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Political Science 101

This course has been designated a Writing Intensive (WI) course by Hostos Community College.  This means that through both formal and informal writing assignments, you will strengthen your writing skills.  It is expected that through these intensive, meaningful opportunities for writing, you will be able to become better writers and communicators, skills highly valued both in college and in the job market.

 Writing and Political Science:

         In this course, various writing assignments, such as your weekly summaries, short research essay assignments, written exams, and your research project will aid in your understanding of the development and growth of the United States of America.  We will seek to analyze large institutional structures in terms of the political influence they have on our society and on individuals in our society.  To successfully meet these goals, we will examine political issues and problems through writing assignments that have been designed to help you to engage in the laws and issues we will cover as a political scientist would: critically and analytically.  For example, memorizing the Bill of Rights might take you some time, and it may help you understand some of the concerns of the founding fathers, but if you write about the second amendment, and whether or not it ensures Americans the right to bear arms, then you must not only memorize material, but you must analyze, and understand the language and intent of the amendment. 

         Writing about what you have read, studied, and taken notes on leads you to draw connections between materials.  Writing pushes your thinking forward, making you a more inquisitive and critical student.  Once you have a deeper understanding of the material you can then bring in your own ideas, linking the thoughts you have today to the events that have taken place in history. 

         Outside of this classroom, your ability to write will benefit you once you leave Hostos Community College.  Whether you plan on entering the job market, or a four year college, the ability to think, write, and communicate clearly and effectively will make you stand out among your peers. 

 The Writing Assignments

Weekly Summaries and Class Participation (10%)

         Each week you are to hand in a summary of the assigned chapter. These summaries are due on the Friday the chapter is discussed.  On the syllabus, you will find a series of questions under each chapter heading.  You may use these questions to generate and organize your summary.

Because these summaries are designed to ensure your understanding of the main points of each chapter, use your own words and style when addressing the issues in the questions.  The summaries will also push you to think critically about the ideas and issues raised in each chapter, thereby making you an active participant in the learning process. 

The summary should be 1-3 pages word processed pages on 81/2” by 11” white paper. When the summary is returned to you it will have a mark of either

 1) Excellent- you have identified and fully developed all of the main points of the chapter

 2) Good- the main points are identified and there is some elaboration

 3) Satisfactory- you have identified the main ideas; but they need development

 4) Unsatisfactory (redo) – you have not grasped the main ideas of the chapter

 Though the summaries are not graded with numerical or letter grades, they do count, and failure to submit them will jeopardize your chances of passing the class. 

 Discussion Questions (part of class participation)

         The summaries described above will also prepare you for a weekly oral quiz.  Whenever I assign a new chapter, we will spend the first day on that chapter conducting a class oral quiz, in which I will randomly call on you to discuss important concepts in the chapter. 

 Essay Exams (40%, 20% each)

         Both your midterm and final exams are comprised of questions that require full-length essay responses and definitions of terms.  The midterm is given over the course of two days and the final during the assigned final exam time. On the first day of the midterm and the first half of the final exam you will be permitted to use your weekly summary notes to develop your answers.  This will not be permitted on the second testing day or the second half of the final exam.

         The reason you are given essay exams instead of a fill in or multiple-choice test are two fold. A successful essay shows that you have not only memorized the material, but that you have understood it, and can discuss it.  An essay question also benefits you because it gives you the chance to display the depth of your knowledge. 

The Research Project (30%)

         By the end of the semester you will be asked to submit your own research project, which will give you the opportunity to not only to study an aspect of political science.  You will be expected to choose a political issue that interests you, such as, “Should people be allowed to own guns?”, or “Should drugs be legalized?”  You will do library research.  You must have at least six outside sources.  Two may be from the web but cannot be encyclopedias and must be from academic journals on line or off and three must be books, Newspapers (only the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are acceptable).  In your paper, you are expected to synthesize the information gathered from the interviews, and the information from your library research.  The project will be completed in stages. (Complete instructions are at the end of the syllabus) Oral Report (counts as part of research paper grade) All final papers must be submitted to Safe Assignment on Blackboard before being given to me. The research papers are graded in the following way:  grammar is worth 15 points, in text citations are worth 15 points, the reference list is worth 10 points and content is worth 60 points.  In addition you can lose 2 points for incorrect numbering, 2 points for lack of a title page, to points for incorrect margins, 10 points a page for each page less than the minimum of 9 full pages and 10 points a day for each day the paper is late. 

