Taft college posc 1501-30 Government

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TAFT COLLEGE POSC 1501-30 Government

Distance Learning (Offline) Course Syllabus for Spring 2009
January 20- May 19 Instructor: Noelle Combs

Email: ncombs@taft.org


Phone: 661-7637884 (leave message)

Taft College

29 Emmons Park

Taft, Ca. 93268

Course Description:
Political Science 1 is primarily a study of the structure and functions of government in the United States. Emphasis is placed on the constitutional background of the federal system. Some attention is given to state and local governments and their correlation with the Federal Government. The electoral process is fully explored. This course meets the 3-unit requirement in American History and Institutions required for the Associate Degree.” From the Taft College Catalog.
Moreover, it is my wish that a greater understanding of our government will open your eyes to what rights you have, what are the limitations upon those rights, and that it will inspire you to take a greater part in our government. After all, democracy does not work without an educated and actively participating citizenry!
Work Load

The work is equivalent to reading one chapter every week and doing an assignment for each. There is one midterm and one final. Both are open book and do not require a proctor. All the assignments, test questions, and examples for everything are here in the syllabus.

Work is due to me, either by mail or by email, four times: Feb. 9, March, 9, April 13, and May 11. However, it is advised that you send your first set of work in early; if I have not heard from you or received work from by the drop deadline, I will assume that you are not participating in the class and will drop you.

American Government Continuity and Change (2009 Alternate Edition, 9/E) by Karen O’Connor and Larry Sabato, Allyn and Bacon (ISBN 9780205652204). Rental price is 20% of the cost of the textbook. Available from the TC Bookstore or other online bookstores.

How To Get Your Work To Me

  1. I PREFER to receive work by email! This is easier (and cheaper) for you and me. You will also find out your grades much sooner. I prefer that these emailed assignments are NOT sent as attachments, but just typed into the email message box. Also, make sure you save your work/email messages to prove you did the work in case it becomes lost.

  1. Turn your work in to the LRC or TCI Education Departments in person. All mail, telephone messages, and student work will be picked up or will be forwarded to me once each week. Thus, all telephone messages, land mail, or work that are left may not be picked up or received by me for a number of days, so my response to you will most likely NOT be immediate. I will reply as soon thereafter as possible.

It is the responsibility of the student to know when the LRC or the TCI Educational Departments will be open. The proctors/assistants at these sites will date stamp all work received. Work will be returned to the LRC when graded and with evaluative comments and you are to pick it up there. (If you wish returned work sooner, then provide an adequately stamped and adequately sized self addressed envelope to the LRC with your turned-in work, be it a test or a paper, and I will then directly mail the graded work to you).

  1. Use surface mail to submit papers to me at the Taft College LRC. Include adequately stamped and adequately sized self-addressed envelopes with both their tests and their papers in order to get the graded work back. If you are choosing this option, make sure you mail it early enough so that their stamp shows it as being received on time.

  1. Work involving Taft Correctional Institution (TCI) students is to be turned in and returned by means of the traditional courier system..

  1. Evaluative comments are provided on the hard copies of the tests and papers.

My address at Taft College and my email address are included on the first page of this syllabus.


  • Each assignment is worth 10 points. There are 16 assignments. Total= 160 Points.

  • The midterm and the final are each worth 25 points. Total= 50 points.

  • There are therefore a grand total of 210 points possible for the course.

180-210 points= A

160-179 points= B

140-159 points= C

120-139 points= D

119 and less=F

Class Schedule:



After completing this chapter you should be able to :



The Political Landscape


February 9

  1. Explain what government is and why people form governments

  2. Identify different structures of government

  3. Trace the history of the USA's government and the philosophy behind it

  4. Describe what an "American" is

  5. Be familiar with the political atmosphere and ideology of present-day USA

  6. Analyze views of government and the role it plays in our everyday lives.

READ: Ch. 1


10 key concepts for Ch. 1


The Constitution


February 9

1. Explain the historical circumstances that led to the American Revolution

2. Describe the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, our 1st constitution
3. Summarize the occurrences at the Philadelphia Convention
4. Outline the new Constitution
5. Identify the controversies surrounding ratification of the new Constitution
6. List the methods of amending the Constitution

READ: Ch. 2


Acrostic Poem for Ch. 2




February 9

1. Define “federal system” and “federalism”

2. Explain impact of the Marshall court upon federalism
3. Compare federalism before and after the Civil War
4. Analyze the meaning of cooperative federalism
5. Explain the term “new federalism”

