AP® Government Syllabus

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AP® Government Syllabus

Mike Raymond

RHS (room H-103)



Website: http://schools.birdvilleschools.net/Domain/1201

Course Description
In this semester-long, college-level course, we will explore the formal and informal structures that contribute to the American political process. Students will become familiar with frequently used terminology related to government and political systems, and will study the historical development of such systems in America. While the course will provide intensive preparation for the AP U.S. Government exam in May, it will also help students develop essential skills necessary for collegiate success, such as formal writing, note-taking, critical thinking, and analytical reading. The ultimate goal of the course is to create critical consumers of mass media, productive and knowledgeable citizens, and strong future leaders.
Required Text
Edwards, George C. III, Martin P. Wattenburg, and Robert L. Lineberry. Government in America: People, Politics, and Policy, 10th ed. New York: Longman, 2002.
Supplemental Resources
Woll, Peter, ed. American Government: Readings and Cases. 15th ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2004.
Wood, Ethel and Bonnie Herzog. Multiple-Choice and Free-Response Questions in Preparation for the AP U.S. Government and Politics Exam. 6th ed. New York: D & S Marketing, 2009.
Textbook website: http://wps.ablongman.com/long_edwards_government_10/51/13171.cw/index.html
Shmoop.com – Online review topics and test preparatory materials (Instructor will provide login information)
NOTE: Students will also be provided with a study guide.
Teacher Resources

Benson, David and Karen Waples. Fast Track to a 5: Preparing for the AP* United States Government and Politics Examination. Geneva, IL: McDougal Littell.

Lamb, Patricia. 5 Steps to a 5: AP US Government and Politics 2012-2013. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011.

Schmidt, Steffen, et al. American Government and Politics Today 2013-2014. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2013.
Stanley, Harold and Richard Niemi. Vital Statistics on American Politics 2013-2014. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2013.
Course Expectations
Students must take primary responsibility for their learning. Students are expected to participate in all activities in a positive, constructive manner. Students must be prepared to contribute. This is a college-level course. Students must commit to a college-level attitude. This means completing all assignments on time and being prepared. A schedule for this class will be posted each day. Students are expected to enter the class ready to learn, and to read the schedule to determine what actions (if any) they need to take to be prepared to begin. Students will work “from bell to bell.” At the ringing of the bell signaling the end of class, I will release students. They are not to leave without being dismissed.
It is essential that AP Government students keep up with the outside reading assignments, which may be in the form of textbook pages, online articles, or handouts provided by the teacher. Much like other college level courses, the reading load for the course will be intensive. A reading schedule for each unit will be posted on my website. Reading quizzes will be given to determine students’ levels of understanding the reading material. Students will also take vocabulary quizzes for each unit to check for understanding of key terms, including documents, court cases, or terminology.
In addition to the traditional reading assignments, students will be expected to keep up with current events. Students should become accustomed to consuming news information from a variety of quality sources, including, but not limited to: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star Telegram, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, BBC, PBS, and NPR. Students will participate in assignments that require them to apply their study of U.S. government and politics to current events.
Formative assessment will be completed by the teacher during class discussions, in which every student will be expected to participate. This will allow the teacher to gauge student understanding and to clarify the study material. Hopefully these discussions will allow the students to expand on their own understanding by trading ideas and interpretations with their peers.
Students will practice extensively with released free response questions from previous AP exams. In class free response questions will be assigned at least once every three weeks. All writings will be timed to help students learn to write within the time restraints of the AP exam. Students will also participate in peer review of essays in order to familiarize themselves with the grading process and rubric standards.
Course Outline
The presentation of course material will coincide with the percentage of multiple choice questions from each content area on the Advanced Placement test, as stated by College Board. The scope and sequence of this course is largely reflective of this weighting, with consideration given to the instructional calendar and textbook treatment of these subjects.

  • Constitutional Foundations and Historical Context- 5-15%

  • Political Beliefs and Behavior- 10-20%

  • Political Parties, Interest Groups, and Mass Media- 10-20%

  • Institutions of National Government- 35-45%

  • Public Policy- 5-15%

  • Civil Rights and Civil Liberties- 5-15%

Advanced Placement Exam
The AP exam for U.S. Government and Politics is 2 hours and 25 minutes long. It includes a 45-minute multiple choice section consisting of sixty questions and a 100-minute free-response section consisting of four questions.
While excellent performance on the AP exam is a goal of this course, the main focus should remain on learning the material and developing good study and analysis skills. The instructor will provide many opportunities for students to prepare for the AP test, including multiple choice tests with questions from released exams, and in-class practice with free response questions from previous exams. Students will become familiar with the grading practices for the AP exam, to understand the scoring guidelines and process. All students will be required to sit for two mock exam.

