Political Science - American Government and Politics

Timpanogos High School

2011 - 2012



Teacher: Kaitlyn Swenson

Office: B142 THS

Phone: 801-222-0958

Email: kswens@gmail.com

Office Hours:  Wednesday 3:30-5:30 pm and by appointment


Teaching Assistants: Becca Arrington and Jillian Wheeler

TA Office: B144 THS

TA Office Hours: M,W,F 2:15-4:30


Course Overview and Objectives


This course is about American government institutions and processes.  During this course we will discuss various aspects of the American political system, introducing you to the institutions and processes of American government by covering topics such as the founding and the Constitution; Congress; the presidency; the judiciary; public opinion; elections and voting behavior; political parties; interest groups; and so on.


The objectives for this course are:


1. To obtain a general working knowledge of American government and politics, including the essential features of political institutions and processes. In particular, you should gain a greater appreciation for the importance of our constitutional structure and other rules and norms of American politics.

2. To obtain knowledge of broader theories of political science and how those theories

apply to institutions and processes of American politics.

3. To develop greater facility in applying the concepts from #1 and #2 gained from the

readings and lectures to current political events that will shape your future attempts to

evaluate American politics.

4. To improve your ability to think, discuss, write, and otherwise express yourself

effectively by providing opportunities to do so on topics in American politics.




Required Text:

Morris P. Fiorina, Paul E. Peterson, Bertram Johnson, and William G. Mayer. 2011. America’s New Democracy, 6th edition. New York: Longman ISBN 978-0-205-806737.


 This is the main textbook for the course. It contains a solid introduction to all of the

 topics we will discuss in class and should be the starting point for your reading each



Other Required Readings: Any other required readings or materials will be accessible via the course website at kaitlyn-swenson.blogspot.com under the “Course Materials” section in a folder labeled “Readings.” They will be accessible as Portable Document Files (PDF) and can be opened and read/printed using Adobe Acrobat Reader software available for free download and in campus computer labs. If you need help accessing these files, please ask the instructor or a teaching assistant.


Current Events/New York Times: To help you achieve course objective #3, we will apply what we are learning to the news of the day. Regularly following the news about American politics through a major national newspaper will be an important part of writing your essays as well as successfully responding to quiz and exam questions. Students are therefore required to read a major national newspaper each weekday. I strongly recommend taking advantage of the discounted rate to subscribe to the New York Times. See: http://nytimes.com/student.


You may also read it on the Internet at http://www.nytimes.com. However, keep in mind that some articles in the print edition are not available in the online edition. Other suggested newspapers with excellent coverage of American politics include: The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.


Reading a major national newspaper is required for this class because it will contain outstanding coverage of American national politics and government institutions that is not contained in local news sources. Quiz questions during the semester will draw upon current events covered in the national sections of major newspapers.


Course Requirements




In order to assess your attainment of the course objectives, three exams will be administered. All three exams will be taken in class as indicated in the course schedule. The final exam will be cumulative, but will place extra weight on the material covered in the last third of the class.


Failing to take an exam within the scheduled time period without my prior permission will result in a zero on that exam. Make-up exams will only be arranged in cases of extreme hardship (e.g. a death in the family) or with an official school excused absence, so please be sure to clear it with me in advance if you are unable to take an exam at the scheduled time.


The final exam will be available during the last week of class in class. In accordance with school policy the final exam will only be given at this time. Under no circumstances will I give a final exam early. Please do not ask me to make an exception to this policy as I am not authorized to do so.


Teaching Assistant Lab Assignments:


To help you achieve course objective #4 students will be assigned to a smaller teaching assistant lab.  These smaller groups will meet periodically during class time throughout the semester to assist you in completing course writing assignments.  Lab assignments will be given by the teaching assistants. There will be some differences from one group to another so grades will be standardized to ensure identical scales for each lab.  


Quizzes and Participation:


To help you achieve objective #3, I will administer periodic quizzes to test your knowledge of current events. You can best prepare for these quizzes by regular class

attendance, keeping up with the readings and by following the news about American politics in a major national newspaper. The quizzes will be short (about 5 questions). They are intended to provide you with some incentive to keep up on the reading and attend class as well as give you a sense for the types of questions you might see on exams so that you can be better prepared.


