Upper Dublin High School

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Upper Dublin High School

AP U.S. Government and Politics Syllabus
Course Overview / Description:

This course is specifically designed to prepare the student to successfully complete the AP U.S. Government and Politics Examination in May.

The AP Government course has been traditionally taught during the first three plus quarters of the school year with an average enrollment of twenty plus students.
Students accepted into a Social Studies Advanced Placement course must be independent learners. They must be competent in skills related to acquiring information through reading, study, and research. In addition to preparation for class through extensive textbook and supplementary material reading assignments, participation in an AP course will require students to employ information-acquiring skills to organize and utilize information. They will become intensely involved in the application of intellectual skills (classifying, interpreting, analyzing, summarizing, synthesizing, and evaluating information), decision-making skills and skills related to interpersonal relationships and social/political participation.

The course is conducted using a variety of teaching methods: lectures, Socratic question and answer sessions, discussions, simulations, cooperative learning activities, and independent research. All students are responsible for reading the assignments before coming to class so that they may participate. Periodically, simulations and cooperative learning activities replace and/or supplement the lecture/discussion. Students are also encouraged to become familiar with current events through the readings of newspapers, news magazines, news-oriented broadcasts, and the internet. The current events provide concrete connections for each lesson and concept learned during the school year. Also, a variety of film clips and videos are used throughout the course to illustrate key concepts.

Texts and Materials:

  • Wilson, James Q. and John J. DiIulio, Jr. American Government. 8th ed. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001

  • Benson, David G. and Karen K. Waples. Fast Track to a 5: Preparing for the AP United States and Politics Examination. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006

  • Serow, Anne G., and Everett C. Ladd, eds. The Lanahan Readings in the American Polity. 3rd ed. Baltimore: Lanahan Publishers Inc., 2003

  • Weekly Newsweek Articles, Commentaries, and Political Cartoons

  • Daily New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer Articles, Commentaries, and Political Cartoons

Grading and Course Requirements:

  • 2 Day Exam (40%)

    • 60 Multiple Choice Questions (60 Points)

    • 2 Free-Response Questions (60 Points)

  • Quizzes (20%)

    • Three plus (announced and unannounced) quizzes over the course of the quarter

    • Quiz point values will vary

  • Research or Analysis Paper (20%)

    • One take-home writing assignment per quarter (100 Points)

  • Miscellaneous (20%)

    • Book reviews, written reports, oral reports, projects, debates, directed reading assignments, and homework and class work assignments will count for the remaining 20% of the quarter grade

    • Assignment point values will vary

Course Objectives:

  • The students will demonstrate the ability to:

    • Explain what is meant by power (political power in particular) and relate the latter to authority, legitimacy, and democracy.

    • Identify the ideologies that influenced the formulation and adaptation of the United States Constitution.

    • Discuss the founding and meaning of Federalism

    • Understand the roles of political parties, interest groups and the media in government.

    • Describe the structure and workings of Congress, the Supreme Court, the Presidency and the Bureaucracy.

    • Recognize and appreciate the fundamental Civil Liberties and Civil Rights possessed by American citizens

    • Define the process by which public policy is made within the federal system.

Daily Lesson Topics: Scope and Sequence
Unit 1: Constitutional Underpinnings of U.S. Government

  • Foundations of American Government (Chapter 1)

  • Political Power, Authority, and Legitimacy

  • Four Characteristics of a State

  • Direct Democracy v. Representative Democracy

  • British Contributions and Colonial Governments (Royal, Proprietary, Charter)

  • Path to Independence

  • Social Contract Theory – Unalienable Rights

  • Declaration of Independence (five distinct parts)

  • Articles of Confederation (Weaknesses) and the Critical Period

  • The Constitution (Chapter 2)

  • The Framers of the Constitution and their Motives

  • Constitutional Convention – Bundle of Compromises (VA, NJ, CT Plans, etc.)

