • M W
    9:30 a.m. - 12:00 Noon
    2142 Northridge Campus
    By appointment, M-F: Noon - 5:00 p.m.
  • T Th
    9:30 a.m. - 10:15 a.m.
    2142 Northridge Campus
    By appointment, M-F: Noon - 5:00 p.m.

Course Requirements

 

GRADES

There are three components to your final grade:

  • Exams = 50%
  • Participation = 16.66%
  • Political Weblog = 33.33%

1. Exams

There are four exams. Each exam counts for 12.5% of your final grade. The fourth exam is NOT comprehensive.

2. Participation

Every class begins with a discussion of a topical story (or stories) from a major Texas newspaper. You must lead one discussion over the course of the semester. The story must be related to Texas state and local government. Arrive to class ready to lead or join in discussion on one or more of the stories. Although I am a strong believer in volunteerism, I will "cold call" on you to elicit your input should the volunteer spirit wane.
 
Participation counts for 16.6% of your final grade. Participation is graded on your: 1) displaying knowledge about the story; 2) effectively presenting the story to your classmates; and, 3) linking the story to issues discussed in lectures or the textbook.
 
You will encounter a variety of viewpoints on volatile topics over the course of the semester. You may disagree, perhaps strongly, with opinions expressed by your classmates (and most certainly me).

As long as we treat each other with respect, these differences enhance class discussion and create an atmosphere where we learn from each other. Your grades will not be influenced by beliefs or ideas expressed in class, in assignments, or on exams.

And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?
--Milton, Aeropagitica, 1643

3. Political weblog (“blog”)

Establishing a Texas state and local government-oriented political blog counts for 33.3% of your final grade. You’ll display your knowledge and ability to think critically about Texas state and local government during this process. You’ll develop your blog in eight discrete stages. Each stage is worth 4.17% of your final grade.

Stage One: Creation and initial blogroll

Deadline: September 1

NOTE: The deadline means that you have until 11:59:59 p.m. on the day the assignment is due to submit the assignment via Blackboard’s assignment feature. Given that “stuff happens,” and it typically happens when you least expect it, I suggest you not wait until the last possible second to submit your assignments.

Create a blog using Google’s Blogger service. Name your blog something meaningful and socially acceptable. Select a name that is general enough to encompass a variety of topics about Texas state and local government.

Choose a template that allows you to display these elements: a meaningful title, individual articles, comments on those articles, and a link list where you’ll add a list of recommended sources and other blogs (a blogroll). Take care to enable comments on your blog.

NOTE: You are writing for an academic audience. Focus on readability. Don’t use a template that’s hard to read. For instance, light text on a dark (especially black) background is extremely hard to read.

Use Blogger’s “link list” feature to create an initial list of recommended sources--sources that you find informative and/or interesting. Start with these suggested sources. Include at least five of the mainstream sources and five blogs. You may wish to create separate lists for the mainstream sources and the blogs. Feel free to add other sources to your blogroll. You’ll be adding links to all your colleague’s blogs as part of the Stage Two exercise.

Add political information to your “Profile,” including your political ideology, influences (if any), and your political experiences (voting, working on a campaign, and so forth). Why are you taking the class? What do you hope to get out of the class?

I’ve created a very simple (and very boring) blog demonstrating the essential elements for this first stage

Kris S. Seago’s Demo Govt 2306 Blog

Send me the complete link http://youruniqueaddress.blogspot.com to your blog using Blackboard’s Assignment feature before the deadline.

Stage Two: Article introduction and colleague’s blogs

Deadline: September 15

Create a substantial (100-200 words) post (new article) on your blog that introduces, summarizes, and provides an embedded link to an article (news, editorial, or commentary) about Texas state and local government from one of these suggested sources. Tell your readers why you think the article is worth reading.

Use Blogger’s “link list” feature to publish a blogroll consisting of links to all your classmate’s blogs. I'll publish the links under the Class Blog Links link in the left-hand navigation bar of the Blackboard page for this class. The links will be available as soon as I finish grading your Stage One assignments.

Send me the link to your blog using Blackboard’s Assignment feature before the deadline.

Stage Three: Critique an editorial or commentary from a Texas newspaper

Deadline: September 29

Write a substantial (250-500 words) critique of an editorial or commentary (NOT a pure news article, but an article where the author is making an argument) about Texas state and local government from the opinion/editorial/commentary section of one of the major Texas newspapers listed in the suggested sources. Provide an embedded link to the work you are critiquing. Evaluate the author’s intended audience, the author’s credibility, and their argument (including their claim, evidence, and logic). You may agree or disagree with the author. A guide to critical thinking is available under the Handouts link in Blackboard. Post your critique to your blog.

Send me the direct link to the post you’ve written (not a general link to your blog) using Blackboard’s Assignment feature before the deadline.

Stage Four: Critique an editorial or commentary from a Texas blog

Deadline: October 13

Write a substantial (250-500 words) critique of an editorial or commentary from one of the Texas blogs listed in the suggested sources. Provide an embedded link to the work you are critiquing. Evaluate the author’s intended audience, the author’s credibility, and their argument (including their claim, evidence, and logic). You may agree or disagree with the author.

