SYLLABUS

AP UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

SYLLABUS

COURSE DESCRIPTION

The AP course in American Government is designed to provide students with the analytical skills and factual knowledge necessary to deal critically with the problems and issues facing American citizens today.  The program prepares students for intermediate and advanced college courses by making demands upon them equivalent to those made by full year, introductory, college courses.  In May, it is expected that the students will take the AP American Government test for potential college credit. 

This course is about the American political system.  We will study, evaluate, and discuss political ideology, the development of the national political system and our democratic institutions. Students will be able to evaluate the role of the national government and its relationship to the concept of liberty in a pluralistic society.  Students will explore general concepts used to interpret American politics, analyze case studies, and examine how our government institutions and political processes produce policies that impact Americans.  By reading the text and supplementary materials and following current events, students will examine our government in action.  The two general themes of the course are “how should we govern?” and “what should government do?”  The following specific topics will be covered.   Students will be able to demonstrate:

·         Knowledge of the principles, institutions and processes of the national, state and local levels of government in the United States

·         The ability to engage in analysis, synthesis, and effective communication in writing and in oral presentations.

·         Understanding with the organization and power of the Congress, the Presidency, the Judiciary, and the Bureaucracy. This includes the formal and informal powers of these institutions as well as the ways in which they relate to each other.

·         Familiarity with the complexities of the US Constitution and development of federalism

·         An awareness of his or her “role” as a citizen, and how and why this participation is important to the continued success of our governmental system. 

·         Knowledge of the historical evolution of the United States party system, the functions and structures of political parties and the effects they have on the political process. Included in this area is an understanding of the various kinds of interest groups.

·         Understanding of the court system and evolution of public policy concerning civil liberties and civil rights

This is a college level class in Political Science.  As such, students are expected to demonstrate the personal initiative, study habits, and behaviors of a college student. To be successful in this class, students will need to exhibit strong reading and writing skills and a desire to stay on top of current events/affairs.  Unlike many courses that the students have taken, the emphasis in this course will be on an individual effort.  There will be some cooperative work done by the students but a significant amount of the student’s grade will depend on their own initiative and hard work.  The student will be expected to become learners both IN and OUT of the classroom.  This means completing the readings when required, completing the projects on a timely basis, and becoming aware of current events and political happenings. 

GENERAL EXPECTATIONS

It is expected that students will review daily the political events and current affairs that are occurring.  Knowledge of contemporary political events is essential for the analytical focus that must be exhibited in essays and class discussions. It will be the student’s responsibility to regularly review news articles found in national publications such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, international sources such as Al Jazeera and the BBC, and media sources such as CNN.

 Classes will be conducted primarily in a lecture and discussion format.  Board notes will be minimal but Power Point presentations will be used extensively.  It will be the student’s responsibility to take the necessary notes and provide a secure place for them [a notebook]. Some of the lectures and discussions will pertain to material either from a supplementary text or from handouts in class.  This should also be saved in a secure place [the notebook, remember?]. All presentations and assignments will also be posted on the Google Classroom page for students to access and review. 

CONTROVERSY

Many of the issues we will be dealing with bring with them strong emotional reactions. Many of these issues are ones which society has been debating for many years, even centuries.  You must recognize that controversy and widely different opinions and feelings are at the heart of many of these issues.  It would be surprising if some of the views studied and presented were not offensive, to some degree, to some of us.  It is important to understand that it is not the purpose of the course to change your mind or your beliefs.  It is not the purpose to teach that any particular viewpoint or proposed solution is the correct, proper, or right one.  The purpose is to prepare you to confront these problems in a relatively informed way.  No students grade will be affected either by the agreement or disagreement with what they may think is the instructor’s opinion or personal belief.  If any of the topics that will be studied are ones that you have extremely strong feelings about and would prefer not to participate in class or attend class while they are discussed, please see me outside of class. We will agree upon some type of alternative assignment.

TEXT AND MATERIALS TO BE USED

Edwards, George C. and Martin P. Wattenberg, Government in America:  People, Politics, and Policy.  New York:  Longman,  16th ed. 2016.

 Serow, Ann and Everett Ladd, The Lanahan Readings in the American Polity, Baltimore, 6th ed. , 2016

 Woll, Peter.  American Government:  Readings and Cases.  New York, 17th ed., 2008.

 

GRADING POLICY AND METHODS OF ASSESSMENT

·         Chapter tests:  An essay exam will be given on most chapters.  This exam will closely approximate the AP essay questions given on the AP exam.  It will also be graded like the AP essay question.  This grading procedure will be explained to you in class before the first chapter test.

·         Unit tests:  At the end of every unit [usually three chapters] there will be a sixty-question multiple choice exam on the material in the unit. This exam will closely approximate the AP multiple choice test given on the AP exam.

·         Quizzes:  These will be given on a regular basis.  The website Albert.io will be the source of many of the quiz questions

·         Current Events presentation:  Groups of students will be required to give a fifteen to twenty minute Current Events presentation on days assigned to them.  Group membership and the order of presentations will be determined the first week.

·         Socratic Seminars:  Students will read an article or short group of articles and then will lead and participate in this seminar.  There will be two or three of these each semester. 

Other activities:  these will be at the teacher’s discretion

 

The effect of the assessments on the student’s final grade will be approximately as follows:

Chapter and Unit tests = 60% of the grade

Current Events presentation = 10% of the grade

Socratic Seminars = 20% of the grade

Other Activities = 10% of the grade

 

The grading system used in this class is a point system.  The points will be converted to a percentage and that will be the basis for the letter grade

A    = 92.5­100%       A­  = 90­92.49%

B+  = 87.5­89.99%    B   = 82.5­87.49       B­   = 80­82.49

C+  =77.5­79.99        C    = 72.5­77.49      C­   = 70­72.49

D+  =67.5­69.99       D    = 60­67.49

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