  • Ratification of the Constitution (Federalists and Anti-Federalists)

  • Federalist Papers

  • The Constitution in Context – Preamble

  • The Constitution – Framework (Articles, Sections, Clauses)

  • Informal and Formal Amendments to Constitution (Amendment Process, Bill of Rights and the other 17 Amendments)

  • Six Basic Principles of the Constitution (Popular Sovereignty, Limited Government, Separation of Powers, Checks and Balances, Judicial Review, Federalism)

  • Federalism (Chapter 3)

  • Examples and Key Differences Between a Unitary, Confederal, and Federal Systems of Government

  • Federalism and the Division of Powers - Delegated Powers : Expressed, Implied, Inherent Powers - Reserved Powers (10th Amendment) and Concurrent Powers (Venn Diagram)

  • Implied Powers – Elastic Clause – Views - McCulloch v. Maryland

  • National Supremacy v. States’ Rights – Nullification (VA and KY Resolutions – Civil War) – Article VI (Supremacy Clause)

  • State Sovereignty (S.C. Cases)

  • Interstate Relations, Full Faith and Credit Clause, and Privileges and Immunities Clause

  • Federalism and State Monies (Categorical Grants, Block Grants, Revenue Sharing)

  • Federal Mandates and Conditions of Aid

  • Devolution Revolution

  • Federalism: Pros and Cons

Unit 2: Political Beliefs and Behaviors

  • Political Culture and Ideology (Chapter 4)

  • Political Spectrum – Political Ideology (Liberal, Moderate, Conservative) and Key Differences between Political Culture and Political Ideology

  • Political Socialization - Sources of Political Attitudes (Family, Religion, Gender, Education, etc.)

  • Unique Qualities of the American Political Culture

  • Five Elements of the American View of the Political System (Liberty, Equality, Democracy, Civic Duty, Individual Responsibility)

  • The Culture War (Orthodox and Progressive)

  • Political Efficacy (internal and external)

  • Mistrust of Government – Causes - Scandals

  • Political Tolerance

  • Public Opinion (Chapter 5)

  • Public Opinion(s) in the U.S. – Problem of Defining Public Opinion

  • Measuring Public Opinion

  • Cleavages in Public Opinion (Social Class, Race and Ethnicity, Region)

  • Political Ideology (Changing Definition Over Time)

  • Political Elites and Public Opinion

  • Exam – Chapters 1-5 (60 MCs and 2 F-R-E)

----------------------------------------*END OF 1ST QUARTER*---------------------------------

  • Voting and Political Participation (Chapter 6)

  • Voter Qualifications (Citizenship, Residence, Age, and Registration) and Why We Should Vote

  • The Right to Vote (Voting Limitations - Expansion of the Electorate for Minorities, Women, and Youth) and (Suffrage and Civil Rights - Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, and Constitutional Amendments)

  • Voting and Voter Turnout (Voters and Nonvoters, Low Voter Turnout, and Why Americans Do Not Vote)

  • Levels and Forms of Political Participation - Six Levels of Political Participation (Inactive, Voting Specialists, Campaigners, Communalists, Parochials, and Activists)

  • Sociological Factors (Income, Occupation, Education, Gender, Age, Religious and Ethnic Background, Geography, and Family) and Psychological Factors (Party Identification, Candidates, and Issues) that Influence Voters

  • Voting Behavior (Prospective and Retrospective Voting) and (Straight and Split Ticket Voting)

Unit 3: Political Parties, Elections - Campaigns, Interest Groups, and Mass Media

  • Political Parties (Chapter 7)

  • Political Parties – Definition – Five Functions (Nominating, Informer- Stimulator, Seal of Approval, Governmental, Watchdog)

  • Reasons for a Two-Party System in the U.S. (Historical Basis, Tradition, Electoral System, American Ideological Consensus)

  • The Two –Party System in American History - Rise and Decline of Parties in the U.S.

  • Reality of U.S. Political Parties – How Political Parties in the U.S. Differ from other Western Nations

  • Key Similarities and Differences between the Republican and the Democratic Parties

  • Minor Parties (Ideological, Single-Issue, Economic Protest, Splinter Parties) and their Roles

  • Party Organization - Parties at the National, State, and Local Levels

  • Strengths and Weaknesses of Political Parties – The Future of the Major Parties

  • Elections and Campaigns (Chapter 8)

  • Comparing Presidential and Congressional Campaigns

  • Nomination Process

  • Primaries (Open, Closed, Blanket, Runoff, Presidential) and General Campaigns - Balloting (Party-Column and Office-Bloc Ballot)

  • Campaign Issues (Position and Valence) and TV, Debates, and Direct Mail

  • How Campaigns are Conducted - What Decides and Election (Party ID, Issues, Campaign, Winning Coalition)

  • Election Outcomes (Analysis) and Party Realignments

  • Sources of Campaign Money – PACS - Campaign Finance Laws and Contribution Limits (Soft / Hard Money) – Campaign Finance Reform

  • Election Outcomes and Effects on Policy

  • Interest Groups (Chapter 9)

  • The Role and Functions of Interest Groups - How Interest Groups Differ from Political Parties - Interest Groups - Good or Bad?

