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COURSE NAME: "American Government "
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2016

INSTRUCTOR: Jackie Norris
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 11:30 AM 12:45 PM
OFFICE HOURS: By appointment. Please email me at [email protected] and [email protected] with questions (expect 24 hour response time) or text/call +39 329 495 5273 if timely.

This course examines the main principles of American government – democracy, federalism and the separation of powers – and the legislative, executive and judicial institutions that simultaneously embody and challenge them. Special attention will be paid to such topics as state and local governments, political parties and elections, the role of the people, civil rights, the role of the media, American political culture and foreign policy.

 The course is divided into six major sections.

1) constitutional underpinnings of the U.S. government  2) institutions of national government  3) civil rights and civil liberties  4) political beliefs and behaviors  5) political parties, interest groups and mass media  6) public policy and current events (ongoing)


-Trace the origins of our democratic nation and the major influences which have shaped its development and current operation.

-Know the fundamental beliefs drawn from the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights; which form the basic principles of our society.

-Understand the structure and organization of our federal republic, the role of the states, and the functions of state and local government.

-Develop practical, critical, and creative thinking skills that will help the individual become a responsible citizen in this democracy.

-Be able to utilize a variety of print and non-print sources in conducting research and report the work in written or oral form.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Political Institutions in the United StatesRichard S. KatzOxford University Press978-0-19-928383  
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
The Lanahan Readings in teh American Polity (5th Edition)Ann G. Serow and Everett C. LaddLanahan Publishers, Inc.1-930398-16-6  

In-class exams, questions and written answers (2)In-class exam on the knowledge, concepts and theory from PL 201 - American Government.30%
Final exam, questions and written answersComprehensive exam on the knowledge, concepts and theory from PL 201- American Government. 15%
ParticipationActive class participation and discussion. U.S. Constitution and readings brought to each class and readings completed on due dates.15%
2016 Presidential Candidate MemoStrategy memo advising prospective 2016 presidential candidate on electoral strategy and public policy issues of concern to their election.20%
Landmark Court Case Brief and Oral Presentation Concise presentation and written brief on significant judicial ruling.5%
Oral Presentation and Written Analysis: Current Event Concise presentation and written reflection on a significant U.S. current event. 5%
Public Policy 1 PagerConcise presentation and written reflection on significant public policy topic.5%
Personal Ideology AssessmentIntrospection and analysis of individual personal ideology.5%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that require
B This is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
C This is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
D This level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
F This work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

Since the class discussions comprise an absolutely essential component of this course, course attendance is strongly recommended. In order to make participation a meaningful experience for everyone, and most importantly to you, you will have to read the assigned materials before class sessions and participate in class discussions. Please refer to the university catalog for the attendance and absence policy.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


