Syllabus
United States Government

United States Government

GOVT-2305

Spring 2012
01/17/2012 - 05/13/2012

Course Information

Section 013
Distance Learning
ONL NRG
Kris Seago
kseago@austincc.edu
(512) 223.4231

Office Hours

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

Exams must be taken in person at one of ACC’s Testing Centers at the Northridge, Rio Grande, Pinnacle, Cypress Creek, Riverside, Eastview, South Austin, Round Rock, San Marcos, or Fredericksburg location. Visit the Testing Center website for hours and locations, policies and procedures and Frequently Asked Questions.

You must have an ACC Photo ID to take an exam in the Testing Centers.

Take the exams no later than the scheduled deadlines. For instance, Exam 1 (with a February 20 deadline) may be taken up until the Testing Centers close on February 20. You may take the exams anytime before the deadline. Subsequent exams will be available after the deadline for the prior exam. For example, Exam 2 will be available in the Testing Centers after the deadline for Exam 1.

Contact me as soon as possible if you are unable to take an exam by the deadline.

Computer-based exams

The ACC Testing Centers use computer-based exams using a special secure browser. Review How to Take a Secure Computer Based Test within Blackboardfor details. You may wish to print and take these instructions with you when taking exams.

2. Participation

Participation counts for 16.6% of your final grade. You will use Blackboard’s discussion boards (available in the course’s left navigation bar) to participate.

I’ll post four questions (worth 4.15% each) in the discussion boards over the course of the semester. You must post at least two reasoned replies to each question.

First, you must post an original response to the forum question itself. This post must include at least one link to an online source supporting your position.

Second, you must post a response to something one of your classmates has posted. Take care to formulate arguments, not simple declarative statements. An argument is a well-developed, clearly stated line of reasoning aimed at convincing others of the truth or fallacy of a statement.

“Reasoned” means you’ve thought about the question and present your ideas in a coherent fashion. It does not mean that I or your classmates agree with you.

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 almost 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. Rest assured that your grades will not be influenced by beliefs or ideas expressed on the discussion boards.

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

Participation is graded on whether your comments are thoughtful and coherent, respond directly to the question (or another post in the board), contribute something new to the discussion, reflect an effort to move the discussion along, bring some evidence to your argument, and reflect an understanding of the course materials.

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

3. Political weblog (“blog”)

Establishing a U.S. national government-oriented political blog counts for 33.3% of your final grade. You’ll display your knowledge and ability to think critically about national 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: January 27

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 strongly 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 U.S. national 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? How did you do on the civics and current events quizzes?

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

Kris S. Seago’s Demo Govt 2305 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: February 10

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 U.S. national 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 all the links to 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’ve finished 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 national newspaper

Deadline: February 24

Write a substantial (250-500 words) critique of an editorial or commentary (NOT a pure news article reporting events, but an article where the author is making an argument) about U.S. national government from the opinion/editorial/commentary section of one of the national 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 blog

Deadline: March 9

Write a substantial (250-500 words) critique of an editorial or commentary from one of the 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: March 30

Write a substantial (250-500 words) and original editorial or commentary about U.S. national 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: April 13

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 as a standalone post 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: April 27

Write a substantial (250-500 word) and original editorial or commentary about U.S. national 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: May 11

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

Losco, Baker. 
AM GOV
Second Edition, McGraw Hill, 2011.
ISBN-13 9780077394363

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 national section of a major national newspaper (New York TimesWashington PostWall Street JournalChristian Science MonitorLos Angeles TimesDallas Morning NewsHouston ChronicleAustin American Statesman) in print or online. I encourage you to watch the national news on at least one television station (KLRU 18, KVUE 24, KXAN 36, KEYE 42, CNN, or MSNBC) and to listen to National Public Radio (NPR) on KUT-FM (90.5) or at www.kut.org 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

 

Course schedule



Date
Topic (supplemental material)
Textbook readings
2010 Edition
Textbook readings
2011 Edition