READ: Ch. 3


A Picture is Worth 1000 Words for Ch. 3


State and Local Government


February 9

1. Compare state and local governments’ powers

2. Describe the major institutions of state governments
3. Describe the various types of local governments
4. Evaluate the power of grassroots movements
5. Describe state and local relationships with Indian Nations
6. Explain the budgeting process for state and local governments

READ: Ch. 4

Assignment: Reflective Journal for Ch. 4


Civil Liberties


March 9

1. Explain why a Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution
2. explain the meaning of the 1st amendment guarantee of religious freedom
3. explain the meaning of freedom of speech, press, and assembly
4. explain the 2nd amendments’ guarantee
5. trace the development of the rights of the accused
6. evaluate the meaning of the right to privacy

READ: Ch. 5


10 key concepts for Ch. 5


Civil Rights

DUE: March 9

1. trace the development of voting rights to the present

2. compare and contrast Plessy v. Ferguson with Brown v. Board
3. analyze the impact of the Civil Rights Movement
4. describe the aims of the Women’s Rights Movement
5. be familiar with the push for equality by other groups
6. identify other current controversies in Civil Rights

READ: Ch. 6


Acrostic Poem for Ch. 6




March 9

1. Identify the places in the Constitution which address Congress

2. Describe Congress’ organization
3. Tell how Congress members are elected and what they do on a day-to-day basis for their constituents
4. Identify factors that influence how Congress votes
5. Trace the path a Bill takes to become Law
6. Evaluate the relationship between the Congress and the other two branches of government

Ch. 7


A Picture is Worth 1000 Words for Ch. 7


the Presidency


March 9

1. Explain why the Framers se up the office of president as they did

2.Define the president’s powers as stated in the constitution

3.Explain the expansion of the president’s powers

4.Define the term “presidential establishment” and explain its significance

5.Tell what is meant when it is said that the president is a “policy maker”

6.Evaluate the role of public opinion and presidential leadership style

READ: Ch. 8


Reflective Journal for Ch. 8

Other: MIDTERM (Ch. 1-8)


The Executive Branch and the Federal Bureaucracy


April 13

1. Define “bureaucracy”

2. Trace the development of the bureaucracy in the USA
3. Explain how the bureaucracy is organized
4. Explain how the bureaucracy works
5. Give some ideas how agencies can be made more accountable for their actions.

READ: Ch. 9


10 key concepts for Chapter 9


the Judiciary


April 13

1. Tell what the constitution and the Judiciary Act say about a federal judicial system

2. Define civil and criminal law and how they are viewed in the USA’s system
3. Tell how federal judges are selected
4. Describe the Supreme Court today
5. Explain how judges arrive at decisions
6. Explain what is meant by “judicial policy making”

READ: Ch. 10


Acrostic Poem for Ch. 10


Public Opinion and Political Socialization


April 13

1. Explain the term “public opinion” and its implications for government

2. Describe how people have tried to measure and influence public opinion in the USA since its start
3. Explain the meanings of “political ideology” and “political socialization” and why a government student should know about them
4. Explain the use of polling

READ: Ch. 11


A Picture is Worth 1000 Words for Ch. 11


Political Parties


April 13

1. explain the purposes of political parties

2. give a brief summary of the history of political parties in the USA
3. outline the functions of political parties
4. explain the role of parties in elections and campaigns
5. form an opinion of third parties, supported by facts

READ: Ch. 12


Reflective Journal for Ch. 12

13 Voting and Elections


May 11

1. Explain the purpose of elections

2. Describe the different kinds of elections
3. Outline a presidential election process
4. Outline a congressional election process
5. Evaluate voter behavior
6. Give ideas for reforming the election process

READ: Ch. 13


10 key concepts for Ch. 13

14 The Campaign Process


May 11

1. Describe how a campaign is structured

2. Explain the role of media in campaigns
3. Describe how campaigns are financed
4. Evaluate the 2004 election

READ: Ch. 14

Assignment: Acrostic Poem for Ch. 14 “CAMPAIGN”


The Media


May 11

1. Give a brief history of journalism in the USA

2. Describe the media today
3. Evaluate how the media and government interact
4. Evaluate public opinion about the media
5. Give ideas for government regulation of media

READ: Ch. 15

Assignment: A Picture is Worth 1000 Words for Ch. 15


Interest Groups


May 11

1. Explain what interest groups are

2. Trace the development of interest groups in the USA
3. Evaluate what makes interest groups successful

READ: Ch. 16


Reflective Journal for Ch. 16

Other: Final Exam

Late papers are not accepted for any reason except for a rare emergency. The instructor retains the right to determine if something is an emergency. Thus, turning papers in early is a VERY GOOD IDEA!