Tentative Scope and Sequence


Est. Time Frame

Guiding Questions



Unit 1:

Constitutional Foundations of American Government

(2.5 weeks)

What historical events and philosophies shaped the principles of the Constitution?
What were the major areas of contention surrounding the ratification debate? How were they settled?
What early challenges did the Constitution face in the new republic?
What are the major principles of the Constitution? How does federalism function in the United States?
What does “democracy” mean? Compare the differing historical interpretations of the term.
How would the founding fathers of the Constitution view our interpretation of the document today?

Edwards, et al.: Chapters 1, 2, and 3
The Federalist Papers #10, 39, 47, 48, 51
Woll: Locke “Second Treatise,” Berelson “Democratic Practice and Democratic Theory”
Articles of Confederation (selected sections)
Declaration of Independence (selected sections)
U.S. Constitution

Graphic organizer:

Constitutional Foundations of the Constitution and Bill of Rights

Analysis activity:

Provisions of the Constitution

Analysis activity:

Constitutional Solutions to Grievances

Analysis activity:

Interpreting The Federalist Papers


Theories of Government and Democracy


Locke, Rousseau, and Hobbes

Analysis activity:

Theory and Practice in American Government

Socratic seminar/Chart:

Aspects of Federalism – Categorize areas of responsibility (national/state) in federal government

Socratic seminar:

Formal and Informal Means of Changing the Constitution

Unit 1 reading and/or vocabulary quizzes
M/C exam

Unit 2:

Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

(2.5 weeks)

What key Supreme Court cases shaped our understanding of civil rights and liberties in the United States?
How has the Bill of Rights been interpreted by the federal court system?
How has the Supreme Court interpretation of the Constitution and its amendments impacted society?
Assess the strengths and weaknesses of Supreme Court decisions as tools of social change.
How has the 14th Amendment and the doctrine of selective incorporation been used to extend protection of civil rights and liberties?

Edwards, et al: Chapters 4 and 5
Bill of Rights
We The People: Due process and incorporation
Majority opinion, Grutter v. Bollinger (selected sections)
Majority opinion, Gratz v. Bollinger (selected sections)
Supreme Court decisions regarding:

  • Freedom of Religion (Engel v. Vitale, Lemon v. Kurtzman, Reynolds v. U.S., Oregon v. Smith)

  • Freedom of Expression (Schenck v. U.S., New York Times v. Sullivan, Near v. Minnesota, Roth v. U.S., Tinker v. Des Moines, Texas v. Johnson, Miller v. California)

  • Selective Incorporation (Gitlow v. New York, Barron v. Baltimore)

  • Due Process (Weeks v. U.S., Mapp v. Ohio, Miranda v. Arizona, Gideon v. Wainwright)

  • Equal Protection (Dred Scott v. Sandford, Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, Grutter v. Bollinger)

  • Right to Privacy (Griswold v. Connecticut, Roe v. Wade, Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, Planned Parenthood v. Casey)

Current events regarding the continuing evolution of civil rights and civil liberties

Socratic seminar:

Defining and Interpreting Basic Freedoms

Analysis activity:

How the Supreme Court Interprets First Amendment Freedoms and Rights of the Accused

Case study:

Evolution of Affirmative Action - Evaluate the strict scrutiny principle and its application

Interactive lecture/Synthesis activity:

Evolution of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties – Categorizing and ordering significant Supreme Court cases

Unit 2 reading and/or vocabulary quizzes
M/C exam with essays
FRQ practice

Unit 3:

Public Opinion, Parties, and Interest Groups

(2 weeks)

What factors shape public opinion?
What is political socialization and how do individual’s beliefs evolve?
What are linkage institutions, and why are these important?

How does public opinion influence the political process?

Examine the influence of demographic factors on political participation and ideology.

Assess the various means by which individuals participate in American politics.

How do political parties impact the political process?

What has led to calls for party reform?

How do interest groups affect the political process, and what advantages do they garner for represented sectors?

What are the ideological stances of the major parties, and how have these changed throughout American history?

What roles have minor parties played in politics?
What are PACs, and how do they affect the political process?

