American Government

January 29, 2001

Service Coordinators: Ms. Kim Carroll and Ms. Jennifer Outlaw

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts."
– Abraham Lincoln

"Service, combined with learning, adds value to each and transforms both."
– Honnet and Poulsen, 1989

"O I see flashing that this America is only you and me,
Its power, weapons, testimony, are you and me,
Its crimes, lies, thefts, defections, are you and me,
Its Congress is you and me, the officers, capitols, armies,
ships, are you and me . . .
Freedom, language, poems, employments are you and me,
Past, present, future, are you and me.

I dare not shirk any part of myself,
Not any part of America good or bad . . ."
-Walt Whitman (as cited in Barber, 1998)

Course Objectives: The purpose of this course is to provide you with an introduction to the United States' political system and the operation and purpose of its key institutions and players. An important goal of the course will be to develop a greater understanding of the role of power in our political system. In particular, we will focus on the delicate balancing act between the various power holders in our democracy — including the Presidency, Congress, the Judiciary, the states, the media and ordinary citizens. We will focus on the questions: How did the Founding Fathers envision the distribution of power in our political system? What does the Constitution say about the structure of power in our democracy? How has the struggle for civil rights and civil liberties throughout our history redefined this power distribution? How powerful is the modern media in our political system and how powerful should it be? How do the various branches of government share power and how does this contribute to (or prohibit) effective policy-making?

Perhaps most importantly, we will focus on the question: What power lies in the hands of ordinary citizens like you to shape and determine the direction of our political system? In many ways, an effective and legitimate democracy depends on the active participation of informed and involved citizens. The goal of this course is to begin to provide you with the information and skills to become a true participatory member of our democracy. This course will provide you with the opportunity to explore the purpose and meaning of good citizenship through participation in a service learning activity. In particular, a requirement of this course is regular service work (see Course Requirements section of this syllabus for specifics) at the Greenville Literacy Association. The purpose of this service work is to enhance your own political learning and skills while at the same time contributing to your community. In class, we will discuss the relationship between what we are reading about politics and citizenship and what you are learning through your service in the 'real world'. Through critical reflection, we will consider such issues as: What is the meaning of good citizenship in a democracy? What is your role and obligation as a citizen? What skills are needed by citizens in order that they may be participants in the political world? What are some of the causes and consequences of illiteracy in the United States? How does illiteracy affect the balance of power in our political system? What is the role of government in a democracy in terms of solving social problems?

This course will not be a passive learning experience. In addition to your active participation in the service-learning project, you will be required to participate actively in class discussions and in-class projects. In this class, you will learn how to be an informed, involved and participatory citizen. You will learn how to engage in rational and informed deliberations about issues confronting our political system. And, in the process, hopefully you will learn about the benefits (and costs) associated with living in a democracy.

Because different students have different learning styles, this class will include a mix of teaching mediums including traditional lectures, class discussions, films and musical presentations, cooperative learning projects, and individual writing assignments.

Required Readings: The following books are required and available for purchase in the bookstore.

Rimmerman, Craig A. 1997. The New Citizenship: Unconventional Politics, Activism, and Service. Boulder: Westview Press.

Waldman, Steven. 1995. The Bill: How Legislation Really Becomes Law – A Case Study of the National Service Bill. New York: Penguin Books.

Wayne, Stephen J., Mackenzie, G. Calvin, O'Brien, David M. and Richard L. Cole. 1999 (Third edition). The Politics of American Government. New York: St. Martin's Press.
— henceforth, referred to as PAG in this syllabus

A reading packet with some additional required readings will be put on reserve in the library. Students are expected to read The New York Times daily and to keep up with current political events. Subscriptions to The New York Times are offered to students at a reduced rate and subscription applications will be handed out in class. In addition, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS (Channel 8, 6pm weeknights) and National Public Radio's Morning Edition and All Things Considered on WNCW, Channel 90.1 are good sources of in-depth coverage of political news.

Course Expectations: You are expected to do all of the required reading and to come to every class session. In addition, you are expected to participate actively in the class discussions. Your attendance and participation in class discussions will constitute 10% of your grade. You will not do well in this class without consistent attendance, participation and the lecture information. Students will be responsible for material covered in class. Therefore, if you must miss a class, it is very important that you get the notes from another student in the class (not from me). Students are also responsible for any changes in the syllabus announced in class.