  • Emergence and Growth of Interest Groups

  • Types of Interest Groups (Institutional and Membership) and (Economic - Business, Labor, Agricultural, and Professional) along with (Organizations that Promote Certain Causes and Groups and Religious and Public-Interest Groups)

  • Incentives to Join Interest Groups (Solidary, Material, and Purposive)

  • Interest Groups in Action - Interest Group Strategies – Direct and Indirect Techniques (Lobbying)

  • Characteristics and Roles of PACs (PAC Money)

  • Regulating Interest Groups

  • The Media (Chapter 10)

  • Background and Structure of the Media – Four Periods of Journalistic History (Party Press, Popular Press, Magazines of Opinion, Broadcast Journalism) - Plus the Growth and Influence of the Internet

  • The National Press and Traditional Roles of the National Media (Gatekeeper, Scorekeeper, and Watchdog)

  • Government Influence on the Media and Effects of the Media on Politics

  • Interpreting Political News (Routine, Feature, and Insider Stories), Commentaries, and Political Cartoons

  • Media Bias?

  • Exam – Chapters 6-10 (60 MCs and 2 F-R-E)

----------------------------------------*END OF 2ND QUARTER*--------------------------------
Unit 4: Institutions of the National Government

  • Congress (Chapter 11)

  • Bicameral Congress (Historical, Practical, and Theoretical Reasons for a Two- House Legislature)

  • Terms, Sessions, and Special Sessions

  • The House of Representatives (Size, Terms, Qualifications, and Compensation)

  • The House of Representatives (Congressional Districts – Single-Member District, Reapportionment and Reapportionment Act of 1929, Gerrymandering, Malapportionment, and Majority-Minority Districts)

  • Senate (Size, Terms, Qualifications, 17th Amendment, and Compensation)

  • Congressional Elections (Incumbency Factor)

  • A day in the life of a Member of Congress – Five Roles of a Member of Congress

  • Scope of Congressional Powers (Strict v. Liberal Constructionists)

  • Expressed Powers of Congress (Article 1, Section 8)

  • Implied Powers of Congress – Elastic Clause (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 18) – McCulloch v. Maryland – Powers in Practice

  • Nonlegislative Powers of Congress (Constitutional Amendments, Electoral Duties, Impeachment, Executive and Investigatory Powers)

  • Congressional Leadership (Current Leaders and Duties)

  • Committees in Congress (Standing, Joint and Conference, and Select Committees)

  • Types of Bills and Resolutions (Simple, Joint, and Concurrent)

  • How a Bill Becomes a Law (Steps taken by the House, Senate, and White House)

  • Methods of Voting in the House and Senate (How - Voice, Division, Teller and Roll Call) and (Why – Represenational or Delegate, Organizational or Partisan, Attitudinal or Trustee, and Politico)

  • The Presidency (Chapter 12)

  • The President’s Job Description, Formal Qualifications, Term, and Pay and Benefits

  • Vice Presidents and Presidential Succession

  • Presidential Elections - Electoral College – Then and Now – Flaws – Respectful Argument – Proposed Reforms

  • Growth of Presidential Power – Imperial Presidency - The Paradoxes of the American Presidency

  • President’s Executive Powers

  • President’s Diplomatic and Military Powers

  • President’s Legislative and Judicial Powers

  • Differences Between the Chief Executives in Presidential and Parliamentary Systems

  • Unified or Divided Government – Congress v. President - Gridlock

  • The Office of the President (Executive Office of the President – White House Office, National Security Council, Office of Homeland Security, Office of Management and Budget, etc.)