SessionSession FocusReading AssignmentOther AssignmentMeeting Place/Exam Dates
Tuesday, January 19Introduction   
Thursday, January 21Ideology, Political Beliefs and Public Opinion The Opinion Makers (David Moore) pp. 440-448. Select Presidential Candidate to Research Personal Ideology Assignment Due https://www.idealog.org/en/quiz/201569e3d
Tuesday, January 26Political PartiesText pp. 88-112The Second Civil War (Ronald Brownstein) pp. 563-569 Student 1 Current Event Due (Topic: Political Parties)
Thursday, January 28Interest Groups The Semisovereign People (E.E. Schattschneider) pp. 454-458. More than Money (Richard Skinner) pp. 459-466 
Tuesday, February 2Mass Media and Bias + Iowa Caucus Results Discussion How the Mass Media Divide Us (Diana Mutz) pp. 604-609Student 2,3 and 4 Current Event Due (Topic: Iowa Caucus Results) Student 5 and 6 (Topic: Find article with media bias)
Thursday, February 4Campaigns and ElectionsText pp. 58-87  
Tuesday, February 9Campaigns and Elections Politicians Don't Pander (Lawrence Jacobs/Robert Shapiro) pp. 433-439 
Thursday, February 11Campaigns and Elections and NH Primary Election Results Discussion La Gran Oportunidad/Up for Grabs/The Hispanic Opportunity (Joe Garcia) pp. 480 - 489Student 7 Current Event Due (Topic: New Hampshire Primary Election Results)
Tuesday, February 16Test 1  Mock Primary or Caucus Election. Be prepared to speak on behalf of your assigned candidate. 
Thursday, February 18No Class (Class Made Up By US Embassy Visit)   
Tuesday, February 23Government in AmericaText pp. 1 - 13Democracy in America (Alexis de Tocqueville) pp. 3-6 Student 8 Current Event Due (Topic: U.S. Constitution in the news)
Thursday, Feb 25Constitutional Underpinnings of the U.S. Government The Federalist 10 (James Madison) pp. 56-62 (Use Guided Reading Questions)  
Tuesday, March 1Constitutional Underpinnings of the U.S. Government The American Political Tradition (Richard Hofstadter) pp. 45-50 (Use Guided Reading Questions)Presidential Candidate Strategy Memo DUE
Thursday, March 3Arguments in Favor/Opposition of Ratification of the U.S. Constitution The Federalist 51 (James Madison) pp. 97-101, Anti-Federalist Paper by Centinel, #1 (Use Guided Reading Questions) 
Tuesday, March 8The Living ConstitutionText pp. 13-33The Constitution and America's Destiny (David Brian Robertson) pp. 102-110 (Use Guided Reading Questions) 
Thursday, March 10Institutions of American Government: JudiciaryText pp. 195-219Pursuit of Justices (David Yalof) pp. 326 - 332Student 9 Current Event (Topic: U.S. Supreme Court / Federal Judiciary)
Tuesday, March 15Institutions of American Government: Judiciary The Democratic Character of Judicial Review (Eugene Rostow) pp. 316-320 
Thursday, March 17Civil Rights and Civil Liberties You Can't Say That! (David Bernstein) pp. 409-416 Student 10 Current Event Due (Topic: Civil Rights/Civil Liberties)
Tuesday, March 22Landmark Case Presentations  Landmark Court Case Brief DUE
Thursday, March 24Test 2 (material since last test)   
Tuesday, March 29NO CLASS   
Tuesday, March 31NO CLASS   
Tuesday, April 5Institutions of American Government: CongressText pp. 141 - 168Congress: The Electoral Connection (David Mayhew) pp. 147 - 150, Home Style (Richard Fenno) pp. 151-156  
Thursday, April 7Institutions of American Government: Congress  Stalemate (Sarah Binder) pp. 157 - 162Student 11 Current Event Due (Topic: U.S. Congress)
Tuesday, April 12Institutions of American Government: Congress Pork: A Time Honored Tradition Lives On (Paul Starobin) pp. 187-189, In Praise of Pork (John Ellwood/Eric Patashik) pp. 190-194 
Thursday, April 14 Institutions of American Government: Congress Filibuster (Wawro/Schickler) pp. 163-170 Student 12 Current Event Due (Topic: U.S. Congress)
Tuesday, April 19Institutions of American Government: PresidencyText pp. 113 - 140 Public Policy 1 Pager Due. Student 13 Current Event Due (Topic: U.S. Presidency)
Thursday, April 21Institutions of American Government: Presidency Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents (Richard Neustadt) pp. 211-217, The Imperial Presidency (Arthur Schlesinger) pp. 218 - 224 
Tuesday, April 26Institutions of American Government: Presidency The Paradoxes of the American Presidency (Thomas Cronin / Michael Genovese) pp. 236-246  
Thursday, April 28Institutions of American Government: Federal BureaucracyText pp. 169-194Bureaucracy (James Q. Wilson), pp. 302-307Student 14 Current Event Due (Topic: Federal Bureaucracy / Presidential Cabinet)
TBAFinal Exam Review Session (Optional)   
TBAFinal Exam   
TBAUS Embassy VisitSubmit security information (Full name, date of birth, passport/identification number)Tour of US Embassy and Conversation with Minister Counselor John Norris, USUN