If you are turning papers to the LRC or TCI, please try to get work in about a week earlier than the due date, as it will have to be mailed to me. THANKS!
How to complete the assignments for this class.
The rest of this syllabus outlines how to complete your work for this course. As you have seen from the outline, there are four types of assignments. Directions and examples for each will be provided here.
In addition, Academic Honesty is KEY to your success in any educational setting. Therefore, please read my message about educational honesty.

Academic Honesty

Here are some hints to help you in this class and in any other:

1. First, paraphrasing:  Whenever you consult a source, you need to make sure you DO NOT use the same words as the source. That's like stealing. No, it's not "like," is IS stealing.  Instead, put it in your own words, change it up a bit so it's not the same. This is paraphrasing, and it is a good skill (and a necessary skill) to use.
example: If the book says-- The government of the United States is divided into three separate branches that check and balance each other, and idea made popular by the french political philosopher, the Baron de Monetsquieu. You could write: The United States has three branches in its government. The branches keep each other in balance so no one branch becomes too powerful.

2. Next, citing the source in your answer. If your words are still kind of close to the original, or just to be safe about it and give credit to the author, put the author's name and the page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence. example: The government of the United States is divided into three separate branches that check and balance each other, and idea made popular by the french political philosopher, the Baron de Monetsquieu (Combs, 142).

3. Next, using quotes. If you just really like the words of the author, and want to use them word for word, you can! Just make sure you state who wrote or said the words and put the word-for-word phrase inside quotation marks. You also need to cite the source like above.

example: As the textbook states, "The government of the United States is divided ithree separate branches that check and balance each other, and idea made popular by the french political philosopher, the Baron de Monetsquieu (Combs, 142)."
but you wouldn't stop there. You'd also need to explain the meaning of the quote. What do I mean? Well, you pick quotes for a reason-- you don't just throw them in there! You need to comment on them. Usually, the comment is longer then the quote itself!
example: As the textbook states, "The government of the United States is divided into three separate branches that check and balance each other, and idea made popular by the French political philosopher, the Baron de Monetsquieu (Combs, 142)." This is to say that the framers of the United States government borrowed ideas from philosophy to create the best government. Having suffered abuse of the English King George, they felt the strong power of the monarch, or executive, needed some kind of check and balance to keep it under control.

4. Works cited. Whenever you end up citing sources in your work, you need a works cited at the end so your teacher or whoever is reading the work knows what sources you used-- what book "Combs" in your citation of "(Combs, 142)" is referring to. Author's last name, comma, first name, period. goes first, followed by the book, underlined, then the place of publication, a colon, the publisher, comma, the date. Yikes! Here's what that would look like (phoney example of course!) Works Cited: Combs, Noelle. Government in the United States. Bakersfield: Central Printing, 2007.
Well, what if the source is something different, like a website, a documentary, or class notes, or an encyclopedia? It's best to consult an actual style guide, BUT, follow the formula above Author's last name, comma, first name, period. goes first, followed by the book, underlined, then the place of publication, a colon, the publisher, comma, the date. but add in the extra info where it fits. I'll make up some examples below for you. All of the are fake examples just to show format-- and my format might actually be off a little! What I'm showing you will work, but, check with your professors especially if they are sticklers for accurate citations!

website: Be careful here! Google isn't a source, it's a search engine. It'll take you to a website to cite. And, please NEVER EVER use askjeeves, wikipedia, someone's blog, or a free essay writing service as a source. This information is not reliable or academic. Use it casually to find info about makeup, cars, or whatnot, but not for school.
example: Public Broadcating Network, "The People's Century Website," www.pbs/peoplecent.org, accessed on 12/17/04 (note-- this isn't real-- but see, replace

author name with the group or person that made the website, replace the book name with website name, replace the place with the web address, and replace date with date you accessed the site)

documentary: the History Channel, "Marie Antionette," New York: Warner Home Video, 2001. See? replace author with company that made it, title stays the same, place it was produced rather than published, and year stays the same.

journal article: Combs, Noelle. "the Sleepy Lagoon Incident and the Pachucos," in Chicago: History Weekly v. 4, November 2003. See a pattern? You need an author, a title (which will be more specific if it's an artilce in a journal, encyclopedia, or magazine), a place, and a date.

class materials: Combs, Noelle. Class handout on Federalism. Taft College: Fall 2006. See? The pattern is still there, but this one has less, seeing that no publisher is needed!