 Oral Report (counts as part of research paper grade)


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The oral report will be your opportunity to share what you have learned from your survey project with your classmates. This presentation, though based on your paper, is not to be read from your paper.  Prepare an outline of your main points, and use this to structure your presentation.  The presentation is to be 5-10 minutes in length.  This includes time allotted to questions. 

 Short Essays (20%, 10% each)

         There will be two short essay assignments during the semester.  They are to be 2-4 word processed pages in length using 12 point type, and they will require you to approach the week’s reading critically, by engaging you with a thought-provoking question using information in the textbook and two other sources either newspaper articles (only the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal), scholarly journal articles, or books. Working with secondary sources will sharpen your research skills, will help you to think analytically, and will provide you with the opportunity to compare information from different sources.  Assignments and due dates are listed on the syllabus.   The essays are graded in the following way:  grammar is worth 15 points, in text citations are worth 15 points, the reference list is worth 10 points and content is worth 60 points.  In addition you can lose 2 points for incorrect numbering, 2 points for lack of a title page, to points for incorrect margins, 10 points a page for each page less than the minimum of 9 full pages and 10 points a day for each day the paper is late. 

 (Complete instructions for the essays are at the end of the syllabus) 

All final papers must be submitted to Safe Assignment on Blackboard before being given to me.

 Plagiarism:  Plagiarism is the use of any material that is not yours, whether quoted or put into your own words without referencing the material in the text on the reference list (in this class using A.P.A. format).  Plagiarism is cheating and as such is grounds for being failed in the course at the instructor’s digression.  When a student is failed for plagiarism they have the right to appeal.

Class Policies

  •         All work must be on standard 8 1/2 x 11″ paper.  Any assignment not turned in on time will be deducted from your final grade.  At no time will any paper be accepted written in pencil or pen or on anything other than standard paper. 
  •         No Incomplete grades will be given accept when a final exam is missed and then only with written documentation from a doctor.
  •         Make-ups on exams are only offered if you have a doctor’s note explaining your absence.  Make-up exams will be more difficult than regular exams because of the extra time you have to prepare for them. 
  •         All papers must be word processed on one side of the paper only.  There are no                     exceptions.
  •         Essay one, Essay 2 and the research paper must be submitted to Safe Assignment on Blackboard before being submitted to me.  You must hand in the full Safe Assignment with your paper.
  •         Papers must be double space, with no extra space between paragraphs
  •         You must use 12 point type and number the pages beginning with the first page of text and ending with the last page of text (title page and reference list are not numbered

 Attendance Policy:

Attendance is mandatory.  More than three absences can lead to failure in the course.  Lateness is also unacceptable and can lead to failure in the course.

 Cell Phones:

         Cell phones must be turned off during class.  Failure to do this will affect your grade.  Leaving the class room to receive phone calls is unacceptable and will be reflected in your final grade.  In addition if you leave the class room to take a phone call, you will be marked absent for the day. 

 Scheduled Assignments

 Week One: Political Science:  Problems and Perspectives

Topics for class discussion:

Methodology, Theory, Data, Hypothesis, other key aspects of social science. 

 Assignment for next week: Read chapter 1 and do a chapter summary.

 Questions to think about for your summary of Chapter 1:

What are we going to learn about our government?

 Week Two: The Spirit of American Government

 Assignment for next week: Read chapter 3 and do a chapter summary; read the United States Constitution including amendments in the books appendix (you do not need to summarize the constitution).  Choose topic for research project by next Friday.

 Questions to think about for your summary of Chapter 3:

What do we mean by limited government?

What do we mean by balance of power and rights of the individual?

Why has the constitution endured?

Are the rights guaranteed in the constitution enforced today?

Week Three: The Constitution; Research Methods; Topic for research paper due.

 Assignment for next week:  Read Chapter 5 and do a chapter summary.

 Questions to think about for your summary of Chapter 5:

How does our society protect the rights of individuals? 

How do we protect those rights while protecting the rights of society as a whole?

What is more important the rights of the individual or the writes of society?

 Week Four: Civil liberties

Assignment for next week: Read Chapter 6 and do a chapter summary.  Turn in draft of the questionnaire for the research project.  You must have my approval before you can use the questionnaire.

Questions to think about for your summary of chapter:

What do equal rights mean?

Does our society really strive towards equal rights? 

Has our society made progress in gaining equal rights?

How do we give everyone a fair chance?

What would it take to make society more equal?

 Week Five: The Struggle for Civil Rights

 Assignment for next week:  Read chapter 8 and do a chapter summary.

 Questions to think about for your summary of chapter 8:

How does public opinion develop? 

