Political Science 120

POSC 120

Introduction to American Government

Catalog Entry

POSC 120. Introduction to American Government (AG)

Three Hours lecture (3).

Prerequisites: None

This course will introduce students to the study of American government. Philosophical foundations, constitutional development, institutions, and contemporary issues will be examined. There will be an emphasis on the continuing influence of founding principles. This course has been approved for General Education credit in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Area of the curriculum.


Detailed Description of Course Content

The course will be organized around the following sub- areas:

1. Founding principles.

a. Modern Democracy

  • The Declaration of Independence
  • The Federalist and Anti-Federalist arguments over The Constitution.

2. Constitutional development.

a. The Bill of Rights
b. Slavery debated
c. The modern welfare state and the Constitution.

3. Institutions.

a. The Presidency
b. The Legislature

  • The Judiciary

4. Political Process and Contemporary Issues.

a. Elections
b. Public Policy
c. Comparison of American democracy with other regimes
d. The character of American democracy


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The course will consist of a combination of lectures, written essays, oral presentations, and general discussion. The intention is to explore American government utilizing the founding principles as the organizing theme in each of the different sub-areas. It is the American philosophy of democracy that gives the course its form.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

The student will be able to:

1. discuss the founding principles of the American regime;
2. discuss the major constitutional disputes and controversies that have helped to shape the nature of the regime;
3. understand the relationships between the different institutions of American government;
4. analyze contemporary issues in terms of the basic principles of American democracy;
5. discuss some of the basic differences between American democracy and other contemporary regimes.

Broad General Education Goals

Students will be able to:

1. think critically and creatively about contemporary American government and the issues facing it by analyzing them in terms of the basic principles of American democracy;
2. construct logical and persuasive arguments concerning American politics through discussion and formal and informal writing assignments;
3. work with others in a shared process of inquiry and problem solving through class discussion and group work focused on the American political process;

Goals for Area 8 – Social and Behavioral Sciences

Students will be able to:

1. demonstrate how political scientists who study American government raise questions and think about public policy concerns;
2. demonstrate an understanding of the social and cultural factors that shape ideas and behavior through studying the American electoral process, the character of American democracy, and comparing American democracy with other regimes;
3. understand the correspondence between personal and political values within society and explore for themselves ethical implications by seeing that political situations often mirror those they will see in their personal lives;
4. demonstrate understanding of the diverse ways in which human relations have been structured by discussion of the basic differences between American democracy and other regimes.


Assessment Measures

Faculty will assess attainment of the course's objectives by evaluating the students ability to: (1) discuss the course objectives knowledgeably among peers and faculty alike, (2) write analytical essays on assigned subjects in the course, and (3) synthesize and apply concepts read about and discussed in class. Applicable assessment measures include:

1. Graded and ungraded homework assignments may be used to measure the student’s ability to identify underlying values and assumptions, to articulate central concepts of American government, to construct logical arguments, and to employ basic research methods.
2. Journals may be used to measure the development of self-reflection and progress, synthesize and apply concepts, and progress in critical and creative reasoning about American government.
3. Class discussions may be used to measure the student’s logical reasoning and oral communications skills as well as the student’s ability to work with others in a shared process of inquiry.
4. Individual and group oral presentations maybe be used to measure the student’s understanding of particular positions or issues in American public policy as well as the student’s ability to present logical and persuasive arguments.
5. Quizzes and objective tests may be used to measure the student’s basic knowledge of the course material and the student’s ability to read carefully and think with clarity.
6. Essay exams may be used to measure the student’s understanding of the nature and methods of the course material, ability to analyze and construct arguments, and ability to think and write with clarity.
7. Assignments utilizing the world wide web may be used to measure the students understanding of basic computer technologies and ability to assess the values and accuracy of available information.


Other Course Information



Approval and Subsequent Reviews

January 2000 Updated to conform to revised M. J. Franck, Dept. Chair