Advanced Placement United States Government and Politics 2013 Summer Assignment

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Advanced Placement United States Government and Politics

2013 Summer Assignment
Welcome to Advanced Placement United States Government and Politics! By registering for this course, you have decided to undertake a great challenge, and in doing so, will benefit tremendously as a high school and future college student. The Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics (APGOV) course is very demanding in regards to the amount of reading, writing, and studying that you will be engaged in over the next 11 months. All of this, of course, is to prepare you for the successful completion of the APGOV exam given by the College Board on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. In order for us to dedicate ourselves to a full survey and analysis of American government and politics, it is necessary that we begin our study this summer.
The summer assignment is on the next few pages. Please read this over very carefully and before school ends for this year. The first parts of the summer assignment are due June 10. Other parts are due periodically throughout the summer. All due dates are firm. Understand that your failure to complete this summer assignment will be detrimental to your first-quarter grade and will likely have a negative impact on your overall success in the course. If you have any questions about the summer assignment or the course in general, you are strongly encouraged to email me this summer at
I would also recommend that you consider investing $15 to $20 in an AP test-prep book. These are available at most bookstores (if not second-hand from one of last year’s AP students) and are offered by numerous publishers (AMSCO, REA, ARCO, Barron’s, Prentice Hall, Kaplan, Cliff’s, Princeton Review, Oxford, and others). These prep books can be very helpful throughout the year and as part of your final review for the AP exam in May. In choosing one, look for a book that offers extensive summaries and overviews of key topics in US government. You may also want one that offers numerous practice multiple-choice quizzes and tests. While I will provide you with as many practice questions as possible throughout the school year, there are simply too few quality APGOV resources available in print or online. Email me if you need help in locating or selecting one of these. (Please note: A test-prep book is an optional additional resource; by no means are you required to purchase one.)
I look forward to working with you next school year, and wish you all the best in your completion of the summer assignment. Again, do not hesitate to contact me with questions.

Mr. Tomecko

P.S. After reading through this summer assignment, you may begin to feel overwhelmed and possibly start to wonder what you have gotten yourself into. This is a common feeling for many students, and especially for those taking their first AP-level course. I encourage you to keep in mind that 35 students have just finished this course with many earning A’s and B’s. Likewise, nearly every student who has taken this course in the previous few years has earned college credit; the majority of them earning the highest score (5) on the AP exam. If you believe at any time that you would like to drop this class, you must contact me first. I will help you to make the right decision for you.

Part I – Email (Due: June 10)

Email me at before June 10. It is imperative you email me from your current email address so I may save it in my address book. Throughout the summer and school year I will send you reminders and other important information via email. It is essential I have a working email address for you so you do not miss out on important information. Check your email frequently, and notify me if your address should change. This assignment is worth 25 points. I will not give credit if I receive your email after midnight on June 10.

In this initial email, include your honest responses to the following:

1. Why are you taking AP U.S. Government and Politics? Who or what piqued your interest in this course?

2. What questions or concerns do you have about the course?

3. What policies or issues in American government and politics are of greatest interest/concern to you? Why? Explain.

4. What three things do you most want to get out of this course? (What do you want to learn more about? What activities would you like to engage in? How do you think or hope this course will benefit you?)

5. Answer the appropriate question. If you have not been my student before…tell me about yourself (your interests, hobbies, activities, college/career plans, etc.). If you have been my student in the past…tell me how your experience in AP U.S. History has changed your perception or understanding of history. What have you taken away from your study of the American past?

Part II – Current Issues (Due: June 10 [blog registration] and periodically throughout the summer)

An important element of this course is class discussion and debate, especially on issues and topics that are currently relevant in American government and politics. We will occasionally engage in debates during class, as well as through an online blog. We will begin this discussion and debate this summer.

To participate, you will need to register for the course blog. Visit the blog at this address and follow the directions there to sign up: <>. You may do this at any time; however, the deadline to register for the blog is June 10.
You are required to post to the blog at least four times during the summer. Your posts will be in response to questions I will post about various topics, controversies, and debates in American government and politics. You will need to visit the blog and/or check your email for the discussion topics and questions. I will attempt to post a new topic every week or so, beginning in mid-June. You must submit one blog post before or on the following dates: July 1, July 15, August 1, and August 15. You are encouraged* to post more than three times.
Each of your posts will be worth ten points; however, your grade will be based on the depth and quality of your response. In an AP course, you will never earn full credit for simply completing the assignment, but for completing the assignment in an exceptional manner. Use the following as a basic guideline for your responses.
A quality blog post…

  • answers all the questions posted about the topic;

  • does not simply give an opinion, but explains why that opinion is valid;

  • does not simply make a statement, but explains and supports that statement with facts and evidence;

  • acknowledges, supports, challenges, or refutes other bloggers’ points of view.