I will not give make-up quizzes for any reason. To account for illness and unavoidable or

university excused absences, at the end of the year I will drop your three lowest quiz scores.  Sample quiz questions along with advice on reading the New York Times (and by extension other national newspapers) is located within a folder in the “Course Documents” section of the class blog.


In such a large class, your participation during class sessions is often limited; therefore, to satisfy the participation component of the grade, students may earn up to five participation points during the year for participation outside of class. Points may be earned by doing the following:

-           visiting with the professor or a TA during office hours or by appointment to discuss the class (you may earn multiple points for multiple visits), attending an exam review, or filling out the online course evaluation at the end of the semester. Other opportunities to earn participation points will be announced in class as campus events or other significant opportunities arise. To avoid an end-of-semester rush, you are required to complete at least two participation points before the second mid-term exam.

-           The participation points will be posted on the class website. It is your responsibility to check this periodically throughout the semester and promptly inform your TA of any possible errors.



Extra Credit

You may earn extra credit by either participating in two surveys this year or you may earn extra credit by completing two political science journal article summaries.  The amount of extra credit earned will be the same whether you complete journal article summaries or participate in the surveys, but you cannot do both.  In the next few days you will each receive an email inviting you to participate in a survey about your political attitudes.  Another survey invitation will be sent out toward the end of the year.  Students who accept the invitations and complete the online surveys will automatically receive extra credit bonus points (see below for details).  There

is no penalty for not completing the surveys and students who choose not to participate in the surveys can earn the bonus points by completing journal article summaries during the same time period that the surveys are available.


Each survey will be open for approximately one week and should take many students about 15 minutes to complete.  The software used for the survey provides a list of students who have completed the questions, but your actually responses to survey questions are confidential and anonymous.  Participation in the surveys provides important information that will further our knowledge of how young people think about politics.


Students opting to write journal summaries will access the most recent issue of Political Science Quarterly from the library and select an article to summarize.  Summaries will be 1 single spaced page in length and will be accepted during the same time frame as the surveys (e.g. during a one week period).  Summaries should describe the empirical findings of the research article in detail and then discuss the implications of those findings on the current political system.        




Your grade will be determined by a combination of your performance on quizzes, class

participation, writing assignments, and exams and will be computed using a weighted average as



 Teaching Assistant Lab Assignments*  20%

Quizzes and Participation        5 %

 Midterm 1         25 %

 Midterm 2          25 %

 Final Exam          25 %

 Total           100%


* Up to 10 percentage points of extra credit will be added to the lab assignment portion of the

grade for completing the extra credit surveys or journal article summaries.  Because the lab

assignments count for 20% of the course grade, this means that the extra credit is worth up to 2

percentage points of the total used to calculate the final grade.  



The weighted average will then be calculated to assign a grade based approximately on the scale below. I do not “curve” the final grades or deviate from the scale below unless it works to your benefit.


 A > 93 %

 A- = 90-93 %

 B+ = 87-89 %

 B = 83-86 %

 B- = 80-82 %

 C+ = 77-79 %

 C = 73-76 %

 C- = 70-72 %

 D+ = 67-69 %

 D = 63-66 %

 E < 63 %


Other Course Policies


Late Work Late work will be penalized at a rate of ten percent of the points possible per working day that the assignment or paper is late. For example, an essay worth 100 points that is due in class on a Tuesday will be penalized 10 points if turned in by class time on Wednesday (1 working day) and 20 points if turned in by class time on Thursday. Exceptions to this policy are rare and must be cleared with me in advance. When turning in late work, email a copy both to your TA and to the course instructor. The date and time that the email is received will remove ambiguity in applying the late work policy.


Email Policy: All class members are required to maintain an active email account. It is your responsibility to ensure that the email address that is listed for you in the THS directory is accurate. Email is also a very good way to reach me (or the teaching assistants) with questions. I strongly encourage you to check your email daily throughout the semester.


