GREAT BASIN COLLEGE

PSC 103—Principles of American Constitutional Government

Fall 2008 Semester (October 6 to December 5)

Course Syllabus

 

I.  Course Number & Title: 

PSC 103 Internet Course—Principles of American Constitutional Government (3-credits)

Class Location—WebCampus Course (THIS IS NOT A SELF-PACED COURSE)

 

II. Prerequisites: 

ENG 101 placement test score or completion of ENG 100 or higher or corequisite of READ 135.

 

III.  Catalog Description:                 

PSC 103—Principles of American Constitutional Government. Constitution of the United States and Nevada with attention to various principles and current problems of government.  Satisfies United States and Nevada Constitution requirements. 

 

IV. Course Description:

Do you know why the elephant is the symbol of the Republican Party and the Donkey represents the Democratic Party? Did you know that political parties, candidates, and interest groups can determine how you will vote based on the food you eat, the soft drinks and beer you drink, and the vehicle you drive? This introductory class examines the basic principles of American and state government such as power, authority, legitimacy, and force. Current events, pop culture, documentaries, and online and multimedia resources are used to compliment the readings.

 

The course will also study numerous aspects of American government and key participants and influences in the political arena. Topics to be covered include: U.S. and Nevada Constitutions, the Presidency, Congress, the Supreme Court, federal court system, voting, socialization process, political parties, interest groups, and the media. We will also be examining a number of current political events, governmental actions, and public policy decisions as part of the weekly Bulletin Board Discussions (BBDs). At the beginning of each week, the following course materials will be provided:

 

1. Key chapter terms and concepts (e.g. politics, anarchy, democracy, political elites).

2. Learning objectives for the week (e.g. “After reading chapter 1, the student should be able to define ‘politics’ and explain its importance to American society.” 

3. Summary outline/lecture notes for each chapter in Wasserman.

4. Useful online links and resources to compliment The Basics of American Politics by Gary Wasserman and the Sagebrush State by Michael Bowers.  These links will also help you with the bulletin board discussions that count for a significant part of your grade as class participation.   

 

These four parts will be provided to you on Webcampus under Learning Modules according to the syllabus and course outline.

 

V.  Instructor Information:

Dr. Danny Gonzales

Great Basin College

1500 College Parkway

Elko, Nevada 89801

Office:  Electrical-Industrial Technology Building, Social Sciences Department, Room 128

Phone: 775.753.2114; Fax: 775-753.2186; E-mail: dannyg@gwmail.gbcnv.edu

Office Hours: Call or e-mail to schedule an appointment; Check WebCampus

 

VI. Required & Recommended Textbooks and Other Materials:

·         Wasserman, Gary. 2008. The Basics of American Politics (13th Edition). New York: Pearson-Longman Publishers.

·         Bowers, Michael B. 2006. The Sagebrush State: Nevada’s History, Government, and Politics (3rd Edition). University of Nevada Press.

·         Quick Study Guides Available Through GBC Book Store: (1) U.S. Government; (2) U.S. Constitution; and (3) Political Science. Additional reading materials will be distributed in class via WebCampus and/or placed on reserve in the GBC Library.

 

VII. Grading Policy/Point System:

Grades will be based on the following:

 

Assignment                                        % of final grade                   

Three (3) examinations                        60%

Seminar participation/attendance        40%

 

Grading Scale

Points               Letter                                                        
94-100              A   
90-93                A-      
87-89                B+      
83-86                B        
80-82                B-      
77-79                C+  
73-76                C                  
70-72                C-                 
67-69                D+               
63-66                D                  
60-62                D-                

<60                   F        

 

VIII. Attendance & Class Participation

Participation in bulletin board discussions (BBDs) is essential and accounts for 40% of the final class grade.  Since the class does not meet face-to-face, timely responses to the BBDs are mandatory. Participation in the assigned group activities will also count toward class participation.        

