Advanced Placement United States Government and Politics Syllabus

Bob Johnsen
johnsenrh@rss.k12.nc.us, ext. 849, mrjohnsen.weebly.com, @MrRJohnsen
Advanced Placement United States Government and Politics is a college-level survey course that examines American
government and politics from its foundation and development to the present day. The curriculum for the course is designed to
give students an analytical perspective on government and politics in the United States. Students completing the course will:

know important facts, concepts, and theories pertaining to U.S. government and politics,

understand patterns of political processes and behavior and their consequences (including the components of political
behavior, the principles used to explain or justify various government structures and procedures, and the political effects of
these structures and procedures),

be able to analyze and interpret basic data relevant to U.S. government and politics, and

effectively demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of U.S. government and politics on the AP Exam in May.
Course Outline and Description
I. Constitutional Underpinnings of United States Government (3 weeks)
a. Theories of democratic government
b. Considerations that influenced the formulation and adoption of the Constitution
c. Principles underlying the Constitution
d. Federalism
e. The impact of amendments on the constitutional development of rights and liberties
The study of modern politics in the United States requires students to examine the kind of government established by the
Constitution, paying particular attention to federalism and the separation of powers. Understanding these developments involves
both knowledge of the historical situation at the time of the Constitutional Convention and an awareness of the ideological and
philosophical traditions on which the framers drew. Such understanding addresses specific concerns of the framers: for example,
why did Madison fear factions? What were the reasons for the swift adoption of the Bill of Rights? Familiarity with the United
States Supreme Court’s interpretation of key provisions of the Constitution will aid student understanding of theoretical and
practical features of federalism and the separation of powers. Students should be familiar with a variety of theoretical perspectives
relating to the Constitution, such as democratic theory, theories of republican government, pluralism, and elitism.
Project: Hunger Games government analysis Essay: Legality of Same-Sex Marriage
II. Institutions of National Government: Congress, the Presidency, the Bureaucracy, Federal Courts (4 weeks)
a. The major formal and informal institutional arrangements of power
b. Relationships among these four institutions and varying balances of power
c. Linkages between institutions, public opinion, voters, interest groups, political parties, the media, subnational governments
d.. The development of civil liberties and civil rights by judicial interpretation
Students must become familiar with the organization and powers, both formal and informal, of the major political
institutions in the United States—the Congress, the presidency, the bureaucracy, and the federal courts. Students should
understand that these are separate institutions sharing powers and the implications of that arrangement. The functions these
institutions perform and do not perform, as well as the powers that they do and do not possess, are important. It is necessary for
students to understand that power balances and relationships between these institutions may evolve gradually or change
dramatically as a result of crises. Students are also expected to understand ties between the various branches of national
government and political parties, interest groups, the media, and state and local governments. For example, a study of the
conflicting interests and powers of the president and Congress will serve to explain recent struggles to adopt a national budget.
Projects: 1) Simulated Congress  2) Moot Court
Essay:  Legacy of our president
IV. Political Beliefs, Parties, Interest Groups and Mass Media (3 weeks)
a. Beliefs that citizens hold about their government and its leaders
b. The nature, sources, and consequences of public opinion
c. The ways in which citizens vote and otherwise participate in political life
d. Factors that influence citizens to differ from one another in terms of political beliefs and behaviors
e. Political parties and elections
f. Interest groups, including political action committees (PACs)
g. The mass media
Individual citizens hold a variety of beliefs about their government, its leaders, and the U.S. political system in general;
taken together, these beliefs form the foundation of U.S. political culture. It is important for students to understand how these
beliefs are formed, how they evolve, and the processes by which they are transmitted. Students should know why U.S. citizens
hold certain beliefs about politics, and how families, schools, and the media act to perpetuate or change these beliefs. Students
will write about how their own ideologies are products of these larger forces .Understanding the ways in which political culture
affects and informs political participation in also critical. For example, students should know that individuals often engage in
multiple forms of political participation, including voting, protest, and mass movements. Students should understand both why
individuals engage in various forms of political participation and how that participation affects the political system.
Finally, it is essential that students understand what leads citizens to differ from one another in their political beliefs and
behaviors and the political consequences of these differences. To understand these differences, students should focus on the