  • The 15 Executive Departments (Current Cabinet) and Independent Executive Agencies and Regulatory Commissions

  • The Bureaucracy (Chapter 13)

  • Distinctiveness and Structure of the American Bureaucracy

  • Increased Role of the Bureaucracy (Growth)

  • Civil Service Today (OPM) - Recruitment and Retention of Bureaucrats

  • Congressional Oversight

  • Bureaucratic Pathologies and Reforming the Bureaucracy

  • The Judiciary (Chapter 14)

  • National Judiciary (Creation – Judiciary Act of 1789)

  • Types of Federal Courts (Supreme Court and Inferior Courts – Constitutional and Special Courts)

  • Dual Court System - Jurisdiction (Federal / Exclusive, State, and Concurrent)

  • Original and Appellate Jurisdiction and the Basis for the Federal Court’s Jurisdiction Over Cases

  • Federal Judges (Appointment and Confirmation, Terms, and Pay)

  • Inferior Courts (District Courts and Court of Appeals) and the Appellate Process

  • The Supreme Court (Judicial Review – Marbury v. Madison) and Supreme Court Jurisdiction

  • The Supreme Court (How Cases Reach the Supreme Court and How the Supreme Court Operates)

  • Three Eras of Supreme Court Influence (National Supremacy and Slavery, Government and the Economy, and Government and Political Liberty)

  • Judicial Activism v. Judicial Restraint

  • Checks on Judicial Power

  • Special Courts (Court of Federal Claims, Territorial Courts, District of Columbia Courts, Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, Military Commissions, Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and United States Tax Court)

  • Exam – Chapters 11-14 (60 MCs and 2 F-R-E)

---------------------------------------*END OF THE 3RD QUARTER*--------------------------

Unit 5: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

  • Civil Liberties (Chapter 18)

  • Background of Civil Liberties Issues and the Nationalization of the Bill of Rights

  • Interpreting and Applying First Amendment Rights

  • Rights of the Accused (Due Process)

  • Terrorism and Civil Liberties

  • Civil Rights (Chapter 19)

  • Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and How They Differ

  • Background of the Civil Rights Movement

  • The Civil Rights Movement in the Courts

  • The Civil Rights Movement in Congress

  • Women and Equal Rights

  • Affirmative Action

  • Gay Marriage and the Supreme Court

Unit 6: The Politics of Public Policy

  • The Policy-Making Process (Chapter 15)

  • Setting the Political Agenda

  • Costs, Benefits, and Policy

  • Business Regulation: A Case Study

  • Perceptions, Beliefs, Interests, and Values Affect Public Policy

    • Economic Policy and the Budget (Chapter 16)

  • Modern American Economy (Economic Health)

  • The Politics of Taxing and Spending

  • The Machinery of Economic Policy-Making

  • The Budget

  • Domestic Policy: Social Welfare and the Environment (Chapter 17)

  • Social Welfare Politics and Policy

  • The Politics of Environmental Protection

  • Foreign and Military Policy (Chapter 20)

  • The Constitutional and Legal Context of Foreign Policy – Ambiguous Definition of the Foreign Policy Powers of the President and Congress Invites Conflict

  • War Powers Act of 1973

  • Foreign Policy Since World War II

  • The Foreign Policy Elite (Isolationism, Containment, Disengagement, Human Rights)

  • The Defense Budget

  • The Structure of Military Decision-Making

Class Readings:
Unit 1: Constitutional Underpinnings of U.S. Government

  • Foundations of American Government

  • Chapter 1 - The Study of American Government (Wilson)

  • Chapter 3 – Theories of Democratic Government (Benson)

  • Alexis De Tocqueville – Democracy in America (Serow 3)

  • Declaration of Independence (Handout)

  • Chapter 2 – The Constitution (Wilson)

  • Chapter 1 – The Constitution (Benson)

  • James Madison – The Federalist No. 10 (Wilson A21-25)

  • James Madison – The Federalist No. 51 (Wilson A26-29)

  • Michael Kammen – A Machine That Would Go of Itself (Serow 72)

  • Federalism

  • Chapter 3 – Federalism (Wilson)

  • Chapter 2 – Federalism (Benson)

  • James Madison – The Federalist Nos. 39 and 46 (Serow 129)

  • David Osborne – Laboratories of Democracy (Serow 138)

  • Thomas Cronin – Direct Democracy (Serow 450)

Unit 2: Political Beliefs and Behaviors

  • Political Culture and Ideology

  • Chapter 4 – American Political Culture (Wilson)

  • Chapter 4 – American Political Culture (Benson)

  • Public Opinion

  • Chapter 5 – Public Opinion (Wilson)

  • Chapter 5 – Public Opinion and Political Beliefs (Benson)

  • Walter Lippmann – The Phantom Public (Serow 434)