5. How often do I cite? This is a biggie. Once you know how to cite sources, you might get paranoid about making sure you give credit to your sources and you might want to cite in every sentence. Please don't! If it's a quote, you HAVE TO cite it. If it's a paraphrase that is pretty stinking close to the original, cite it. If it's unusual information, cite it. If you think the teacher is thinking your copying because the words don’t sound like you, cite it. Use your own good judgment, and if in doubt whether it's correct, ask the teacher and s/he will know you're unsure and try to help. Honesty is best.

Otherwise.... In an essay, you should probably have at least one citation per paragraph. If it's an essay that didn't ask you to research (like a class assignment or test), just use class materials to find your citations.

For classes with research papers: If you are asked to do a research paper, generally, the number of sources you need os equal to the number of pages the teacher asked the research paper to be (a five page research paper should have 5 sources), and the sources should be of a variety (not all books, but maybe a couple books, a website, a documentary, and a journal article).
Ten Key Concepts

For this type of assignment, you will need to read the chapter assigned and identify TEN key concepts.

For each concept, you will:

  1. List the concept

  2. Give a short definition of the concept

  3. Explain why this concept is important to an understanding of the chapter. In other words, why should you know this concept? How is important to your life or the functioning of the government?

Here is a sample of a successfully completed assignment.

Sample Student

POSC – Combs

Ten Key Concepts

Chapter 17

Citation note: Mrs. Combs, I got my short definitions from the on-line text companion site’s flashcard feature, so they are not all my own words. Everything else is my own individual work.

  1. Medicaid: An expansion of medicare; a program that subsidizes health care for the poor.

Medicare is an important program to know about as it provides a safety net for those who need medical attention by cannot pay for it. Its existence shows a commitment to caring for all Americans and respecting human dignity for all. It’s not a perfect program, and there is often debate and complaint about it, but, such programs do not exist in all countries.

  1. Government Agenda: the changing list of issues that to which governments believe they should focus.

The government is not unlike people in that it changes its focus on what’s important and needs consideration. It, like people, can’t focus on everything at one time but must prioritize.

  1. Policy Implementation: The process of carrying out public policy through government agencies and the courts.

There is a formal way of dealing with programs and administering them to the public. Often we get frustrated with government and talk about red tape, and sometimes that’s justified, but maybe learning about policy implementation will help us to see how and why things are done the way they are done.

  1. Agenda: a set of problems to which policymakers feel they should pay attention.

To successfully accomplish their work, policy makers need to know what they are working on. They have to focus on a limited number of problems at any given time.

  1. Policy-adoption: the approval of policies by the people with authority to do so, such as Congress.

If a policy is to be enacted, the government can’t simply make it happen. Instead, policies must be approved according to the law, and then adopted as law of the land.

  1. Entitlement program: Income security program to which all those meeting eligibility requirements are entitled.

Entitlement programs are a hot topic nowadays, especially in California. They were created as safety nets for those in need, but there has been much talk about who deserves the safety net, how much of a safety net, and for how long. It often becomes a debate between the haves and have nots and is certain to continue to be an important item in the public agenda.

  1. Social Welfare Policy: Government program designed to improve or enhance citizens’ quality of life.

Social welfare programs such as WIC, AFDC, Disability, Medicare, etc. exist to help people to enjoy a basic level of living. While such programs are often bashed, it is, in my opinion, good to know they are there to help out if I face hard times. This isn’t the case in every country.

  1. Public Policy: A purposeful course of action followed by a government in dealing with a problem or matter of concern.

Public Policy regarding national security has been altered since the 9-11 attacks. To ensure safety, the airline industry and many other industries have had to increase security checks, and even background checks. Sometimes these are very unpopular, but personally, I don’t mind a delay if it will help protect me. However, there are issues regarding people’s right to privacy and freedom of movement.

  1. Social Security Act: A 1935 law that established old age insurance, assistance for the needy, children, and others; and unemployment insurance.

Social Security exists to help older citizens have a basic standard of living and guaranteed income in their older years when they can no longer work. The program has existed and benefited many since its inception. However, the outlook in the future isn’t so great, and there has been talk about reworking the system or looking for other options.

