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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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