Academic Honesty: All of the work you do in this course is expected to be your own.  Cheating and plagiarism in any form will not be tolerated.  If you have any doubt about your academic conduct, I encourage you to come speak with me.


Disability: I am committed to providing a learning atmosphere that reasonably accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. If you have any disability that may impair your ability to complete this course successfully, you are responsible for making your needs known to me and seeking available assistance from the school in a timely manner.  The UAC reviews requests for reasonable academic accommodations for all students who have qualified documented disabilities, and any accommodations for this class must be coordinated with the UAC office. See http://uac.byu.edu/ for more information.


Discrimination/Harassment: Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex

discrimination against any participant in an educational program or activity that receives federal funds. The act is intended to eliminate sex discrimination in education. Title IX covers discrimination in programs, admissions, activities, and student-to-student sexual harassment. THS’s policy against discrimination and sexual harassment extends not only to employees of the school but to students as well. If you encounter sexual harassment or discrimination, please talk to me; contact the School Office in D-282 THS or by telephone at 801-422-3863 or 367-5689 (24- hours);


Learning Outcomes:  The THS Social Studies Department has developed a set of expected student learning outcomes. These will help you understand the objectives of the political science curriculum, including this class.  To see these outcomes please visit http://www.timpanogoshighschool.com/socialstudiesoutcomes.  


Course Schedule and Reading Assignments


Reading assignments are listed by topic in the order the topics will be covered in class. I suggest dividing the reading assignments listed for each week so that they are more or less evenly distributed throughout the week. For each topic, start with the reading in America’s New Democracy (AND) and then move to any supplementary reading material that is listed. Readings marked with a “♦” indicate that the material is posted on the class website (http://kaitlyn-swenson.blogspot.com) as a PDF file.


Week 1 (Jan. 4, 6)

 Course Introduction

 The Founding and the Constitution

 AND, ch. 2

 The Constitution of the United States (AND Appendices)


Week 2 (Jan. 11, 13)

 The Constitution, cont.

Federalist 10 and 51 (AND Appendices)

 Federalism AND, ch. 3


Week 3 (Jan. 18, 20)

 Political Culture; Social and Economic Divisions

 AND, ch. 4, pp. 71-84



Week 4 (Jan. 25, 27)

 Political Ideology

 AND, ch. 4, pp. 85-97

 ***Lab groups will meet during the last half hour of class this week.


Week 5 (Feb. 1, 3)

 Political Parties

 AND, ch. 9, pp. 203-218

 ***Lab Assignment 1 Due

 ***Lab groups will meet during the last half hour of class this week.


Week 6 (Feb 8, 10)

 Interest Groups

 AND, ch. 9, pp. 218-232

 ***Lab Assignment 2 Due


Week 7 (Feb. 15, 17)

 Public Opinion and Polling

 AND, ch. 5

 *** Midterm 1 in the Testing Center on Thursday and Friday, February 17th – 18th.

The exam will cover material through week 6 (interest groups).


Week 8 (Feb. 24)

 Political Participation

 AND, ch. 7

 ***No class on Tuesday Feb. 22nd (Monday instruction day).

 ***Lab Assignment 3 Due


Week 9 (March 1, 3)

 Voting, Campaigns and Elections

 AND, ch. 8

 ***Lab Assignment 4 Due

 ***Lab groups will meet during the last half hour of class this week.


Week 10 (March 8, 10)

The Media

 AND, ch. 6

***Lab Assignment 5 Due                          


Week 11 (March 15, 17)


 AND, ch. 10


Week 12 (March 22, 24)

The Presidency

 AND, ch. 11

The Bureaucracy

 AND, ch. 12

 *** Midterm 2 in the Testing Center on Thursday and Friday, March 24th –25th.

The exam will cover material from weeks 7 (public opinion) through 11 (Congress).


Week 13 (March 29, 31)

The Judiciary

 AND, ch. 13

 ***Lab Assignment 6 Due


Week 14 (April 5, 7)

Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

 AND, chs. 14 and 15

***Lab Assignment 7 Due


Week 15 (April 12)

 Review for the Final



***Final Exam, April 16, 18, 19, 20, and 21 in the Testing Center.