  1. Policy Formulation: The creation of appropriate and acceptable proposed courses of action to ameliorate or resolve public problems.

When our government leaders look to solve problems, they first have to come up with options for dealing with it, check them out, and then propose laws. It’s not unlike people do in their own lives when they face a problem: they think of alternatives, weigh pros and cons, and then devise a plan of action.

Acrostic Poem

An acrostic poem is a poem that uses a key word as a stem, or anchor. This word is written horizontally down the page. Each letter of the word is then used to start a sentence of its own.

Select a key word from the chapter (hint: this might be in the title of the chapter, such as in chapter 2 “constitution” would make a good anchor word) to create a poem that captures the main points of the chapter.

Here is an example of a successfully completed poem.

Sample Student

POSC – Combs

Acrostic Poem

Chapter 18

Everyone should know that the United States has a free-market (capitalistic) economy with some government involvement. Basically, this means that the laws of supply and demand guide people as they buy and sell, each seeking to better himself. The government however, does step in to make sure that workers do not get exploited, and to ensure everyone can afford a basic standard of living.

Civil War served as a turning point in the country’s economic history. Before that, the national government had little to do with economic policy. However, as the economy went from an agricultural one to an industrial one, there was greater need for uniform, federal regulations.

One theory of economics at the time was laissez-faire—which means “to leave alone.” Some people believed that the governmental regulation of economics was wrong. Rather, they felt the government should only deal with foreign affairs and maintaining order and justice.

Not everyone agreed with that idea though. Many protest groups formed, and a political party and movement called the Progressives fought to reform the government, protect workers from exploitation, and to end monopolies.

Of course, the government would need to raise funds to help form the agencies that would regulate the economy. Thus, the federal income tax was born.

More economic woes hit the country with Great Depression. Many people found themselves without jobs, homeless, and without food. Little organized relief existed to help ease their suffering.

In an attempt to help get the country back on its feet economically speaking, FDR created New deal programs to get people back to work, back in homes, and food back on the table.

Continued improvement of the economy occurred with all the military production that came with World War II. The USA became the world’s most prosperous country and one of the world’s biggest lenders.

Stabilization of the economy has been a big concern since the years after WWII, as the USA has seen many up-turns and down-terns in prosperity.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Of course, you’ve heard the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Pictures—whether they be photographs or charts/graphs or political cartoons or whatnot— are often excellent sources of information.

For this assignment, select a visual from the chapter. It can be a chart, graph, photo, anything visual. After you’ve selected a visual, do the following for this assignment:

  1. List the visual’s title (or give it one if it doesn’t have one)

  2. Refer me to the page number

  3. Describe what can be seen in the visual..

  4. Explain why you selected this visual, and

  5. How does it relate to and further your understanding of this chapter.

Here is an example of a successfully completed assignment of this type.

Sample Student

POSC – Combs

A Picture is Worth….

Chapter 20

Note: this sample does NOT match the material of your textbook. Rather it comes from Modern World History: Patterns of Interaction by McDougal Littell, 2000)

Title: TV in a Tent (this didn’t have a title, so I made it up)

Page: 577

Description: This picture I have selected is a picture of a family in Afghanistan watching cartoons on their family TV. While this may sound ordinary, a glance at the picture reveals it certainly is not. The family is living in a tent, sitting on the ground, clad in traditional Afghan clothing, and outside the corner of their tent can be seen another such family reclining in their own tent.

Why I Selected This: The picture is a contrast between old and new and is thus very attention grabbing. When I saw it, I wanted to know more about that family. First of all, I was wondering how they got the TV to work in the tent. Everything looked so primitive by US standards. I imagine they had some kind of generator in the village to which the TV was connected. I also found it interesting that a family so far away would be watching a cartoon, probably an American one.

Connection to the Chapter: This chapter is about the “global age” and how technology is uniting people far and wide, and creating a popular culture shared by many. The picture was found in a section on television and mass media, and it was a good example of how TV has spread across the globe. This is particularly significant due to the fact that TV carries so many messages about life, values, outlook, and it does so very subtly. In spreading television shows, even simple-looking cartoons, those who made the cartoon are exporting their beliefs about what is good, bad, funny, serious, and making an impression on all viewers. Sometimes, viewers (especially the young and/or uneducated) do not know how to deconstruct the images they see on television, and thus it becomes a means (perhaps not on purpose) of socialization to values and ideas that may even run counter to that person’s well-being. It has the potential to spread great good, but it also has the potential to spread great evil.

