PLS 200: Political Life (Version: 1.

(Issues and Development of American Political Life)
---------------------------------------------------------Course Webpage: Course Lectures: Discussion: Course Email Group:

Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.
306 Millett Hall Office Hrs: T, TH & W 11:00 to 12:00 Email: Email: (personal) Website: SSRN papers:

Course Synopsis: This is a course fundamentally about things important to the American political mind. It is interested solely in developing a context for understanding political issues that dominate the time in which you live. The key point of the class is developing the context for understanding the issues. This class isn¶t going to make you an expert in global warming or health care policy. But hopefully, what it will do is give you an historical and philosophic framework for understanding how such disputes are processed in the American mind. In this sense, you will learn as much context as you do information, and, hopefully, you will be in a better position to understand the time and place in which you live. There are certain topics, however, with which this course is not concerned. First, it is not concerned with government, the political system or how either functions. That is taught by your professor in another course (American Government). Also, this course is not concerned with the American judiciary. That, too, is covered by other courses. Instead, this course is concerned with the development and operation of the American mind with respect to issues like: (a) capitalism; (b) government¶s role in life; (c) economic policy; (d) ideology; (e) race; (f) gender; (g) sexual orientation; (h) abortion; (i) native Americans; (j) terrorism; and (k) global enemies and conquests. Along the way, we will also critique the American mind ± asking, e.g., whether it is too selfcentered and too short sighted. We will also consider two major events that shaped American consciousness in the Twentieth Century: the Kennedy assassination and Watergate. Plan of Study: Below is our plan of study. The correspondence of lessons and dates is approximate. Lecture topics can change. Reading assignments will be given in class. It is the responsibility of the student to attend class and monitor the progress of the course. Session 1 2 Description & Reading Assignments (T= Text) (Midterm reading: Chapters 7, 9, 18, 21, 24, 25, 26, 30; Finals: 1, 12, 28 & 29). Course Introduction American Culture Western and American Culture: Is America Too Roman?
Intro to Western Civ; Characterizing the problems of American Culture (Class discussion); Individualism v. Communitarian; Refinement v. common sentiment. (No reading)


Capitalism and Government America s First Ideological Divide: Federalists v. Republicans
Colonial Economics, Agrarian (Jeffersonian) Ideology, Federalist (Hamiltonian) ideology, intro to hegemony, and the capture of government by the Jeffersonian rhetoric (T; Chapter 7)

4 5

Capitalism out of Control; From Robber Barons to Great Depressions
Industrialization, Transformation of American capitalism, the Progressives, laissez faire, the labor-capital dynamic, The Roaring Twenties & the Great Depression (T; Chapter 9, Chapter 18)

The Arrival of FDR and the Second Republic
The First 100 Days, The Second New Deal, the new liberal hegemony, government s new role in capitalism, wealthcentered politics; deficit philosophy (T: Chapter 21; Chapter 24)

Political Life (Issues and Development of American Political Life)



Setting Reagan s Stage: The Great Society Through Carter
The Great Society, Nixon s a New Dealer too?, Carter s failings and the ascendancy of Reagan, Supply-side economics & the economic story (Chapter 30)


Considering The Economic Issues and Their Ideology
Deficits, government spending, taxes, growth & stock markets under Reagan, Clinton, Bush(s) and Obama; comparing America to the world & understanding different systems; Considering the Stimulus Bill and the Obama agenda (No reading)

Ideology 8 Considering Ideology
Liberalism, Conservatism, Neo-liberalism, Neo-conservatism; What is Ideology? Is it good or bad? (Class Discussion); Finally, a look at American Pragmatism in contrast to European mindsets, and a reprise of individualism v. communitarianism (No Reading)

The World 9 Enemies and Conquests
How America grew geographically; development of isolationism; FDR and WWII; The Red Scare; Game Theory and Vietnam; & Terrorism (T, Chapters 25 & 26)


Flex Day
(Used if we fall behind; otherwise, topic assigned)

Midterm 11 12 13 Race Slavery, Racism, & the Struggle for Civil Rights
How slavery began; neurological theories of racial prejudice; the civil rights movement; passage of the landmark bill (T: Chapter 12)

Understanding Discrimination Lawsuits
What the Bill does; how discrimination lawsuits work; and avoiding fallacies in reasoning from aggregate percentages (T: Chapter 28)