 

IX. General Education Objectives & Select Student Learning Outcomes

General education objectives can be referenced on Page 53 of the GBC Catalog. It is the goal of the faculty at GBC that all students that graduate with either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from this institution have had the opportunity presented to them during their attendance to have acquired ability and awareness with the following objectives:

 

Objective 1: Communication Skills (Strong)

Communication skills are of critical importance in PSC 103, and the course strongly meets this objective through a variety of methods. First, students develop acute listening and oral communication skills. Not only do students have to assimilate a great deal of information from the historical narrative presented by the instructor (lecture is the basic format of the course) but also listen effectively to each other as questions are raised and discussion stimulated by their peers. In these discussions, students hone their oral and written communication skills as they grapple with new ideas. Second, students sharpen their reading skills through the required text and short supplemental readings left to the instructor’s discretion. In the past, supplemental readings have taken the form of an optional text on Nevada government and politics, but in the future might also include such things as other books and/or short readings on reserve in the library or on the internet. The textbooks require a college-level reading ability to digest the vast amounts of information and distill it into a usable form. Third, student will learn writing skills. While each instructor’s assignment vary, this element is always present in some combination of various forms: short free writes, short answer questions that require the ability to know not only the facts but also the significance of an event or person, large essay questions on the examinations that require the ability to synthesize vast amounts of material and present it in a concise essay format, book reviews, and/or formal papers.

 

Objective 2: Critical Thinking (Moderate)

Critical thinking is a vital process that students must develop in this course. Reasoning and independent thought are significant parts of this course because students are required to examine American government and politics and interpret the concepts. In class discussions, examinations, and papers students are asked to analyze and critically examine the difficult concepts behind our federal form of government and challenging Constitutional questions. Many Constitutional questions are ambiguous and have different interpretations, so students must come to some sort of awareness that for some of the issues there are no simple answers and that all interpretations are not of equal merit. 

 

Quantitative ability is addressed to a considerable degree in a number of ways. Political Science relies heavily upon statistical analysis to study issues such as voting patterns, ethnic character, party representation, public opinion, apportionment of districts, and polling. Quantitative ability is also addresses to some degree through the broad use of statistics throughout the course. Scientific understanding is dealt with to some degree in PSC 103. Scientific discovery and development play a role in this course in a variety of ways. Most importantly, the Brandeis Brief introduced the use of scientific data into questions of law and revolutionized legal questions. We take for granted today that science will be used in the courtroom and Congressional legislative proceedings, but this has not always been the case. Scientific understanding also involves methodology. In this regard the course deals explicitly with science, as method, through assignments that require the explication and testing of hypotheses regarding governmental and political processes.  

 

Objective 3: Personal & Cultural Awareness (Strong)

PSC 103 deals with personal and cultural awareness to a moderate degree. The course handles the first three elements to a significant degree. Students develop a strong sense of the individual in society. This entire class is about the creation of our democratic republic and the Constitution which guarantees every American civil rights that we perceive as uniquely American. Students are also urged to interpret the Constitution from different perspectives (e.g. race, class, religion, education, gender, political party affiliation, interest) and to understand that different groups of Americans can interpret the Constitution very differently because of their various experiences and values. This course obviously engenders a sense of the past through the historical study of the evolution of the Constitution through its drafting and the amendment process, but it also produces a sense of accountability and civic responsibility such as the importance of voting, responding to a jury summons, volunteering in the community, and participating in public hearings. PSC 103 explores ramifications of past Constitutional actions, such as the acceptance of slavery and later legal segregation of blacks, and evaluates the outcomes. Finally, this course develops an appreciation of fine arts to a significant degree. Several court decisions have significantly affected the arts in the U.S., interpreting the boundaries of free expression. Concerns over freedom of expression are part of the American heritage of civil rights and are integral to questions of artistic freedom in a democratic society.

 

In addition, political cartoons, arguably an old and important part of American political culture, continue to play a vital role in American political life. Other artistic modes of political satire also have a tremendous impact on modern politics, such as music, television, and the internet. It is not difficult to see how political satire and commentary affect us today from the Tonight Show monologue, to the antics of Saturday Night Live and the Jon Stewart Show, and to more cerebral humor in the satirical music of Mark Russell. Instructors will obviously deal with this material differently, but political cartoons are presented in the book. Instructors may introduce complementary materials in lecture, though audio and video clips, online resources, and in assignments geared toward these modes of expression.