Send me the direct link to the post you’ve written (not a general link to your blog) using Blackboard’s Assignment feature before the deadline.

Stage Five: Original editorial or commentary #1

Deadline: October 27

Write a substantial (250-500 words) and original editorial or commentary about Texas state and local government. Post this article to your blog.

Send me the direct link to the post you’ve written using Blackboard’s Assignment feature before the deadline.

Stage Six: Comment on a colleague’s work #1

Deadline: November 10

Write a constructive and reasoned criticism or commentary on one of your colleague’s editorial or commentary published in Stage Five. Provide an embedded link to your colleague’s work. Post this article to your blog and as a comment in your classmate’s blog.

Send me the direct link to the post you’ve written on your blog using Blackboard’s Assignment feature before the deadline.

Stage Seven: Original editorial or commentary #2

Deadline: December 1

Write a substantial (250-500 word) and original editorial or commentary about Texas state and local government. Post this article to your blog.

Send me the direct link to the post you’ve written using Blackboard’s Assignment feature before the deadline.

Stage Eight: Comment on a colleague’s work #2

Deadline: December 9

Write a constructive and reasoned criticism or commentary on one of your classmate’s editorial or commentary published in Stage Seven. Provide anembedded link to your colleague’s work. Post this article to your blog and as a comment in your classmate’s blog.

Send me the direct link to the post you’ve written on your blog using Blackboard’s Assignment feature before the deadline.

Grading

I grade your blogs on their content, not their aesthetic presentation. Write for a formal academic audience when writing your introductions, commentaries, and articles. Think of these as papers submitted and published by new media instead of ink and paper (or toner and paper).

NOTE: I take spelling, grammar, and composition into account when grading your work. Your work must be well-written to receive full credit.

Be respectful of others.

I’ll be glad to offer feedback given 48 hours notice before the deadline. If you want feedback, request it by email, with a link to the posting for which you desire feedback. I’ll offer feedback via email.

Readings

 

COURSE READINGS

Required readings are drawn from:

textbook

Keith, Haag. 
Texas Politics and Government: Roots and Reforms. 
Fourth Edition, Pearson, 2012.
ISBN-10: 020507863X
ISBN-13: 9780205078639

NOTE: The textbook is available from multiple sources. Prior versions may cover the same material, but the page numbers do not map to the page numbers listed in the syllabus.

You should read the Metro and State section of the Austin American Statesman in print or online each class day. The American Statesman is available at a substantial discount to ACC students. In addition, I encourage you to watch the local news on at least one of the local television stations (FOX 7, KLRU 18, KVUE 24, KXAN 36, KEYE 42, or News 8 Austin) and to listen to National Public Radio (NPR) on KUT-FM (90.5) before class.

I’ll occasionally publish supplemental readings, notes, and audio or video files. I’ll notify you via email with either full text or the URLs for stories I expect you to read.

Strongly suggested reading:

Lynne Truss. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. 2004. Gotham. ISBN: 9781592400874.

This wonderful little grammar guide is available from multiple sources. If you’re grammir is gud; dont bye this book. If under tha udder hand ur grimmer is’nt sew gud, buy all mens, dew ur self uh faver and bi dis buk.

Course Subjects

 

Tentative schedule of events



Date Topic Readings

August 23 Introduction/administration No readings
  The Backdrop  
  Why study state and local government? No readings
  Is Texas America?  
  Texas' history Textbook, Pages 1-14
September 1 Blog Stage 1  
  Political ideology Textbook, Pages 14-27
  Constitutions Textbook, Chapter 2
  Texas' Constitutions  
September 15 Blog Stage 2  
September 15 Review for Exam 1  
September 20 Exam 1  
  Texas' political parties Textbook, Pages 60-75
  Partisanship in Texas  
  Texas' interest groups Textbook, Pages 75-81
  Texas' mass media No readings
  Campaigns, Elections, and Vote choice Textbook, Pages 81-96
September 29 Blog Stage 3  
October 13 Blog Stage 4  
October 13 Review for Exam 2  
October 18 Exam 2  
  Texas' Legislature Textbook, Chapter 4
  Texas' Governor Textbook, Chapter 5
  Texas' Judiciary Textbook, Chapter 6
  County government Textbook, 202-213
  City and municipal government Textbook, 213-228
October 27 Blog Stage 5  
November 10 Review for Exam 3  
November 10 Blog Stage 6  
November 15 Exam 3  
  Financing Texas government Textbook, Pages 230-246
Thursday, November 17 Last day to withdraw  
Thursday, November 24 No Class (Thanksgiving Holiday)  
  Texas' Social Policy Textbook, Pages 28-30; 246-264
  Texas' Contemporary Problems  
December 1 Blog Stage 7  
December 6 Review for Fourth Exam  
December 8 Fourth Exam  
December 9 Blog Stage 8  

Student Learning Outcomes/Learning Objectives

 

COURSE GOALS

This course is an introduction to Texas state and local government. The course includes an introduction to a framework for analyzing Texas state and local government and politics, the constitutional basis for Texas state and local government and politics, the processes of Texas state and local government and politics, the institutions of Texas state and local government and politics, and the policies of Texas state and local government and politics.

During the course of the semester I hope to pique your interest in becoming an informed, responsible, and critical citizen.