Affirmative Action and Bakke
The Bakke Case; understanding affirmative action; and class discussion (No Reading)

Sexual Orientation 14 Sexual Orientation
Considering the scientific evidence (class discussion: does that even matter?); history and context of this kind of discrimination; and considering gay marriage and amending the Civil Rights Act (T: Chapter 29)

15 16

Gender Shedding The Patriarchal Caste: The Gender Revolution
Class discussion: essentialism & egalitarianism; & the history and conquest of patriarchy; (T: Chapter 29)

Divorce, Children & Athletics What is Fairness?
Equitable distribution & alimony; child custody & support; and mandates for athletics (T: Chapter 29)

Special Topics 17 18 19 20 Native Americans & the Fetus
History of the native experiences connected with America; class discussion: what are the ethical implications of this?; Also, an examination of rights claims for the fetus (Chapter 1)

John Kennedy and the Assassination
An introduction to John Fitzgerald Kennedy; an examination of his assassination.(No Reading)

Richard Nixon and Watergate
An introduction to Richard Millhouse Nixon; and an examination of what Watergate really was. (T: Chapter 29)

Final Exam. (consult university schedule)

Class Email Group & Discussion

Political Life (Issues and Development of American Political Life)


Notice of Lecture ³Webcasting´ You professor has started an email group for this course. The primary purpose of the group is to receive email notices of content posted to your course website. Signing up gets you instant notification of when lectures and slides are posted. In addition, students receive emails of comments that occur on the course discussion board. Students are welcomed and encouraged to use the email group and discussion board to discuss issues and concerns. Notice of Performance Standards: Attention Students: (1) This professor gives grades of F and D are given to students who earn them. Students who are ³just trying just for a C´ or ³just trying to graduate´ are warned that this expectation may result in a failing marks. (2) You must be prepared for, and attend, every class that you are physically able. (3) Expect exams to be rigorous and require substantial effort and preparation. The professor¶s work product in this course will be ³webcast.´ This does not mean that a camera will be in the classroom. Rather, it means that the audio of the professor¶s voice and his PowerPoint slide show will be published online at With respect to this, students should take note of two things. First, their voices may become audible on the web if one sits close to the front. Students not wanting their voice published on the web should either move back a few rows or notify the professor, who will edit the voice from the audio. Requests to have voices removed should be made promptly. Secondly, students are charged with all course knowledge that is published on the web. If a student misses class, he or she has no excuse for not obtaining the knowledge online. In essence, this class runs 24 hours a day on the internet.

Honesty and Plagiarism: Students who cheat on examinations, plagiarize papers or other class assignments or commit other serious academic dishonesty will receive a semester grade of "F." In addition, students are warned that copying information from the web (or elsewhere) and passing it off as your own work, or buying fake papers from online sources, will result in a grade of F and a referral for academic discipline.

Email Policy Students must at all times have an activated, working Wright State email account during the course. Vital announcements may be conveyed through email. It is the student¶s responsibility to regularly check mail for course messages and to make sure that email accounts are properly working. Students who know or should know that a course communication is expected via email, but who do not receive the message because of some technical problem, have the responsibility to contact the professor immediately to check the status of the matter. It will not be considered excusable for students to miss vital communications because they simply don¶t check mail regularly, have allowed messages to ³bounce´ for lack of storage space, or who simply allow too much time to elapse before checking on pending matters.

Social Justice, Openness and Disability This class is expected to provide a positive learning environment based upon open communication, mutual respect and nondiscrimination. Also, if you are a person with a disability and anticipate needing any type of accommodation for this class, please advise the instructor and make appropriate arrangements with the Office for Disability Services.

Grading & Text(s)

Political Life (Issues and Development of American Political Life)


Required Textbooks: The following text is required for this course testing:
y Selected Chapters from The Enduring Vision (Paperback, Concise 6th Edition). Boyer et. al.
Purchase chapters online: oductDetail&ISBN=978-0-547-22280-6

Assignment Midterm Final Attendance Notes*

Worth 33% 33% 17% 17%

Grading Scale = 90% and above; = 80% - 89.9%; = 70% - 79.9%; = 60% - 69.9%; = 59.9% and below

*Notes must be hand-written. Students wanting to type notes in lieu of writing them must seek approval from the professor at the beginning of the course. The request must be sent by email. Only students receiving emailed permission are exempted from having hand-written notes.