How do we learn to develop political ideas? 

Why does public opinion change?

Does public opinion have an impact on those we elect?

Week Six:  Public Opinion

 Assignment for next week:  Read chapter 10 and do a chapter summary.  Turn in reference list of the library and computer research you plan to use for your research project.  It is not expected that this list will be complete but the form must be

in correct APA format and word-processed.

Questions to think about for your summary of Chapter 10:

How did the two party system develop?

How does our system compare to other systems? 

Why haven’t other major political parties developed? 

How does a two party system limit our choices at election time?

Why do so many Americans chose not to vote?

Week Seven: Campaigns and Elections:  Defining the Voters Choice.

 Assignment for next week: Read chapter 9 and do a chapter summary.  Rough draft of Short Essay 1 is due

Questions to think about for your summary of chapter 9:

How do the media affect the development of politics?

How has the media changed and developed over time? 

What can the press do and what can’t it do?

Do you pay attention to the news?

Is this the information age or the lack of information age?

Week Eight: The Media

 Assignment for next week: Study for the midterm Good Luck!

Week Nine: Midterm:  

Assignment for next week:  Read chapter 13 and do a chapter summary.  Final draft of Short Essay 1 due.

 Questions to think about for your summary of chapter 13:

What does congress do? 

Who do congressmen and congresswomen represent? 

How is congress different from a parliament?

Does congress do its job?

Week Ten: Congress:

 Assignment for next week:  Read chapter 14 and do chapter summary.   Turn in ROUGH DRAFT of your research paper.  It must be  word-processed and as close to complete as possible.  No Late Drafts Will Be Accepted No Exceptions

Questions to think about for your summary of chapter 14:

How powerful is the president? 

How does he acquire that power?

Who does the president have to work with to maintain his power?

When it comes to power what advantages does the president have over congress?

Does it matter who is president?

Week Eleven: The Presidency: 

Assignment for next week: Chapter 16 and do a chapter summary.  Rough draft of Short Essay 2 due.

 Questions to think about for your summary of chapter 16:

What did our forefathers envision when the created the federal courts? 

What is the structure of the Federal courts? 

How do the federal courts relate to the state courts and how is this a reflection of federalism? 

What do we mean when we refer to the courts as policy makers?

What is the role of the U.S. Supreme Court?

Week Twelve: The Judicial Branch:

Assignment for next week:  Read chapter 18 (Separate Handout) and do a chapter summary.

 Questions to think about for your summary of chapter 18:

Why do so many people need welfare?

How could we make the system more successful?

What does being on welfare do to people?   

American Government

Short Essay Assignment 1

Requirements:

  1. The paper is to be 2-4 full pages in length, word processed and double-spaced.
  2. You will need to use two sources beyond the text book, one the New York Times and one the Wall Street Journal sources
  3. a) Read chapter 9 of your textbook
  4. b) Read a recent article (2008-2015) from the New York Times
  5. c) Read recent articles from The Wall Street Journal (2008-2015) that covers the same political event.
  6. The paper must be referenced using APA referencing.

Assignment: In this assignment you will use your textbook as well as two recent articles from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to further investigate the media’s relationship to democracy, by analyzing coverage of a recent political event/decision.

Goal: Chapter 9 of your textbook explores the relationship of the media to democracy. It raises several questions, such as: Is the media biased toward a particular political party? Does access to the personal lives of figures like the president inform the people, or is it sensational journalism that detracts attention from the main issues? Do the media cover both sides of a story?

In this assignment you will begin to answer some of these questions for yourself, by selecting two recent newspaper articles that report on a major political event (i.e. an election, a constitutional amendment, a Supreme Court decision, a scandal, etc), and analyzing the reporting style to draw a conclusion about the media’s relationship to democracy. You will use your interpretation of the article, and Chapter 7 to make this assessment.

This assignment will give you the opportunity to test and apply concepts raised in your textbook.

Writing the Essay: These are the steps you will take to organize and write the essay that will be handed in. You must complete all three parts of the assignment.

1) The Textbook: Summarize the main points made in chapter 9 about the media’s relationship to democracy. According to your textbook, in what ways do the media promote democracy? In what ways does it hinder it? To shape your answer, consider what your textbook says about:

  • Narrowcasting
  • Private control of the media
  • Investigative reporting
  • Sound bites
  • Bias
  • Public opinion and the news
  • Policy Agenda
  • Individualism

2) The Articles: You will then discuss your newspaper articles.

