POL S 202: Introduction to American Politics
This course is designed to introduce students to the structure of American government and the political ideals that inform this structure. In the first part of the course, we will explore what it means to be a citizen in the U.S. Who is included and excluded from political life, and how have the bounds of citizenship evolved over time? We will examine the ways in which informal democratic institutions—electoral systems, political parties, media and social movements—shape our political allegiances, divisions and the bounds of opportunity and constraint in political life. How have democracy and rights protections expanded over time, and to what extent do some groups remain politically marginalized or excluded? Next we will examine the complex interplay and shifting balance of power between the legislature, the presidency and executive departments, an independent judiciary and an increasingly diverse and politically divided American populace. Finally, we will examine several controversial policy outcomes our political system has generated, including a uniquely punishing criminal justice system and a decades-long global war on terrorism.
The grading is based on short (1-2 page) reading response papers due each week, two exams, in-class debates and participation in sections. The weekly response paper prompts will ask you to address a question or argument raised in the assigned reading for that day and are meant to serve as foundation for section discussion. Students must turn in a response paper in section every Friday. Late papers are not accepted; there are no make-ups. The responses will be graded as superb (4.0), satisfactory (3.0) or unsatisfactory (no credit). Response paper questions will be posted on the course website (see "pages"). All exams will cover material from the lectures, assigned readings and sections. The debates will take place during Week 10 and will cover material from the entire quarter.
Exam 1 (20%)
Exam 2 (25%)
In-Class Debates (25%)
Weekly response papers (15%)
Section participation (15%)