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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Matthew Rhodes-Purdy

BA, Political Science, Boise State University

PhD Candidate
Matthew Rhodes-Purdy


Political Participation, Political Behavior, Democratic Theory, Support for Democracy, Political Parties, Latin American Politics

GOV F310L • American Government

84030 • Summer 2015
Meets MTWTHF 1130am-100pm MEZ 1.306
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Government 310L:

Introduction to American And Texas Government


Course Number: 84030

Classroom: MEZ 1.306

Meeting times: Mon-Fri, 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM


Instructor:  Mr. Matthew Rhodes-Purdy      

            Office hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM

            Office location: TBD                                               



Course Description:  This course provides an introduction to American Government, as well as a brief overview of the Texas political system. The primary goal of the course are:

  • to introduce the basic institutions of the US American political system (the legislature, party system, political rights, etc.) and an overview of their historical development
  • to examine how these institutions shape the political behavior of individuals, and how the political behavior of individuals shape the institutions
  • to encourage students to think critically about the costs and benefits of specific features of the US American political system
  • to explore how the design and development of political institutions in the United States has been guided and shaped by the core ideas of American political thought.


By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Understand and discuss some of the core political ideas that have influenced US American political development (e.g. liberalism, democracy, federalism)
  • Identify the major institutions of  US American Government, understand how they were shaped historically according to core political ideas, and explain how they relate to other institutions
  • Understand and discuss various ways that citizens can organize themselves and how they can influence government and policy, citing historical and contemporary examples
  • Understand and discuss the various factors which shape public opinion and policy preferences, and the key divides over issues of economic, social and foreign policy in the US American political system
  • Identify some key similarities and differences of the US American political system and major political systems around the world
  • Understand the Texas political system and political development

Readings:  The course will involve a combination of textbook readings, primary source readings and analytical articles. There are three required texts for the course:

  • Lowi, et. al. American Government: Power and Purpose. 13th full edition. ISBN-13: 978-0393124132
  • Lasser, W. Perspectives on American Politics. 6th edition. ISBN-13: 978-0495899471
  • Ginsberg & Schefter. Politics By Other Means. 3rd edition. ISBN-13: 978-0393977639


Reading for this class is absolutely essential. Lectures will deal with course material that is separate from that contained in the readings. You must come to class each day with the assigned reading completing to get the most out of lecture and to succeed in the course.


Course Requirements and Grading:  Grades for this course will be based on a combination of essays and in class quizzes. There will be three exams, which will cover the material between that exam and the one preceding it (exams are not comprehensive). That said, the course is designed in such a way that ideas from earlier sections are vital to understanding later material. Exams will include a combination of multiple choice, short answer, and possibly short essay questions.


In addition to the exams, 10 percent of your grade will be based on your participation. The participation grade will include in-class discussion, small-group activities, and periodic quizzes which will focus on the readings. Please keep in mind that simply showing up to class will not be sufficient to guarantee full participation points; you must actively engage in discussion. Students may also attend office hours to discuss the course material to gain participation points. You may contact me at any time to discuss your participation grade, and ways you might improve it.


Final grades will be course will be calculated as follows:


Exam 1: 30%

Exam 2: 30%

Final Exam: 30%

Participation: 10%


Grades will be assigned on the scale listed below:


93-100  A        90-92  A-

88-89    B+      83-87  B          80-82  B-

78-79    C+      73-77  C          70-72  C-

68-69    D+     63-67  D          60-62  D-

<60      F


All final percentages will be rounded to the nearest percentage point. No exceptions will be made to the scale listed here.


Grade Protests: Please feel free to e-mail me (or better yet, come to office hours) at any time if you have questions about your grades or how to do better on subsequent assignments. If you feel the need to protest or dispute a grade for a specific test or assignment, you must put it in writing no later than one week after the graded assignment or exam was returned to you. No late protests will be accepted. 

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