January 17 - 20 Mandatory online orientation    
  A little civics quiz    
  A little current events quiz    
  What's your ideology?    
  Why do we need government? Textbook, Chapter 1 Textbook, Chapter 1
  Why study national government?    
  Just how stupid are we?    
  A better informed democracy    
  Declaration of Independence Textbook, p. 431 Textbook, p. 431
  Federalist papers    
  Federalist #10 Textbook, p. 449 Textbook, p. 449
  The Constitution Textbook, Chapter 2 Textbook, Chapter 2
  Federalism Textbook, Chapter 3 Textbook, Chapter 3
January 27 Blog Stage 1 due    
February 3 Participation 1 deadline    
February 10 Blog stage 2 due    
February 20 Exam 1 deadline    
  Public opinion and socialization Textbook, Chapter 6 Textbook, Chapter 6
  Opinion Polling    
  Landon in a Landslide    
  How are polls conducted? (pdf)    
  Mass media and politics Textbook, Chapter 10 Textbook, Chapter 10
  That’s Infotainment!    
  Who owns the media?    
  Does ownership matter?    
  Is the world really that scary?    
  Jon Stewart on Crossfire (video)     
  Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Man in America?    
  Political parties Textbook, Pages 201 - 216 Textbook, Pages 201 - 216
  Campaigns Textbook, Pages 216 - 229 Textbook, Pages 216 - 229
  Participation, voting, and elections Textbook, Chapter 7 Textbook, Chapter 7
  Don’t vote    
  Economic voting (.mov file.mp3 file)    
  Predicting this year’s election    
  Electronic voting (video)    
February 24 Blog stage 3 due    
March 2 Participation topic 2 due    
March 9 Blog stage 4 due    
March 12 - 18 Spring Break (College Closed)    
March 26 Exam 2 deadline    
  Interest groups Textbook, Chapter 8 Textbook, Chapter 8
  What role do interest groups play?    
  Congress Textbook, Chapter 11 Textbook, Chapter 11
  Trustees or delegates?    
  2003 Texas redistricting    
  Sociodemographics    
  Congressional leadership    
  Earmarks    
  Filibusters    
  Presidency Textbook, Chapter 12 Textbook, Chapter 12
  The electoral college    
  2008 timeline    
  Impeachment    
  Warrantless wiretapping    
  Judiciary Textbook, Chapter 14 Textbook, Chapter 14
  The Supreme Court, Part 1 (video)    
  The Supreme Court, Part 2 (video)    
  The Supreme Court, Part 3 (video)    
  The current court    
  District of Columbia v. Heller (audio)    
  Texas’ criminal classification    
March 30 Blog stage 5 due    
April 6 Participation topic 3 due    
April 13 Blog stage 6 due    
April 16 Exam 3 deadline    
  Civil liberties Textbook, Chapter 4 Textbook, Chapter 4
  Was the Bill of Rights a good idea?    
  “Incorporating” the Bill of Rights    
        Barron v. Baltimore    
        Palko v. Connecticut    
  Criminal procedure    
        Gideon v. Wainwright    
        Miranda v. Arizona    
        Louisiana v. Resweber    
  The Exclusionary Rule    
        Wolf v. Colorado    
        Mapp v. Ohio    
  Privacy    
        Griswold v. Connecticut    
        Roe v. Wade    
        Gonzalez v. Carhart    
  Freedom of expression    
        Texas v. Johnson    
  Freedom of religion    
        Lemon v. Kurtzman (3 prong test)    
  School prayer    
        Engel v. Vitale    
        Abington v. Schempp    
  Flag salute    
        Minersville School District v. Gobitis    
        W Va. State Board of Ed. v. Barnette    
  Intelligent Design    
        Edwards v. Aguillard    
  Drugs as Sacrament    
        Employment Division v. Smith    
  Civil rights Textbook, Chapter 5 Textbook, Chapter 5
  Plessy v. Ferguson    
  Sweatt v. Painter    
  Brown v. Board of Education    
  Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bd. of Ed.    
  Regents of the University of California v. Bakke    
  Hopwood v. Texas    
  Loving v. Virginia    
  The Evolution of Voting Rights    
  Disenfranchisement    
  Alabama’s Literacy test    
Monday, April 23 Last day to withdraw    
April 27 Blog stage 7 due    
May 4 Participation topic 4 due    
May 7 Exam 4 Deadline    
May 11 Blog stage 8 due    

Student Learning Outcomes/Learning Objectives

 

COURSE GOALS

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

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