GOV 310L • American Government-Honors
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
This course is an introduction to American government and politics. While our main focus is on the national level, additional attention is paid to the state and local governments of Texas. In some instances, the American case is placed in a comparative context derived from the experience of other western democratic nations. In other instances, we focus on changes over time within the American political system to demonstrate how principles often change with context. At all times we are interested in a better understanding of how this particular system has developed and what it means for citizens of the United States. There are three primary objectives in this course. The first is to provide basic descriptive information about the American and Texas political systems by examining important political processes, institutions, and actors. The second is to develop analytical skills by which to understand complex relationships and phenomena. The third is to introduce the work of the political scientist by concentrating on the paradigms and techniques of the discipline.
The course is broken down into three distinct components. 1. The first portion of class centers on the discussions and the Peterson and Fiorina textbook. Three examinations will be based on these materials and are each worth 15% of your grade (45% total). These exams are NOT cumulative. There will be no early or make-up exams, except for extreme emergencies (and I am the sole arbiter of what constitutes an extreme emergency). 2. The second part of the course involves independent research. Two short research papers are each worth 20% of your grade (40% total). Paper topics will be handed out approximately four weeks before the essays are due. You will be given a choice of two or three topics on which to write a single paper. You are expected to construct an argument and support the argument with relevant evidence from lecture, the text, and outside sources. The inclusion of original data and evidence is encouraged, though not required. You are expected to include a short bibliography and footnotes (or endnotes), adhering to accepted social science formats. The essays should be about five pages, typed, double-spaced, and with standard margins of approximately one inch. No late papers will be accepted. You should anticipate conflicts and adjust your schedule so that you may turn the paper in on time. Similarly, computer and printer errors are not acceptable excuses. 3. Finally, 15% of your grade is reserved for your performance in discussion section. This grade will be based on things such as class participation, attendance, debates, and the like. A few other points merit attention. Incomplete grades are highly discouraged and will only be given in the direst of circumstances. Students must complete ALL assigned work to pass the course. Failure to complete all course requirements will result in a failing grade.
Paul Peterson, Morris Fiorina, Berttram Johnson, and William Mayer. 2007. New American Democracy. 5th ed. New York, NY: Addison, Wesley, and Longman.