External Course Syllabus - Bemidji State University


Bemidji State University

Introduction to American Politics

External Studies - www.bemidjistate.edu/POL1200/ Political Science 1200 Dr. Patrick Donnay 240 Hagg-Sauer, Bemidji State University, Bemidji, MN 56601 Phone (218) 755 3899 email: [email protected]

An Introduction:

This course is a modified version of the course I teach on campus. It uses many of the same materials, but both the testing process and extent of student-teacher interaction is very different. This course is based on what we call the guided self-directed model. This is in contrast to a full fledged web based course. In many web based courses much of the content is online and the teachers of the courses expect continual web based interaction with students. That is not the case with this course. However, there is a web site associated with the course. Access to it is not required, but you might find it useful because there are useful links, example answers and answers to frequently asked questions. You'll find it on the web at


This course is premised on the notion that students will largely guide themselves through completing the assignments. It still relies heavily on a traditional textbook. Exams are to be scheduled through the External Studies office at Bemidji State University who will arrange test proctors. Occasional questions directed to me are fine, but don't expect much coaching or deadline watching from me. I have tried to provide enough guidance in the design of the course through offering of examples to enable students to successfully complete the course.


The course is intended to provide students with the basic tools for thinking about and understanding the American political system. It is not a “civics” course, but rather a much more analytical and critical evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the American political system. Students should be looking to evaluate the political institutions that shape their lives. If the statement, “knowledge is power” has meaning, it is especially applicable when learning the rules of access and influence in our political system.

Assigned Reading Materials:

Cummings and Wise,

Democracy Under Pressure - An Introduction to the American Political System

, Election Update 2006, Alternate Edition 10th Edition ©2007 One of the following, Living History (Hillary Clinton) State of Denial (Bob Woodward) Worth the Fighting For (John McCain)

Grading for the Course:

Grades will be based on three examinations and a book report. Each is worth a possible 75 points for a course total of 300.

The Exams:

The examinations will consist of short, (approximately 75 word), concept identifications and analysis. The concepts to be known for each chapter are identified in the study guide. Examples exam answers are also provided. You need to define the concept and relate some aspect of its contemporary political significance. Twenty of the concepts will appear on each test, you will be expected to answer 15 of them. Each answer is worth a maximum of 5 points. Be sure to complete one exam at a time and get my comments on each exam before completing the next one. It is a very risky strategy to turn in all the exams at the same time without knowing my expectations.

The Book Review:

The book review should be between 2-3 pages long, double spaced, typed, and stapled. It is not necessary to include a title page, it will not be included in the assessing the paper’s length. Simply put your name on the first page of the essay and incorporate the title of the book you are reviewing in your essay title. Papers should include a review of aspects of the book that you find most interesting and significant in American politics. It should also include a discussion of your likes and dislikes of the book. There is no “right” or “wrong” content for these papers. I want you to demonstrate that you have read the book and made a determined effort to understand it. I will be looking for your ability to focus your thoughts on particular points and dissect them for their strengths and weaknesses. To do this effectively you will need to concentrate on good writing techniques. Poor grammar, misspelled words, awkward phrasing and mistakes like these all detract from what otherwise might be a good point. Remember, politics is about persuasion. Most persuasion is linked to effective oral and written communication. The paper is worth a maximum of 75 points. Exams (75 points each, 3 of them) Book Review Total

Exam Schedule

Chapter 1 - Government and People Chapter 2 - The Constitutional Framework Chapter 3 - The Federal System Chapter 4 - Civil Liberties and Citizenship Chapter 5 - The Struggle for Equal Rights

Exam One

Chapter 6 - Public Opinion Chapter 7 - Interest Groups Chapter 8 - The Media and Politics Chapter 9 - Political Parties Chapter 10 - Political Campaigns and Candidates

Exam Two

Chapter 11 - Voting Behavior and Elections Chapter 12 - The Congress Chapter 13 - The President Chapter 14 - The Bureaucracy Chapter 15 - Justice (up to section on criminal justice)

Exam Three

225 points 75 points 300 points

The book review should be turned in after completion of the three exams.