Reflective Journal

A reflective journal is a chance for you to step back after reading some material and try to determine—how does this relate to me or affect my life? So often, we read only to forget what we read just two pages ago. For this assignment, you will need to do two things:

1) Briefly summarize the key points of this chapter.

2) Explain how or why this chapter relates to your life. To do this, you might tell about an experience you or a friend had, something you read in the news, something you’ve seen on TV, or something along those lines.

Both part 1 and part two should EACH take up about one page if it were to be handwritten, or one typed page in standard font and size double spaced.

Here is an example of a successfully completed reflective journal.

Sample Student

POSC – Combs

Reflective Journal

Chapter 3

1) The federal system is the system of government where the national government and state government derive all authority from the people. During the early 1800’s, the Marshall court had two cases that impacted the balance of power between the state and national governments. McCulloch v. Maryland took the side of the national government when stating that states could not tax national banks. Gibbons v. Ogden also gave more power to the national government by allowing Congress to regulate interstate commerce. Federalism has changed greatly since the time before the Civil War. When the Civil War was over, the national government had much more power than before. The 13th, 14th, and 15th

amendments were added to the constitution, and slavery was outlawed. When the Great Depression hit in the 1930’s, a need for a strong central government was formed. The government stepped up and formed new agencies and programs for the people. Federal grants became a popular solution for state and local problems. New Federalism was a proposition made by the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980’s to try and reverse the powers of state and federal governments. He wanted to put the power of the people back in the states hands. Under this New Federalism, state and local governments were ordered to fallow national laws but were given no funding to help pay for the costs. These state and local governments were having budget problems so they raised taxes and cut back of services. The Supreme Court has been doing its fair share in trying to return power back to the states. But since the tragic act that took place on 9/11, the federal government once again has expanded its powers.

2) Unfortunately once again, I felt like there was much in this chapter that I didn’t already know. But if I must put my finger on one thing and explain how I might apply this to my own life, it would have to be the “New Federalism.” I’ll start off by saying that I never knew that the Reagan administration was trying to put more power back into state governments, or any administration after him for that matter. The idea sounds like a good one on paper, slowly shift the power away from the national government and make the state governments more responsible for their own people, but I can see major flays right of the back from this. The most important and biggest of all is that the people of the United States depend too much on the programs that the government provides. Food stamps, Medicare, and grants for college are just some of the major examples. Another problem is that state governments cannot even handle the “bills” that they have now, but I guess you could say that is the same for our national government too. There are many other smaller problems like what happened on 9/11 that make it hard for just the states to take care of it themselves. But one way that I could help and apply this to my life is to try and not take these government programs. I know that since I go to college and receive financial aid, I am already taking advantage of these programs but I hope to never need the programs like food stamps and Medicare. I’m not saying that I think these programs should not be out there for those who really need them, I just think the system is too easy to get into and stay in and I hope to never find myself in that situation.

Note: If you decide to use a quote or paraphrase something pretty closely, then you should cite the page you used to help you. Here is an example:

Each exam will contain:

  • 5 identifications (3 points)

  • 1 essay (10 points)

Exams are open-book.

For and identification, you will need to

  1. define the word.

  2. Explain its significance to American Government.


For the essay, you will need

  • Write the essay question you selected at the top of the paper.

  • An introduction that states your thesis.

  • 3-5 paragraphs, using evidence and examples to support your thesis

  • a conclusion

Here is an example of a successfully completed identification (from the University of North Texas Political Science Department):
Term: Push Polls.

Push polls are polls that are not intended to gather information, but rather to influence those who are called/contacted. By asking negative or even untruthful questions about candidates (or sometimes issues) they attempt to sway voters away from one candidate in favor of another. These are not actually proper public opinion polls, but rather a form of negative campaigning. Push polling results are usually not even tabulated, since they would be meaningless and the point is not to gather information in any case. Note that push questions in real polls are common and useful, push polls are different from that and really are part of campaigns, sometimes part of a "dirty trick" part of a campaign. They are often effective and increasingly often used.

Here is an example of a successfully completed essay (from George Mason University Political Science department):

Sample Exam Question: Looking back over the Govt. 101 lectures/discussions, readings, films and handouts, what would you consider to be the five most essential conditions for democracy to thrive in a large nation-state like the U.S.? Why are these conditions necessary for democracy? Does America presently satisfy these conditions? Why or why not? (You can draw on any combination of political, social, economic, cultural, historic or religious factors.)


