Syllabus
United States Government

United States Government

GOVT-2305

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

Course Information

Section 026
Lecture
T 10:35AM - 11:50AM
NRG2 2119
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.

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:

textbook

Joseph Losco and Ralph 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

Read all items up to and including those listed on a given class day. Read all linked supplemental materials.



Date
Topic (supplemental material in hyperlinks)
Textbook readings

January 17 (Class day) Introduction  
  A little civics quiz  
  A little current events quiz  
  What's your ideology?  
  Why do we need government? Textbook, Chapter 1
  Why study national government?  
  Just how stupid are we?  
  A better informed democracy  
  Declaration of Independence Textbook, p. 431
  Federalist papers  
January 24 (Class day) Federalist #10 Textbook, p. 449
  The Constitution Textbook, Chapter 2
January 27 Blog Stage 1 due  
January 31 (Class day) Federalism Textbook, Chapter 3
February 3 Participation 1 deadline  
February 7 (Class day) Exam 1  
February 10 Blog stage 2 due  
  Public opinion and socialization Textbook, Chapter 6
  Opinion Polling  
  Landon in a Landslide  
February 14 (Class day) How are polls conducted? (pdf)  
  Mass media and politics Textbook, Chapter 10
  That’s Infotainment!  
  Who owns the media?  
  Does ownership matter?  
  Is the world really that scary?  
  Jon Stewart on Crossfire (video)  
February 21 (Class day) Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Man in America?   
February 24 Blog stage 3 due  
  Political parties Textbook, Pages 201 - 216
  Campaigns Textbook, Pages 216 - 229
  Participation, voting, and elections Textbook, Chapter 7
  Don’t vote  
  Economic voting (.mov file.mp3 file)  
  Predicting this year’s election  
February 28 (Class day) Electronic voting (video)  
March 2 Participation topic 2 due  
March 6 (Class day) Exam 2  
March 9 Blog stage 4 due  
March 12 - 18 No class (Spring Break, College Closed)  
  Interest groups Textbook, Chapter 8
  What role do interest groups play?  
  Congress Textbook, Chapter 11
  Trustees or delegates?  
  2003 Texas redistricting  
  Sociodemographics  
  Congressional leadership  
  Earmarks  
March 20 (Class day) Filibusters  
     
  Presidency Textbook, Chapter 12
  The electoral college  
  2008 timeline  
  Impeachment  
March 27 (Class day) Warrantless wiretapping  
  Judiciary 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)  
March 30 Blog stage 5 due  
April 3 (Class day) Texas’ criminal classification  
April 6 Participation topic 3 due  
April 10 (Class day) Exam 3  
April 13 Blog stage 6 due  
  Civil liberties 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  
April 17 (Class day)       Employment Division v. Smith  
Monday, April 23 Last day to withdraw  
  Civil rights 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  
April 24 (Class day) Alabama’s Literacy test  
April 27 Blog Stage 7 due  
May 1 (Class day) Finish up and review  
May 4 Participation topic 4 due  
May 8 (Class day) Exam 4  
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.