There are three major assignments for this course. You are expected to complete each assignment on time. Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day indicated in the syllabus. Late assignments will be graded down one letter grade increment (from a B+ to a B, for example) for each day they are late. Any paper handed in after class on the scheduled date will be considered one day late. Exceptions will be made only in the case of illness or other University-excused absence. Students who must miss class for a University-scheduled event must make arrangements to turn in the assignment ahead of time or have another student turn in the assignment at the scheduled time.

1) Service-Learning Project: Students are expected to devote two hours per week to service work for the Greenville Literacy Association. You will sign up for your service work in class on Friday, September 17. You will be given a variety of options of service work at a variety of times and locations. Students are expected to honor their commitment to GLA and show up each week on time. The project coordinators will keep track of your volunteer hours and will evaluate your performance and commitment as a volunteer. Their evaluation will constitute 10% of your grade in this class. Because it becomes a logistical nightmare for the project coordinators, students may not change their schedules once they have been set. However, given that unforeseen circumstances may arise, students will be allowed to change their volunteer time one time during the course of the semester. It is your responsibility to find another student in the class to switch days with you for that one week.

2) Service Learning Journal: Each week you are expected to make at least one entry into your journal reflecting on your experiences with the service-learning project. Each journal entry should include three sections denoted by three different colors of ink. In black ink, you should describe what you actually did that week at GLA – what were your tasks? How did you complete these tasks? With whom did you work? Etc. In blue ink, you should write your more affective or subjective reactions to what happened during the week – how did you feel about your experience this week? Why? Finally, in red ink, you should reflect thoughtfully on the relationship between the things that happen 'out there' and what we are reading about or discussing in class that week – what connections can be made to the reading, to the class discussion? How do your experiences at GLA help you to understand the political world better? How do they help you to understand the balance of power in our political system? The role of the citizen? Etc. Your grade on the journal will reflect the degree to which your entries are thoughtful and complete. All entries should include all three parts, however, the most emphasis in terms of your grade will be placed on the portion written in red ink as this will reflect critical thinking about the project and the issues of democracy, citizenship, and power. On occasion, I will give you a focus topic for one of your journal entries for that week. The journal will constitute 15% of your grade in this class.

3) Current Events Week-in-Review: We will spend one day approximately every other week reviewing and discussing some of the major events in American politics from the previous two weeks. The class will break up into small discussion groups and one student will be assigned to lead the discussion for each group. The student discussion leader will have an assigned topic to guide the discussion; however, if the events of the day supersede this topic the student leaders may, with the permission of the instructor, stray from these guidelines. Students will be expected to summarize briefly the relevant articles from The New York Times and then engage students with interesting discussion questions relevant to the focus topic. The student leaders for that week will be expected to turn in their discussion questions and a 3-4 page paper discussing the assigned topic two days prior to the date they lead the discussion group. Your performance as a leader of the current events discussion will constitute 5% of your grade in this course. Your paper will constitute 10% of your grade.

Examinations: There will be two exams in this class. The exams will be a combination of short answer identifications and essay questions drawing from the assigned readings as well as the lecture notes. The exams will be closed-book and closed-notes, in-class exams. You will be given a study guide a week before each of the exams. Questions on the exam will be chosen from this study guide, thus, there will be no surprises. In the spirit of cooperative learning, you are encouraged to study with your student colleagues. The midterm exam will constitute 15% of your grade in this class. The midterm exam will be during class on Thursday, October 14th. The final exam will constitute 25% of your grade. The final exam will be at its university-scheduled time on Wednesday, December 15th from 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m.. The final exam will be cumulative. The dates for the exams are not negotiable. Please make your travel arrangements accordingly. Absences due to illness or a death in the family must be excused by the dean's office or a doctor. Students who must miss an exam due to a University scheduled event must make arrangements to take the exam ahead of time.

Quizzes: There will be two quizzes in this course which will consist of short answer identifications. The quizzes will constitute 10% of your grade in the class. The first quiz will be on Monday, October 4th and the second quiz will be on Monday, November 8th. The quizzes will cover only a limited portion of the material.


Grades: Grades will be calculated on the following basis:
Service Learning Journal 15%
Service Learning Participation 10%
(assessment based on Ms. Carroll's and your project coordinator's reports of your involvement)
Current Events Week-in-Review Discussion 5%
Current Events Paper 10%
Quizzes 15%
Midterm Examination 15%
Final Examination 20%
Participation 10%

Total 100%

93-100 = A 77-79 = C+ 60-62 = D-
90-92 = A- 73-76 = C Below 60 = F
87-89 = B+ 70-72 = C-
83-86 = B 67-69 = D+
80-82 = B- 63-66 = D

Students with disabilities who need academic accommodations should contact Dr. Sarah Fletcher, Coordinator of Disability Services, (2998), in Plyler Hall 1 (basement) in the beginning of the term. After meeting with her, please come see me during my office hours to discuss any necessary accommodations.