For a large nation-state to have a thriving democracy, five key conditions must be met: an educated elite, common cultural background, a free press, a stable economy, and a set of guaranteed rights.

First among these is an educated electorate and a wise "learned aristocracy." To paraphrase Plato, an educated electorate is essential for a democracy chiefly because it is called upon to entrust candidates for office with power and at times is called upon to make decisions directly. It is imperative that the body politic be informed and not respond to the populist impulses or be lulled into surrendering their freedom by promises of salvation or profit.

A corollary to this requirement is that the nation's "elites" must also be wise and benign since they will often be the ones who lead the nation. Just as Plato concluded 2000 years ago, the elites must place the interests of the people and state first, or you slide down a path of tyranny and social unrest. Mexico is a good example of a state where the elites (descendants of an exploitive colonial class) are out for their own interests at the expense of the "swinish masses," to quote Jefferson. This leads to revolution and economic chaos which is becoming apparent in the poor state of Chiapas.

Next, a large democracy must have a common cultural background. A shared heritage is imperative for a large democracy because it keeps cohesion to democracy's naturally disordered state. Without a unified set of goals and values a democracy can splinter, as America did in the Civil War. De Tocqueville noted America's strong grass roots where he commented on our predilection for forming associations that were not conscious of class in comparison to European society. A democracy may be pluralistic with respect to its acceptance of many religions and races but it must have a shared tradition. America does. It is found in the Constitution and civilian government, for example.

A large democracy must also have a free press to thrive. The suppression of free thought is a major step toward tyranny. Without an independent and watchful press, a government may act as it pleases. Constitutional rights become moot when they are stolen away without a peep.

A large democracy must also have a stable economy in order to persevere. When the economy turns sour, all the factional and tyrannical impulses of man intensify. Germany rejected its nascent democracy on economic grounds and several East European nations are in danger of rejecting history.

Lastly, a democratic nation state must also have a set of guaranteed rights for its citizens. Whether these rights are honored through judicial precedent based on Constitutional guarantees or by some other way, such guarantees are essential to the whole concept of consent of the governed and the legitimacy of leadership. As Locke noted, a government's legitimacy derives from its consent from the people. In return, it is obligated to guarantee the rights of the polity. Without these rights the citizenry cannot feel security or trust in the government. Even if all the other conditions of democracy are met, it can never be secure without assured rights for the people. Many South American "democracies" teeter on the brink of dictatorship because they simply don't respect the people, they show this by not honoring basic human rights.

America presently satisfies these essential elements of democracy. Although education of the polity is even more important today because of the creeping problem of deTocquevilleís "soft despotism." Rights must be maintained over comfort and privilege. A silk glove can hide an iron hand.

Your Open Book Exams:
Here are THE exam questions. You will complete these exams as stated in the outline and mail them with the appropriate group of assignments.

Select 5 of the 8 terms below for your identification.

1. McCulloch v. Maryland (1819).

2. social contract theory

3. federal system

4. due process rights

5. Miranda v. Arizona

6. Civil War Amendments

7. supremacy clause

8. Articles of Confederation

Select 1 of the 2 essays to complete.

1. Describe and discuss the Anti-Federalists. Who were they? What did they think about the proposed Constitution? What were some of the arguments they made? How do these two groups relate to today’s political parties in terms of their ideas about the roles and functions of government?

2. Discuss the meanings of the free speech and press guarantees in the Constitution. Cite cases and discuss the changes over time in the interpretation of these First Amendment freedoms.


Select 5 of the 8 terms below for your identification.

1. political action committees

2. primary elections

3. political ideology

4.electoral college

5.public opinion


7. Cabinet

8. Supreme Court Justices

Select 1 of the 2 essays to complete.
1) Explore the question of media bias. What types of biases do the media have, and how do they affect media coverage of people, events, and campaigns?
2)Discuss the historical roots of interest groups and the factors that have led to new group formation and the decline of other interest groups.To do this successfully, make sure you explain what makes an interest group successful? Give examples. Also, be sure to explain what strategies and tactics are used by interest groups and how effective are they?

Good Luck, and I hope you have a wonderful term and learn a lot!

Please Note: Each student is responsible for knowing and understanding the information in this syllabus.

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