Edwards, et al.: Chapters 6, 8, and 11
Woll: “Toward a More Responsible Two-Party System,” “Perspectives on American Political Parties”

  • OpenSecrets.org

  • RNC.org

  • Democrats.org

  • Websites of minor parties

  • Websites of significant interest groups (NRA, Sierra Club, NAACP, LULAC, AFL-CIO, AARP, NOW, ACLU)

Currents events regarding the impact of party organizations and interest groups on American government and politics

Interactive lecture/Personal evaluation:

Defining Liberalism and Conservatism in America – Examine where major parties stand on issues today and how these views have evolved over time

Key features chart:

Party Eras and Key Elections in American History

Compare/contrast chart:

Functions and Structures of Political Parties

Guided study:

Public Opinion, Political Ideologies and Organizations

Analysis Activity:

PACs and the American Political Process

Analysis activity:

The Role of Political Parties in American Government and Politics

Unit 3 reading and/or vocabulary quizzes
M/C exam

Unit 4:

Campaigns, Elections, and the Media

(2 weeks)

What factors shape voter behavior?
Assess efforts to reform campaign strategy and finance. What has provided the impetus for this movement?
What role does the media play in campaigns, elections, and policymaking?
Evaluate the concept of image and image development. How do candidates and public officials groom their image, and how does image impact elections?
Describe the relationship between candidates for office and the media.
How does the motivation and structure of media organizations influence the nature of news coverage in America?
How has the growth of the Internet changed media in America?
What have been the historical advantages and disadvantages of the electoral college system?

Edwards, et al.: Chapters 9, 10, 7
Woll: “Buckley v. Valeo,” “Campaign Finance Reform,” “A Theory of Critical Elections,” “Politics by Other Means”
Charts/graphs showing historical campaign finance figures
Electoral maps from historical elections
Transcript of Nixon-Kennedy debate (selected sections)

  • Kennedy/Nixon 1960 debate (selected sections)

  • Political advertisements (2008 “red phone” Hillary Clinton ads, 1988 Bush-Dukakis “Willy Horton” ads and “Tank” ad, 1964 Johnson “Daisy” ad, 2012 Obama “Big Bird” ad)

Charts/graphs showing historical voter participation rates

Current events regarding elections and campaigns

Analysis activity:

Examining Campaign Finance Reform

Analysis activity:

Assessing the Role of Elections in a “Postelectoral Era”?

Case study:

The Importance of Image and Media – Interpret differing perceptions of the Nixon-Kennedy debate

Interactive lecture:

Campaigns and the Media

Socratic seminar:

Addressing Voter Apathy

Unit 4 reading and/or vocabulary quizzes
Simulation (Assessment):

Campaign Image and Strategy Project - Create a campaign strategy proposal with advertisement for a historical (or current) presidential candidate, addressing image, political culture, public opinion, campaign issues, third party impact, coalition building, media’s role, volunteerism, funding, and voter turnout

Unit 5:


(2 weeks)

What powers does Congress possess, according to Article I of the Constitution?
How have congressional powers evolved over time, and what tools has Congress used to expand its power?
How is Congress organized, and how does this system impact its functions?
What is the relationship between Congress and the other branches of government, and how has the balance of power shifted over the course of American history?
How does Congress interact with political parties, interest groups, the media, the federal bureaucracy, and state and local governments (including redistricting)?
Assess the extent and means by which members of Congress serve their constituents.
What factors shape congressional elections?

Edwards, et al.: Chapter 12
Woll: “Congress and the Quest for Power”
U.S. Constitution, Article I
Shmoop: “How a Bill Becomes a Law”

  • “I’m Just a Bill”

  • CSPAN footage

Current events regarding Congress and new legislation

Analysis activity:

The Importance of Reelection

Interactive lecture/Flowchart:

How a Bill Becomes a Law

Compare/contrast chart:

Bicameral Structure of Congress


Joint Resolution Writing – Examine a joint resolution and use it as a guide for writing a new one, then act as a conference committee to work out differences between two versions

Socratic seminar:

Congressional Powers and Functions

Unit 5 reading and/or vocabulary quizzes
M/C exam
FRQ practice

Unit 6:

The Presidency and Federal Bureaucracy

(2 weeks)

What powers does the executive branch hold, according to Article II of the Constitution?
How have the president’s powers evolved over time, and what tools has the president used to expand his power?
How is the executive branch organized, and how does this impact the political process and policy implementation?
What is the relationship between the executive branch and the other branches of government, and how has the balance of power shifted over the course of American history?
How does the executive branch interact with political parties, interest groups, the media, and state and local governments (including types of federalism)?