different views that people hold of the political process, the demographic features of the American population, and the belief and
behavior systems held by specific ethnic, minority, and other groups.
Students should understand the mechanisms that allow citizens to organize and communicate their interests and
concerns. Among these are political parties, elections, political action committees (PACs), interest groups, and the mass media.
Students should examine the historical evolution of the U.S. party system, the functions and structures of political parties, and the
effects they have on the political process. Examination of issues of party reform and of campaign strategies (primary readings
Democratic and Republican National Convention platforms) and financing in the electronic age provides students with important
perspectives. A study of elections, election laws, and election systems on the national and state levels will help students
understand that nature of both party and individual voting behavior. Students will give a treatment to the role of PACs in elections
and the ideological and demographic differences between the two major parties, as well as third parties.
Students must also consider the political roles played by a variety of lobbying and interest groups. Students study what
interest groups do, and how this affects both the political process and public policy. Why are certain segments of the population,
such as farmers and the elderly, able to exert pressure on political institutions and actors in order to obtain favorable policies?
The media is a major force in U.S. politics. In addition, the impact of the media on public opinion, voter perceptions,
campaign strategies, electoral outcomes, agenda development, and the images of officials and candidates should be explored and
understood by students. Understanding the often symbiotic and frequently conflicting relationship among candidates, elected
officials, and the media is also important.
Project: Political Participation imovie (final exam)
Essay: Who will win the 2016 presidential election?
VI. Public Policy (3 weeks)
a. Policy making in a federal system
b. The formation of policy agendas
c. The role of institutions in the enactment of policy
d. The role of the bureaucracy and the courts in policy implementation and interpretation
e. Linkages between policy and political institutions, political parties, interest groups, public opinion, elections, policy networks
Public policy is the result of interactions and dynamics among actors, interests, institutions, and processes. The formation
of policy agendas, the enactment of public policies by Congress and the president, and the implementation and interpretation of
policies by the bureaucracy and the courts are all stages in the policy process with which students should be familiar. Students
should also investigate policy networks and issue networks in the domestic and foreign policy areas (primary reading, State of the
Union Address). The study of these will give students a clear understanding of the impact of federalism, interest groups, parties,
and elections on policy processes and policy making in the federal context.
Project:  Public Opinion Polling
Essay:  How can the US balance the federal budget?
The AP Exam (Review 1 week)
The AP U.S. Government and Politics Exam is 2 hours and 25 minutes long. It includes a 45-minute multiple-choice section
consisting of 60 questions and a 100-minute free-response section consisting of 4 essay questions.  
The AP U.S. Government and Politics Exam is scheduled for Tuesday, May 12, 2015.
Course Expectations
This is a college-level course and students are expected to perform accordingly. A strong sense of personal responsibility is vital to
meeting these high academic standards.

Readings: A combination of textbook, primary source, and secondary source readings will be used to facilitate learning
and classroom discussion on a daily basis. Each week’s reading will be posted on the course website and in the classroom

Writing: Both formal and informal writing will play an important role in this course. Students will complete a formal
essay for each unit.

Projects: Students will complete one major project for each unit.

Homework: Homework will be used to reinforce student learning and is expected to be turned in the next day in class,
unless otherwise noted. Students should expect to have homework each night in this course and over holidays and breaks.

Quizzes: Both announced (generally on Fridays) and pop reading quizzes will be given.

Tests: Four tests will be given to assess understanding of the curriculum and to prepare students for the AP exam in May.

Current Events: Current events will play an integral part in this course. Students will be expected to follow the news.

Discussion: Students will be expected to actively participate in daily class discussions. This includes listening to others
and offering thoughtful comments.

Attendance and Tardiness: Students must attend class consistently and on time. Students must have fewer than nine
absences in order to get credit for the course. Three unexcused tardies will result in an administrative referral. All missed work
must be made up and is the student’s responsibility.

Technology: Throughout this course students will be required to complete assignment using various forms of
technology including laptops. Instruction will be provided on how to use this technology.
Grading
 Your quarter grade will be determined by a total points system, whereby your total points earned will be divided by the total
points possible. Points will be accumulated from a variety of assignments including tests (100 points), projects and essays
(50), weekly quizzes (30), class work/homework (10), blog posts (10), class participation (10) per week.

 Essays for each section will be 5 paragraphs in length with the exception of one, to be chosen by student, which must be 4
pages and include at least three cited sources in addition to the textbook
 Grade Scale: A (100-93); B (92-85); C (84-77); D (76-70); F (69-0). An incomplete will convert to a zero.