Attendance  Never Sign Someone Else¶s Name: Student attendance is taken in class. Signing a name other than you own on the daily attendance sheet is considered academic dishonesty and subject to discipline. Excused Absences: An excused absence does not count as a miss. However, they are factored in to the total number of sessions available. For example, if 2 unexcused absences = 94% for all possible lectures, two out of a reduced number of possible lectures will be worth an amount lower than 94%. Note: Please see below for the policy on excused absences. Leaving Early: Please be aware that leaving class early may not get you full credit for attending Bonus (borderline students) Students can earn 1 to 3 year-end bonus percentage points if they are within 3 points of the next highest grade. The percentage points are awarded for the following activities: (a) good class participation; (b) having a grade on exams at least one letter higher than the year-end percentage; (c) donating good, typed notes to the online reservoir being assembled for the class (see below under ³DocStoc´); and/or (d) having a grade on reading questions at least one letter higher than the year-end percentage. This is an excellent way for borderline students to achieve the higher grade. There is no rounding in the course. You have to earn your bump. No yearend award can exceed 3 course percentage points. Awards are based upon how well the student completed (a) through (d). 

Class Participation: You must mark you comment down and hand it in at the end of the class. Students who do not do this cannot get credit for participation at the end of the year. If you do not hand your comments in, no points can be awarded. DocStoc Policy: Students wanting year-end bonus for notes are to keep excellent, typed notes of a reasonable number of lectures and/or segments (consult professor). The notes cannot be a sparse outline; they must be ³notes.´ Of course, they can be in outline form if they are detailed enough. Once complete, the student should open a free account at DocStoc and publish the notes online (consult professor for help). Once published, send the link to the professor. All students who do this understand that they are donating the notes to the public so future students can use them at their leisure and discretion.

Attendance Criteria

Misses 0 1 2 3 4 5 6

Grade 100% 97% 94% 91% 87% 84% 81%

Misses 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Grade 77% 74% 71% 67% 64% 61% 57%

Misses 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Grade 54% 51% 47% 44% 41% 37% 34%  

Adjustment (high-achieving students)

Political Life (Issues and Development of American Political Life)


It is unfair for the attendance/notes grades to hurt a student who achieves an A in the class, but for these measures. Therefore, any student who achieves an A average on exams will have their grade averaged without considering notes/attendance. The grades of notes/attendance are only supposed to help student grades. Please note that students who do not achieve an A average on exams do not qualify for this. Students having a B average or below on exams will most surely have their average negatively affected by performing below that average on notes/attendance.
Other Helpful Information: 
Graded Assignments: Assignments are returned two weeks after completion. Students should take note of this rule when the drop deadline approaches. If an exam is administered within two weeks of the drop deadline, it will not be returned prior to the deadline. Grade Posting: Grades will never be individually emailed to students by the instructor. Grades are communicated to the class as a group. Grade ³Favors:´ If a student is close to a grade, but misses it, do not ask at the end of the semester to receive the higher mark. Grades are like points on a football scoreboard. Whenever the game ends, your score is what is on the board. Plenty of games are played where a team should have had more points. The remedy here is to fire the coach (your approach) or to prepare better for the next set of games. Grades are not a fiefdom, and the professor does not adjust scores for reasons of humanity, friendship, dislike or pleasantry. When the game ends, your score is your score. I think I deserve a better grade: Students should keep in mind that they are graded according to syllabus criteria, not according to their own assessment of fairness. It doesn¶t matter what expectation you have for ³just passing.´ Follow the syllabus. I¶m just trying to graduate and get a C. Students should keep in mind that there is no special standard for students who are ³just wanting a C´ and ³just trying to graduate.´ Grades of F are given to everyone who earns them. This is so even if it stops your graduation or otherwise hurts. Scale Adjustment: As a general rule, there is no right to have grades rounded. The grading scale is firm. Scales are only adjusted if the professor believes at the end of the term that the class performance in light of the difficulty of assignments warrants some correction. Recourse may take the form of rounding or dropping down a percent. With respect to these judgments, three rules apply: (1) any adjustment applies to all grade levels (if As are rounded, so are Fs); (2) if made, adjustments occur at the time the professor is calculating final grades, and hence are not a matter for student input or ³lobbying;´ and (3) adjustments are rare and only made if circumstances require. Once again, scales are firm. Students should not expect any rounding or drops, and should not ask for any such thing. This is especially so given that the university does not use plus or minus. Zero Percent Fs: The grade of F on course assignments can fall below 50% if the work deserves an especially low mark. Students should be aware, however, that failure to complete an assignment is a 0%, not a 50%. Late Assignments: Late assignments are penalized half a grade (5 percentage points) per day, unless a different penalty policy is announced.       