  1. What event is covered? Is the event a major political issue, or is it a personal story about a politician?
  2. What is the main point of the article?
  3. Is there any evidence used in the article? If so, what type of evidence? Documents? Hearsay? Photographs?
  4. Are two sides of the story introduced?
  5. Is the goal of the article to inform, to create a bias, or both? How do you know?

3) Pulling it together: Use passages from the article and terms from your textbook to explain what your article’s relationship is to democracy.

All final papers must be submitted to Safe Assignment on Blackboard before being given to me.

 Short Essay Assignment 2

Requirements:

  1. The paper is to be 2-4 full pages in length, typed, and double-spaced.
  2. You are to use chapter 14 of your textbook and either 3 books or 3 articles from scholarly journals as your sources. The textbook may be used as one of the books or one of the articles.
  3. The paper must be referenced using APA style.

The Assignment:

The Constitution states that, “The executive power shall be vested in the president of the United States of America”, and as your book explains, it then goes on to list just a few powers; yet, the presidency has grown in power since the ratification of the Constitution. Choose one of the presidents listed below, and explain how a single decision or a number of decisions made by that president changed the power of the presidency. Your choices are:

  1. a) Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  2. b) Woodrow Wilson
  3. c) Abraham Lincoln

In your essay, you should use the information from chapter 14 of your textbook and the secondary sources you have selected to address the following questions:

1) What were the decisions that the president made that affected the power of the presidency?

2) Your textbook outlines four aspects of the President’s power, which are listed below. How did the decisions made by the president you have chosen to study, affect the president’s power in the following four areas?

  1. Running the Government: The Chief Executive
  2. Presidential Leadership of Congress: The Politics of Shared Powers

iii. The President and National Security Policy

  1. Power from the People: The Public Presidency

3)  Were these decisions constitutional?

4) What were the long-term effects of these decisions on the four areas of presidential power listed above?

You may not use the web for this assignment except for newspapers and journals that are authored and also exist in a non-web format such as the New York Times.

All final papers must be submitted to Safe Assignment on Blackboard before being given to me.

  Research Paper Assignment

 The Goal: Because so much of the work done in the field of Political Science relies on survey research, this project is designed to familiarize you with that method by applying it to the topic of your choice.  Through this project you will accomplish three goals:

1)  You will understand how to develop, implement, and write the results using the survey method of research.

2)  You will broaden your knowledge of the topic of your choice, thereby mastering an aspect of the American political system.

3)  You will gain a better understanding of how public opinion is gauged and what some of the pitfalls are of trying to gauge it. 

 Project Overview:  In this project you will study a particular political or social issue and conduct library and on line research.  The paper is to be a minimum of 9 full pages but no more than 12 full pages, word processed, and double spaced not including the title page or reference list. 

 The Process:

  1. Choose a topic that has political implications and therefore lends itself to research.  For example:  the legalization of marijuana.  Begin to research your topic to familiarize yourself with the debates that surround it, and any other relevant background information.
  2.   Survey the information available.  Continue to research your topic.  You must have a minimum of 6 references; at least 4 of which must be book, Journals or Newspapers (Only the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal can be used when using newspapers).  The other 2 can be either books, articles from academic journals or authored web articles.  Journals may be online or hard copy.  The paper must be a minimum of five full double spaced pages’ not counting the title page or table of contents and a maximum of 7.
  3. Begin to write your paper.  Use the information gathered from the research to lay out the argument both for the topic and against.  You should not take a position in the paper either pro or con except in the conclusion.  Has it changed at all?  Does the information gathered from your survey contradict or support the information in your research?
  4.   All papers must be submitted to safe assignment on blackboard before being handed in to me.

 Suggested Topics

  1. Who is right on abortion, pro-choice or pro-life?
  2. Should Marijuana be legal for public use?
  3. Does our system of passing legislation at the federal level need to be changed?
  4. Should we have public financing of national elections?
  5. How should we treat poverty in America?
  6. Should we have national health insurance?
  7. Should we give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship?
  8. Does global warming exist and if so what should be done about it?
  9. Should gay marriage be recognized by government?
  10. Do we need to improve our education system; if so how and if not why not?
  11. Is the money spent on a college education worth it, pros and cons?
  12. Should we have one legal national language?

(other topics may be used with my approval)  All topics must be approved by me before you begin the research.  If you decide to do a research paper, you may not change your mind.  All research papers must first be submitted to safe assignment blackboard.  Failure to do so will result in an F (0) for the paper.  When you submit the paper both the safe assignment version and your word processed version must be there.

 

 

 

 

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