 

Objective 4: Personal Wellness (Some Degree)

PSC 103 meets the personal wellness objective to some degree by highlighting public policies that have created our modern health care system and the welfare state, such as the creation of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The class will review the role of the three branches of government and their involvement and influence in the public policymaking process. 

 

Objective 5: Technological Understanding (Strong)

PSC 103 fulfills the technological understanding objective due to the emphasis in the course on using technology as a writing and research tool. There is a plethora of online resources for American government and politics. Writing assignments are encouraged to be completed using computer word processing applications and internet research. In addition, some instructors use supplemental primary source readings, video clips, and audio clips that are available on the internet. By encouraging students to become more computer and internet literate, PSC 103 encourages technological understanding.

 

Student Learning Outcomes

Additional student learning outcomes for each chapter are posted on WebCampus. Upon the successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

 

Learning Outcome

Measurement

1. Define “politics” and explain its importance in American society.

Bulletin Board Discussion #1 and #9

Exam #1

2. List and explain the significance of the four major constitutional principles.

Bulletin Board Discussion #2

Exam#1

3. Explain the president’s influence over public opinion can influence Washington’s policy agenda.

Bulletin Board Discussion #3 and Exam #1

4. Explain the role of Congress and define and malapportionment, gerrymandering, and term limits.

Bulletin Board Discussion #4

Exam #2

5. Understand the evolution of the Supreme Court as a policymaker and the civil rights and liberties of individuals.

Bulletin Board Discussion #5

Exam #2

6. Itemize the main functions of a political party.

Bulletin Board Discussion #6

Exam #3

7. Review the roles of economic interest groups and lobbyist.

Bulletin Board Discussion # 7 and #8

Exam#3

8. Define the primary characteristics of Nevada’s political interests and governmental structure.

Bulletin Board Discussion #1 through #9

Exam #1, #2, and #3

Note that student learning objectives and outcomes for each chapter are provided in the Weekly Outline section of WebCampus.

 

X.  Course Assignments, Content, & Schedule

There are three examinations that cover The Basics of American Politics (60%) and Bulletin Board Discussions (40%) that count for class participation. 

 

Policy of Academic Integrity

Academic honesty is expected in this course and all college courses. Acts such as cheating and plagiarism are violations of the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Code of Conduct as well as violations of the standards of intellectual dishonesty. All student work must be original and authentic. Any acts of cheating, copying, and/or plagiarizing are violations of the NSHE Code of Conduct and will be taken seriously. Students who cheat, copy another’s work, or plagiarize from the Internet or other sources are subject to consequences ranging from dismissal from and failure of a class to dismissal from the college. Tutors are available in the GBC Academic Success Center for assistance with appropriate documentation and citations.

 

 

Student Conduct Policy

Messages, attitudes, or any other form of communication deemed to be outside the bounds of common decency/civility as judged by common standards of classroom behavior (determined, as they would be in a regular classroom, by the instructor) will not be tolerated. The behavior of GBC students, as a member of the NSHE, is governed by GBC and NSHE Code. Misconduct, as defined and established in the NSHE Code, Title II, Chapter 6, Section 6.2.2 and the above misconduct as defined by GBC, is subject to Disciplinary Sanctions as defined by NSHE Code, Title 2.

 

Class Disruptions

Cell phones and other multimedia devices disrupt class and need to be turned off, stored away, and out of sight. Text messaging is not allowed. Check with me if there are special circumstances that require you to have your phone on during class. Coming to class late is also disruptive. Habitual lateness and leaving the classroom during the lectures is not acceptable and considered disruptive. Disruptive behavior will result in being removed from class.        

 

Other Issues

ADA STATEMENT: GBC supports providing equal access for students with disabilities.  An advisor is available to discuss appropriate accommodations with students.  Please contact the ADA Officer (Julie Byrnes) in Elko at 775.753.2271 at your earliest convenience to request timely and appropriate accommodations.    

 

A. Examinations & Quizzes:

The take home examinations and quizzes will be posted to WebCampus and due according to the instructions posted by the instructor. Examinations and quizzes consist of multiple choice, true-false questions, and essay questions. Taking the examination and quizzes is an individual exercise, and collaboration with others is not permissible.    