Assignment Outline:

September 14: Introduction
September 15-16: Introduction to the Greenville Literacy Association and service learning: What is GLA? Who are the students at GLA? What will your responsibilities be?
Read: Reading Packet #1
Consider: What are my goals for the service learning project? What can I learn by participating in this project?
September 17: Politics and the American Political Culture
Read: PAG — Chapter 1
Consider: What does it mean to be an American? What is unique about American political culture?
September 20: Deliberative Dialogue – Learning to talk and think about the issues
Read: Tannen, Chapters 1 and 4, Reading Packet #2
(On reserve in the library and available outside my office)
Consider: What is the argument culture? What effect does it have on our political system and ordinary citizens?
September 21: The Foundations of the American Government – The Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation
Read: AG – pp. 30-42; Appendix A The Declaration of Independence
Consider: What is a government based on consent of the governed? What were the problems under the Articles of Confederation?
September 22-23: The Origins of the American Constitution – The Constitutional Convention
Read for September 22: PAG, pp. 42-58
Read for September 23: The Constitution in PAG Appendix B
Consider: What role did the Founding Fathers envision for ordinary citizens in the United States? How did the Constitution formally distribute power among groups, institutions, and individuals in American society?
September 24: The Ratification Process – Winning Support for the Constitution
Read: The Federalist Papers 10 and 51 in PAG Appendix C
Consider: What did James Madison mean when he was talking about the violence of factions? How effective would you say the Constitution has been in controlling factions in today's political system?
September 27: The Price of Federalism – Class Discussion
Read: PAG, Chapter 3
Consider: How have opinions about the distribution of power in a federalist system changed over time? Whose interests have been served by these visions of the distribution of power? What recent events and policies illustrate the conflicts inherent in our federalist system (e.g., the issue of state-recognition of same-sex marriages)?
September 28: The Judiciary
Read: PAG, Chapter 16, pp. 584-596
Consider: What is judicial activism and judicial restraint? Does the Supreme Court violate its Constitutional role when it takes an activist role?
September 29: The Supreme Court Simulation
Read: AG, Chapter 16, pp. 596-622
Consider: What factors do/should influence the judicial decision-making process?
September 30: The Supreme Court Simulation
October 1: Civil Rights and Liberties
Read: PAG, Chapter 5
Consider: Does the concept of the rights of the accused give an unfair advantage to criminals? How public should our trials be?
October 4: Quiz #1
October 5: Service Learning Project – Initial Debriefing with Ms. Carroll and Ms. Outlaw
Read: Reading Packet
Due: Service Learning Goals and Contract
October 6: Guest Speaker, Wyndi Anderson, South Carolina Advocates for Pregnant Women
October 7: Civil Rights and Liberties (cont.)
Read: PAG, Chapter 6
Consider: What do we mean by equality in the American political system? What institutions(including social and political) promote or interfere with equality?
October 8: Individual Liberties v. The Public Good: Class discussion of Film "Skokie: Rights or Wrong"
Consider: To what extent should our government be allowed to regulate hate speech? To what extent should a public or private university be able to regulate hate speech? Should individuals, for example, be allowed to take out a racist ad in the school paper? What about outside of the college campus? What has the Supreme Court said about this issue? What are the important elements of the controversy?
October 11: Current Events Week-in-Review Topic 1
October 12-13: Political Socialization
Read: PAG, Chap. 7; Rimmerman, pp. 3-10
Consider: What are your first political memories? How did/do you learn about the political world? What kind of influence would you say your parents, teachers, friends have had on your political thinking?
October 14: Midterm Exam
October 15: No class
October 18: Political Participation
Read: Rimmerman, Chapters 2 and 3
Consider: What is the role of a good citizen in the United States? Why? What is civil society? Do you see it as something that needs 'reviving'?
October 19: Political Participation: Rates of Participation and the Implications for Democracy
Read: Rimmerman, Chapter 4
Consider: What is the connection between the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and unconventional politics in the 1980s and 1990s? Do organizations such as ACT UP, Earth First!, the militias, and Operation Rescue potentially undermine civility and overall system stability?
October 20: Political Participation (Cont.)
Read: Rimmerman, Chapter 5
Consider: What is the New Citizenship? What role can student organizations play in overcoming voter apathy and citizens' political cynicism?