Political Life (Issues and Development of American Political Life)


Excuses Students who miss an exam will receive a grade of ³F´ unless the absence is ³excused.´ Students who fail to hand in papers or other assignments on the due date will receive a grade penalty of one grade per day unless the delay is ³excused.´ No absence can be excused unless: (1) permission is sought before the miss occurs; and (a) is a university function (documentation provided); or (b) a health emergency. If the health emergency makes it physically impossible to seek pre-approval, contact the instructor as soon as the impossibility abates (documentation required). Note the following applications of this rule: 
Health Emergencies: As a general rule, these should concern your own health, not others. However, if a student experiences a death or serious illness within his or her family or friends, please note that advance permission is still required, as is documentation. Colds and flues: Students who claim illness must still seek advance permission to miss so long as they are not hospitalized. An email will suffice. Students are not permitted to miss and say, ³oh hey, I was sick last week ± when is the makeup?´ ³I¶m depressed:´ Students who desire to miss examinations or extend due dates because of depression should have clinical documentation of the problem and a note from the treating physician. In short, students who experience clinical depression during the semester should seek help from their doctor(s) prior to asking the course instructor to accommodate the problem. ³I have to work.´ It is not a valid excuse to miss lectures or exams because of a work schedule. ³I registered late.´ This is not a valid excuse for missing. Personal issues ± Absences cannot be excused because of car trouble, snow, girlfriends, uncles and the like.   


If a student qualifies for an excused absence, make-ups must be administered as quickly as possible. For example, if a student suffers an illness one day before an exam, he or she is expected to take the test one day after recovery. The student can obtain no time advantage beyond the day(s) that he or she lost. Other Helpful Information: 
Emailing the Professor: When you email the professor, indicate what class you are from. Your professor is a complete nincompoop when it comes to remembering names and where people come from. Do not take the failure of him to know of your name as anything other than the enduring challenges he faces in life. Honestly, no one is more ridiculous in this respect. Do a favor and help him out: when mailing, say what class you are from. ³Curt Mails:´ Often, your professor receives ³tons´ of emails a day. It is not uncommon to answer them quickly so that they do not ³pile up´ or take away from other work. It is very possible that you may receive a one-line or oneword response to an email. This does not suggest impersonality or dislike for you. It simply means that, many times, emails are caught ³on the fly.´ A ³curt´ reply, therefore, only means your professor is multi-tasking or working when throwing the answer back at you. Emails tend to be short and without formality. Printed Papers: Unfortunately, your professor does not accept material where he has to print the document. Any and all material that gets handed in (papers, documents) must be printed by the student and physically handed in. There are no exceptions to this ever in the history of the world under pain of death. Muggings Before Class: When your professor enters the classroom, he has to set up several pieces of technology. For example, he needs to get his slide show and audio going, and needs to get his recording equipment working properly. This can take several minutes. Do not attempt to talk with him about course or personal matters at this time period. He¶s not able to speak to you about such things then. Instead, wait until after class or come by the office.   

Political Life (Issues and Development of American Political Life)
Once again, do not mug the professor while he is setting up shop.  Charged with Knowledge of Record: Students are officially charged with all course knowledge that is ³of record.´ This means that if something is announced in class, through email or on the course website, students are expected to know of it. The student is considered ³charged´ with the information, meaning that it is no excuse to say that you didn¶t know.


Caveat This syllabus should not be read as a communication which would cause the student to believe that he or she has the power to accept as an offer anything contained herein. The syllabus is not a contract; it is only a good faith estimation of what may or may not occur in the class. Similarly, students are now warned that they should not reasonably rely to their detriment on anything contained in the syllabus, as the instructor explicitly reserves the right and discretion to modify lawfully anything contained herein by his own unilateral act without regard to the expectations students may have formed by reading this document. ... ah, in other words: what the creator giveth, he taketh away.