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Sample Syllabus from Summer 2008
Learning Objectives

Political Science 21, \u201cThe American Political System,\u201d is an introductory class that surveys the vast arena of
American politics from the 1780s to the present\u2014a formidable task to be sure, but one guided by several
specific goals:

GOAL #1. Mastery of the subject matter

First and foremost, the successful completion of this course will lead to your mastery of the subject matter. Important topics include (among others) the constitutional foundations of American government, the basic structure and operation of government institutions, and the relationship between average citizens and their elected officials.

GOAL #2. The development of critical thinking skills

In addition to mastering the material matter at hand, this course will also help you to develop broader skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving strategies. Our goal is to use a solid foundation of factual knowledge to probe deeper questions about the American political system, including the nature of democracy, representation, liberty, and equality.

GOAL #3. Civic engagement and responsibility
Finally, this class encourages an active and informed interest in politics by demonstrating the relevance of the
topics we study to contemporary political events, ranging from Social Security reform to the war in Iraq.
Course Requirements

Our emphasis throughout the term will be on the development of strong analytical thinking and writing skills. Graded assignments are designed to evaluate your growth in these areas. Assignments are also designed to give you many opportunities, using different skills, to build a strong grade in this course.

1.The bulk of your grade will be determined by two essay examinations, the first on Thursday, June 26,
and the second on Monday, July 7. Each of these exams are weighted as 25% of your final grade.
2.Five brief multiple-choice quizzes will be administered this term. The dates for these quizzes are:
Tuesday, June 17
Thursday, June 19
Wednesday, June 25
Tuesday, July 1
Thursday, July 3
The single lowest score you receive on these quizzes will be dropped, while the four remaining scores
will be averaged to determine 25% of your final grade.
3.Finally, your frequent participation on the discussion board is essential to the effectiveness of this
class. Both the quality and quantity of your posts will account for the remaining 25% of your grade.

In fairness to others, students are not permitted to do \u201cextra credit,\u201d either to compensate for a poor grade,
missed assignment, or lost time in class. Since a total of eight grades cumulate to determine your final grade
(and no one assignment dominates), there are plenty of opportunities to improve your standing.

A score of \u201c0\u201d will be given for any quiz not taken during the allotted period of time, and no make-ups will be
offered. In most cases, a missed quiz will simply become the score that is dropped, as described above.

If a student misses a midterm or final exam for reasons that are both serious and outside of their control (e.g.,
serious illness, a death in the immediate family, etc.), a makeup may be offered at my discretion. Documentation
of need is usually required.

Midterm and final exams received after the assignment deadline will be penalized at a rate of one grade
increment per hour. For example, an exam received less than one hour late will receive at most an A-, within
two hours late a B+, within three hours late a B, and so on. Exams received 11 hours late or more will receive
an automatic \u201c0.\u201d

Students are in charge of their own computer equipment, and for securing and maintaining a reliable internet
connection to Blackboard throughout the course. In particular, it is not advisable to travel out of town on quiz or
exam days, especially if that means relying upon chancy connections at airport kiosks or cyber cafes. Unless a
known outage of the UVM server occurs for a significant amount of time during a quiz or exam period, no
makeups will be allowed.

Finally, students are responsible for learning how to use Blackboard. Inexperience with the Blackboard software
will not excuse any failure to complete assignments on time. Be sure to ask questions in advance of deadlines!
Required Reading
The following textbook is required reading for this course and must be purchased by the start of term:

David B. Magleby, David. M. O\u2019Brien, Paul C. Light, James MacGregor Burns, J.W. Peltason, and Thomas E. Cronin (2008). Government By the People, 22nd edition, national version. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Many short articles are also assigned in this class. The full-text of each is provided daily under the \u201cClass
Schedule\u201d section of this website. To view each article, simply click on its title.
Lecture Notes

Because this class is taught fully online without face-to-face meeting times, lecture notes are provided in text using a .PDF format (you must have the Adobe Acrobat reader installed on your computer to view these files). Hyperlinks to each are provided on the \u201cCalendar\u201d section of this website. While files may be read online, they are more manageable when printed.


In order to keep files sizes small to ensure fast download, some charts and graphs are inserted into the text in
\u201cthumbnail\u201d size. Full-size versions, and other highlights from the lecture notes, can be viewed in a series of
optional slide shows.

Essay Examinations

Midterm and final examinations in this class will consist of two essay questions each, both of which must be
answers. Questions will be released to the \u201cClass Schedule\u201d page on Thursday, June 26, and Monday, July 7,
respectively. Students must complete the exam and return it to me using the Blackboard quiz tool within two
hours of starting the test. Exams received after that deadline will be penalized.

Students may not, under any circumstances, discuss their exam answers with others. To do so will be viewed
as a violation of UVM\u2019s policy on academic honesty.

I evaluate written work by the extent to which you support your answers with evidence drawn from class
lectures, discussions, and reading assignments. You are not allowed to seek out additional research materials
at the library or on the internet when preparing your essays. Keep in mind, too, that writing well is important.
The quality of your writing matters, in addition to its content.

The grades I assign are based on the following criteria:
92-100 A
Excellent (A range):Grades in the \u201cA\u201d range are reserved for work that iss uper ior in

quality. \u201cA\u201d essays are lively, interesting, and intellectually sophisticated. The writer
develops a clear and creative thesis, and supports their argument with solid and
persuasive evidence. The essay itself is polished and beautifully written, free of
grammatical and spelling errors. Above all, \u201cA\u201d papers reflect originality. The writer\u2019s
own voice and logic are present on the page.

88-89 B+
82-87 B
80-81 B-

Good (B range):Grades in the \u201cB\u201d range reflect work that isgood to very good in

quality. The essay completes all of the requirements of the assignment at hand. It may
have minor errors and flaws, but the foundation of the work is solid, clear, and
reasonably well-organized. \u201cB\u201d essays address topics in a thoughtful way, but offer less
insight and originality than \u201cA\u201d papers.

78-79 C+
72-77 C
70-71 C-

Fair (C range):A \u201cC\u201d essay represents work that issatis fac tory. The writer offers a

thesis, but it is usually too broad, or too vague. The essay tends to make assertions
without offering specific examples or supporting evidence from class lectures,
discussions, and reading assignments. The overall impression of the essay is that of a
rough draft. Greater effort is encouraged, and spelling and grammatical errors often
require correction.

68-69 D+
62-67 D
60-61 D-

Poor (D range):A \u201cD\u201d essay isunsatisfactory. It is sloppy, incoherent and poorly

written, marred by mechanical faults (e.g., errors in grammar, punctuation, and
spelling), and/or factual errors. The writer has difficulty developing an idea, and holding
a paragraph together. The thesis of the essay\u2014that is, what the author is arguing\u2014is
usually absent or incomplete.

\u2264 59
Failing (F): Afailing grade is given for work that is exceedingly poor, cannot be
understood, or has little relevance to the course.
No Credit (0):A grade of \u201czero\u201d is given for any work that is not completed.
Work produced (in whole or in part) by cheating, collaboration, plagiarism or any other violation of academic
honesty will be subject to disciplinary action(s) described in the UVM student handbook.

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