October 21: Service Learning and Citizenship: Guest Speaker
Read: Rimmerman, Chapter 6 and Reading Packet #3
Consider: What is the critique of service-learning? How might proponents of service- based learning respond to this critique?
October 22: Current Events Week-in-Review Topic 2
October 25-26: Public Opinion
Read: PAG, Chap. 8
Consider: To what extent should public opinion shape public policy? How should politicians assess public opinion (polls, town meetings, mailings)?
October 27-28: Interest Groups: Theoretical Perspectives and Their Role in the Political System
Read: PAG, Chap. 9
Do: Find a web site for at least two interest groups concerned with the issue of illiteracy. What role do interest groups played in the struggle against illiteracy? How do literacy interest groups attempt to influence the politics and the policy making process? Do these interest groups help or hinder the democratic process?
October 29-November 1: Fall Break
November 2-3: Political Parties: The Purpose and Structure of Political Parties
Read: PAG, Chap. 10
Consider: What are the policy positions of the two major parties in the American political system on two issues of primary concern to you? What about on the issue of illiteracy? How does the two-party system shape the balance of power in our political system?
November 4: GLA guest speakers: Facts about Illiteracy and the Greenville Community
Read: Reading Packet #4
November 5: Current Events Week-In-Review Topic #3
November 8: Quiz #2
November 9: Campaigns and Elections
Read: PAG, Chapter 11
Consider: What role should money play in elections? What are the arguments in favor of campaign finance reform? What are the arguments against campaign finance reform? What are the political obstacles to reform? Who are the supporters and opponents of campaign finance reform and why? What should be done?
November 10: Campaigns and Elections (cont.)
Read: Waldman, pp. 1-50
Consider: What factors influenced Clinton's position on the issue of national service during his 1992 campaign for the Presidency? How did his position change over the course of the campaign?
November 11: Guest Speaker: The Video Gambling Campaign in South Carolina
Consider: What do you think should be done, if anything, about video gambling in S.C.? How do you feel about the results of the recent vote?
November 12-15: The Media and Politics (Film)
Read: PAG, Chapter 12
Consider: How should private news organizations balance the need to make money against their civic duties to provide information to the public? What role does/should the media play in setting the agenda for the nation?
November 16: The Media and Politics: The National Service Bill
Read: Waldman, pp. 51-74
Consider: What role did the media play when it came to a discussion of Clinton's proposal for a national service bill? What is the media's responsibility in terms of informing the public on an issue such as this?
November 17: The Presidency: Presidential Authority and Leadership
Read: PAG, Chapter 14
Consider: What powers and authority does/should the President of the U.S. exercise? What are the responsibilities and requirements of a President in his personal and public life?
November 18: The Presidency: The Executive Office and the Personalized Presidency
Read: Waldman, pp.74-140
Consider: What was the role of the executive office in shaping the service bill proposal?
November 19: GLA Guest Speakers: Reflections
Read: Reading Packet #5
November 22-26: Thanksgiving Break
November 29: Current Events Week-in-Review Topic #4 and Congress – The Structure and Function
Read: PAG, Chapter 13 (Introductory film)
Consider: Discuss the issue of the complex role of the representative. Should the representative be a trustee or a delegate or something in between? How is the policy-making process affected by more access and democratization? Would term-limits serve to make Congress more or less effective? What about reforming the Senate filibuster?
November 30: Congress (cont.)
Read: Waldman, pp. 141-170
Consider: How does the legislative history of the National Service Bill differ from the traditional 'how a bill becomes a law' scenario? How did the proposal change from its original inception?
December 1: Congress (cont.)
Read: Waldman, pp. 170-217
Consider: Visit the AmeriCorps web site and get updated information on the AmeriCorps*Vista program. What is going on with the program?
December 2: Congress
Read: Waldman, pp. 217-257
Consider: Do some research in the library: How was the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993 actually implemented? Has it been successful?
December 3: Current Events Week-in-Review Topic #5
December 6: Catch-Up and Review
December 7: Service Learning Project – Final Debriefing with GLA
December 8: Exam Questions and Course Evaluation

December 15: Final Exam – 9:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m.

School: Furman University
Professor: Dr. Elizabeth S. Smith
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