Edwards, et al.: Chapters 13 and 15
Woll: “Focus of Leadership,” “Presidential Power,” and “Presidential Paradoxes”
U.S. Constitution, Article 2
Biographical information on a variety of prominent individuals and historical presidential candidates
Photos and primary sources from historical presidencies
Current event regarding the president and bureaucracy

Case study:

Presidential Selection Activity – Examine formal and informal qualifications for the presidency

Analysis activity:

Nature of the Presidency

Case study:

Examining Presidential Decisionmaking – Examine the factors that impact presidential decisions, applying these to Kennedy’s actions in the Cuban Missile Crisis


Many Facets of Presidential Leadership – Organize “artifacts” from historical presidencies to identify roles played by these individuals in shaping their eras

Socratic seminar:

Aspects of the Presidency and Cabinet

Interactive lecture:

The Bureaucracy

FRQ practice
Unit 6 reading and/or vocabulary quizzes
M/C exam

Unit 7:


(2 weeks)

What powers does the judicial branch hold, according to Article III of the Constitution?
How have the judiciary’s powers evolved over time, and what tools has the judiciary used to expand its power?
How is the judicial branch organized, and how does this impact the political process and policy implementation?
What is the relationship between the judicial branch and the other branches of government, and how has the balance of power shifted over the course of American history?
How does the judicial branch interact with political parties, interest groups, the media, and state and local governments (including types of federalism)?

Edwards, et al.: Chapter 16
Woll: “How the Supreme Court Arrives at Decisions”
U.S. Constitution, Article 3
Historical information on the Marshall Court, Hughes Court, Warren Court, Burger Court, Rehnquist Court, and the “court packing plan”

  • Shmoop.com

  • USHistory.org

Current events regarding Supreme Court cases/decisions

Guided study:

Structure and Functions of the Judicial Branch

Compare/contrast chart:

Civil and Criminal Cases


How the Supreme Court Arrives at Decisions

Analysis activity:

Assessing Significant Eras of the Supreme Court

Key features chart:

Thirty Most Important Supreme Court Cases

Unit 7 reading and/or vocabulary quizzes

Unit 8:

The Federal Budget and Economic Policy

(1 week)

What roles do the president, bureaucracy, and Congress play in the formation of the federal budget?
How is the budgetary process influenced by various actors, interests, institutions, and processes?
How significant is the federal budget in terms of policy implementation?
How is the federal budget impacted by political considerations?
How does the federal government implement fiscal and monetary policy to control the economy?

Edwards, et al.: Chapters 14 and 17
Federal budget charts/graphs
Short readings on the Federal Reserve and New Deal agencies put in place to control the economy

  • “Frontline: Inside the Meltdown”

Current events regarding the budget and economy

Interactive lecture:

Budget and Economic Policy

Socratic seminar:

Historical Development of Governmental Economic Controls

Case study:

2008 Financial Crisis – Identify the role of fiscal and monetary policy in controlling the 2008 financial crisis

Unit 8 reading and/or vocabulary quizzes
M/C exam

Unit 9:

Public Policy

(1 week)

What factors (actors, interests, institutions, and processes) influence the formation of public policy agendas - including the impact of politics and the role of federalism?

What are “policy networks” and “issue networks” in the foreign and domestic policy arenas?

In what way do geographic location and key natural resources impact the United States’ relationship with other countries?

How does U.S. foreign policy affect other countries worldwide?

How does the U.S. government use economic resources in foreign policy?

Examine the policymaking and implementation process, including the role of three branches of the federal government and the bureaucracy.

What current policy issues are being debated in American society (such as the environment, health care, foreign policy, defense, social welfare, and economics)?
What roles do the executive (president and bureaucracy), legislative and judicial branch play in the formation and implementation of public policy?

What is the relationship between the federal government and state and local bureaucratic institutions in the formation and implementation of public policy?

Edwards, et al.: Chapters 18, 19, and 20 (selected sections)

  • Shmoop.com

  • Textbook web pages on policy

  • Websites devoted to different policy areas

Current events regarding legislation and policy debates

Guided Study:

Domestic and Foreign Policy

Socratic seminar:

Policymaking and Interests

Unit 9 reading and/or vocabulary quizzes
FRQ practice

End of Course Review
(1 week)

Review concepts through FRQ practice (brainstorming, writing, peer review)
Mock exam

Shmoop review topics and practice activities

FRQ practices

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