 

B. Seminar Participation/Bulletin Board Discussions: 
Class participation and postings to the Bulletin Board Discussions are mandatory. It needs to be stressed that since the class does not physically meet on a weekly basis, BBDs count as weekly participation (40% of the total grade). Respond to the bulletin board prompts and questions. Appropriate citations and references to textbooks and online resources are expected. Student responses are subject to random screening using plagiarism detection software. Plagiarism is a form of academic dishonesty and could result in removal from class. Responses should be thoughtful, concise, and in your own words. Additionally, responses must be substantiated and based in the required readings in The Basics of American Politics, The Sagebrush State, and relevant online resources introduced in class. Refer to the BBD Participation Rubric on WebCampus for posting criteria.
 
BBD postings and responses follow the timeline below:
1. BBD prompt posted by instructor on Monday morning.
2. BBD closes on Sunday at 11:55 p.m.
3. Late BBD responses will not be accepted.   

 

Responses should be at least 250 words. Other responses to your classmates can be shorter.  Ongoing bulletin board discussions (BBD) are recorded as class participation. Using appropriate net etiquette, you are encouraged to respond to other weekly BBD postings and contribute in The War Room: Political Science Cyber Café BBD where current political events and government activities will be discussed. Online resources will be posted related to the weekly Bulletin Board Discussions (BBDs) as the semester progresses. Refer to the syllabus for specific BBD and exam due dates. BBD responses are considered formal writing assignments.   

 

X. PSC 103: Tentative Course Schedule (nine-weeks)

The following is the schedule for the fall 2008 semester, including weekly bulletin board discussions (BBDs) and examinations:  

 

Week

 

Topic

 

Reading(s)

 

Posted

 

Due Date

 

 

Wasserman

Bowers

 

 

Week 1

Oct. 6

 

Introductions

What is Politics?

SYLLABUS QUIZ

Chapter 1

Chapter 1

BBD #1

Monday

Oct. 6

Sunday

Oct. 12

Week 2

Oct. 13

 

The Constitution: Rules of the Game

 

 

Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Nevada Constitution

BBD #2

Monday

Oct. 13

Sunday

Oct. 19

Week 3

Oct. 20

 

The Executive Branch: The Presidency & Bureaucracy

 

Chapter 3

Chapter 7

BBD #3

Monday

Oct. 20

Sunday

Oct. 26

 

 

EXAM #1

(Covers Week 1-3)

 

---

---

EXAM #1

Sunday

Oct. 26

Tuesday

Oct. 28

Week 4

Oct. 27

 

The Legislative Branch: Congress

Chapter 4

Chapter 6

Chapter 9

BBD#4

Monday

Oct. 27

Sunday

Nov. 2

Week 5

Nov. 3

 

The Judicial Branch: The Supreme Court & the Federal Court System

 

Chapter 5

Chapter 8

BBD #5

Monday

Nov. 3

Sunday

Nov. 9

Week 6

Nov. 10

 

Civil Rights & Liberties: Protecting the Players

 

Chapter 6

Chapter 3

BBD #6

Monday

Nov. 10

Sunday

Nov. 16

 

 

EXAM #2

(Covers Weeks 4-6)

---

---

EXAM #2

Sunday

Nov. 16

Tuesday

Nov. 18

Week 7

Nov. 17

Voters & Political Parties

 

Chapter 7

Chapter 4 Chapter 10

 

BBD #7

Monday

Nov. 17

Sunday

Nov. 23

Week 8

Nov. 24

 

Interest Groups & the Media

 

Chapter 8

Chapter 5

BBD #8

Monday

Nov. 24

Sunday

Nov. 30

Week 9

Dec. 1

 

Who Wins, Who Loses: Pluralism v. Elitism

Chapter 9

Chapter 11

 

BBD #9

Dec. 1

Thursday

Dec. 4

 

EXAM #3

(Covers Weeks 7-9)

 

---

---

EXAM #3

Thursday

Dec. 4

Sunday

Dec. 7

(1) Refer to WebCampus for updated information on class schedule. (2) The instructor reserves the right to modify the syllabus during the semester. (3) Proper net etiquette is to be used during the course of the semester, and flaming should be reported to the instructor immediately.

 

If you have a question regarding any of the assignments or materials for this course, I will make every attempt to respond to you within 12-hours.