  • Voting and Political Participation

  • Chapter 6 – Political Participation (Wilson)

  • Chapter 6 – Political Participation (Benson)

  • Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward – Why Americans Still Don’t Vote (Serow 507)

  • Stephen Ansolabehere and Shanto Iyengar – Going Negative (Serow 514)

Unit 3: Political Parties, Elections - Campaigns, Interest Groups, and Mass Media

  • Political Parties

  • Chapter 7 – Political Parties (Wilson)

  • Chapter 8 – Political Parties (Benson)

  • Am I Democrat or a Republican (Handout)

  • Jesse Ventura – I Ain’t Got Time to Bleed (Serow 611)

  • Elections and Campaigns

  • Chapter 8 – Elections and Campaigns (Wilson)

  • Chapter 7 – Elections and Campaigns (Benson)

  • Dennis Johnson – No Place for Amateurs (Serow 541)

  • Political Staff of the Washington Post – Deadlock [Election of 2000] (Serow 514)

  • Interest Groups

  • Chapter 9 – Interest Groups (Wilson)

  • Chapter 9 – Interest Groups (Benson)

  • Jeffrey Birnbaum – The Lobbyists (Serow 474)

  • Dan Baltz and Ronald Brownstein – Storming the Gates (Serow 499)

  • The Media

  • Chapter 10 – The Media (Wilson)

  • Chapter 10 – Mass Media (Benson)

  • Harrison Salisbury – A Time of Change (Serow 621)

  • Larry Sabato – Feeding Frenzy (Serow 642)

Unit 4: Institutions of the National Government

  • The Legislature

  • Chapter 11 – Congress (Wilson)

  • Chapter 11 – Congress (Benson)

  • Irwin Gertzog – Congressional Women (Serow 170)

  • David Price – The Congressional Experience (Serow 203)

  • John Ellwood and Eric Patashnik – In Praise of Pork (Serow 185)

  • David Brady and Craig Volden – Revolving Gridlock (Serow 121)

  • Chapter 12 – The Presidency (Wilson)

  • Chapter 12 – The Presidency (Benson)

  • Arthur Schlesinger – The Imperial Presidency (Serow 221)

  • Thomas Cronin and Michael Genovese – Paradoxes of the American Presidency (Serow 228)

  • Bradley Patterson – The White House Staff: Chief of Staff (Serow 262)

  • The Bureaucracy

  • Chapter 13 – The Bureaucracy (Wilson)

  • Chapter 13 – The Bureaucracy (Benson)

  • The Judiciary

  • Chapter 14 – The Judiciary (Wilson)

  • Chapter 14 – The Judiciary (Benson)

  • Alexander Hamilton – The Federalist No. 78 (Serow 315)

  • Judicial Review (Handout

  • David O’Brien – Storm Center (Serow 323)

  • David Yalof – Pursuit of Justices (Serow 334)

  • Peter Irons – Brennan v. Rehnquist (Serow 328)

Unit 5: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

  • Civil Rights

  • Chapter 19 – Civil Rights (Wilson)

  • Chapter 19 – Civil Rights (Benson)

  • Richard Kluger – Simple Justice (Serow 368)

  • Civil Liberties

  • Chapter 18 – Civil Liberties (Wilson)

  • Chapter 20 – Civil Liberties (Benson)

  • Edward De Grazia – Girls Lean Back Everywhere (Serow 418)

  • Miranda v. Arizona (Serow 360)

Unit 6: The Politics of Public Policy

  • Public Policy

  • Chapter 15 – Policy Making in the Federal System (Benson)

  • Chapter 16 – Economic Policy and the Budget (Benson)

  • Chapter 17 – Domestic Policy: Social Welfare and the Environment (Benson)

  • Chapter 18 – Foreign and Military Policy (Benson)

  • Theresa Fuuniciello – Tyranny of Kindness (Serow 699)

Major Assignments:

  • 1st Book Review – Garry Wills – A Necessary Evil (Summer Reading)

  • 2nd Book Review (Student Choice – Non-Fiction – Government – Current Events)

  • 3 Research Papers

  • Personal Social Contract or Declaration of Independence

  • 5 Social Commentaries

  • Political Party Flyer

  • Respectful Arguments (Debates)

  • Bureaucracy and Judiciary Group Presentation

  • Top 50 Supreme Court Case Book

  • UD Senior Culminating Project (Paper and Presentation)

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