* Class participation is a vital component of this course, and will constitute as much as 20% of your overall grade. Posting to the course blog is another and required way to participate in class. Your first participation grade of the year can be improved if you exceed the minimum blogging requirements this summer.

Part III – A Brilliant Solution (Due: First day of school)

A student of American government must begin his/her study with the Constitution. Throughout the year, we will examine many parts of the nation’s principle document in depth. To begin, however, I would like you to understand the environment in which the Constitution was written. Having a solid foundation in the history of late eighteenth-century America will help you understand why the Constitution was written and why it includes so many checks and limitations on government.

First, you will need to purchase a copy of the following book: A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution by Carol Berkin (Harcourt, 2002). The book is available in paperback at bookstores and can also be purchased on Amazon for as little as a few dollars. Acquire the book as soon as possible. Carefully read the entire assignment below before you begin reading the book. Be aware, this is not an assignment you can start the day before it is due; however, you probably do not need to start reading the book until early August.
As you read, you should take notes from the book in response to the following questions. On the first day of school, you are to submit thorough responses to each question. None of these questions have simple or short answers. Many require thought, argumentation, and/or several different responses; therefore, your replies should reflect this. You must type your responses, following the format on the next page.
Questions for A Brilliant Solution

1. How was America different in 1787 from the America we know in the 20th and 21st centuries? What problems did the young nation face in the 1780s?

2. What aspects of today’s (modern) American government would most shock or surprise the Founders?

3. Why did 18th century Americans oppose (or fear) a strong central government?

4. What was the effect of Shays’ Rebellion (and similar rebellions) of the mid-1780s?

5. How did 18th century Americans view the state (Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, etc.)? How is this different perhaps from the way we view states today? How did their understanding of the state (and state sovereignty) impede the creation of a stronger central government?

6. How did the Founders envision the role and powers of the national executive (the president)? How is this different from the way we view the presidency in the 20th and 21st centuries? Why did they envision the president’s role/powers the way they did?

7. Identify and describe several ways in which the Founders (and the Constitution they created) protected against potential abuses of power. In other words, what checks and balances did they create to limit the power of various entities (Congress, the president, the states, the people)?

8. Explain the essentials of the Virginia (big states) Plan. Explain the essentials of the New Jersey (small states) Plan.

9. Explain the arguments of both the populous (big) states and the less populous (small) states over representation in the national legislature (Congress). Which side would you have taken? Why?

10. What issues regarding slavery were discussed? How were they resolved? Why?

11. The Founders debated two different methods for choosing the national executive (the president) – selection by the national legislature or a popular election. Explain the arguments for and against each method.

12. The Founders settled on a presidential-election method we now call the electoral college system. Explain this method. How was it a compromise between the two methods discussed above?

13. What groups, collectively known as Federalists, tended to support ratification of the new Constitution? Why? What groups, collectively known as Anti-Federalists, tended to oppose ratification? Why?

14. What was George Washington’s role in all of this? More importantly, why was he so significant to the Constitutional Convention? Why was it so imperative that he serve as the first president?

15. Identify and explain the THREE (3) most important things you learned from this book.

It is not necessary to read the appendices (beginning on p. 211); however, you may want to reference them as you read.
During the first week of classes in August, you will be given a short quiz on the book. The questions will be based on the same questions as above. You will not be able to use any notes or the book to complete the quiz.

A Brilliant Solution

Your Name
1. How was America different in 1787 from the America we know in the 20th and 21st centuries? What problems did the young nation face in the 1780s?
Type your response here. Keep all of this single-spaced, but skip a space between the question and your response to the question and a space between your response and the next question. Remember, your responses should be thorough and well-developed. You may use bullets or a numbered-list if you have several ideas to express, but everything should be written in complete sentences and grammatically correct.
2. What aspects of today’s (modern) American government would most shock or surprise the Founders?
Type your response to question 2 here.

Revised 21 May 2013

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