GOV 310L • American Government
12:00 PM-1:00 PM
The United States of America constitutes one of the great modern political experiments - a combination of representative (republican) government and democracy (rule by the people). The Republic of Texas and subsequently the state of Texas are in many ways modeled similarly to the U.S., but with some important differences. This course will examine the political thought that animated the American and Texan founding(s), and the present day institutions we have as a result. In the process, we will explore the ways in which America and Texas, past and present, deliver on our expectations of a representative democracy. We will consider questions such as: what tensions existed between the rhetoric of the founding and the institutions designed by the founders? To what extent are the current forms of American and Texan government more or less true to the founding ideals? And do American and Texan government embody the same political ideals as each other, to the extent they ever did? One primary objective for the course is to develop and strengthen critical thinking skills that should prove valuable to you throughout your education and beyond, no matter your field of study. Another objective is to enhance your understanding of the operations of both American and Texan government, their relationship(s) to representative democracy, and to each other. That said, this is not a course of memorizing "facts" about the operation and/or structure of American government, but one in which we will confront and respond to arguments about the United States, Texas, and representative democracy.
short (2 page) paper (15%) midterm exam (15%) longer (5 page) paper (35%) final exam (35%) Grades for each assignment will be given on a letter (with +/-) basis. These grades will be weighted and then averaged to calculate a final letter grade (letter only) for the course. There will be no curve, nor will participation or attendance (directly) affect your grade.
Source materials (Readings are assigned from three sources, the first two for purchase): Wasserman, Gary. 2008. The Basics of American Politics, 13th ed. New York: Pearson-Longman. Available at the University Coop. Readings from the text are designated as "Basics" in the syllabus; page numbers are from the 13th edition. Course packet, available at Speedway Copy (Dobie Mall/2025 Guadalupe, Ste. 140). Readings from the course packet are designated in the syllabus by a "CP." Some readings, designated as "online," are assigned from internet sources.