United States Government and Politics

Austin Community College




Instructor: Karry L. Evans                                                      Office: Room 3118

Phone: 512-223-3394                                                                         Bldg. 3000.

Fax: 512-223-3414                                                                             1218 West Av.

Email: kevans@austincc.edu                                                                Austin, TX 78701



Course Description


This course is an introduction to United States national government. The course includes an introduction to a framework for understanding United States government and politics, the constitutional basis for United States government and politics, the processes of United States government and politics, the institutions of United States government and politics, and the policies of United States government and politics.


This course is worth 3 credit hours. It is an approved transfer course equivalent to University American National Government courses. This is a sophomore level course and it is highly recommended that you complete English Composition and History I or II before taking this course.



Needed Resources


The required text for this course is AM GOV, by Losco and Baker and published by mcGraw Hill. You may use the 2009, 2010 or 2011 edition. The text is availalable at bookstores around the ACC campuses or you may be able to purchase it cheaper online either in hard copy or as an e-book.


In addition, you are expected to stay informed concerning current political events through national news sources, such as the New York Times , the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the L.A. Times, The Economist, or other reliable national newspapers, all available in print or online.


Other information, including detailed assignment instructions and a course calendar, is posted online at the course blackboard website accessible via the ACC home page




Course Rationale


The purpose of this course is to provide you with the necessary knowledge and skills to participate in a democratic government. Democracy is a very difficult ideal to achieve because it demands that citizens be well informed on how the system works, as well as staying informed on current policies and participating through voting and other methods. Hopefully, this course will not only inform you, but also cause you to realize the importance of politics for your own life and for the society in which you live, work and raise your children.



Course Objectives


The following is a list of the main objectives this course is designed to help you achieve. These are items that you should concentrate on in order to be prepared for class discussions and exam questions. After completion of this course, you should be able to:       


1. Discuss the challenges facing a democratic system of government.

2. Describe the foundations, development and features of the U.S. Constitution.

3. Discuss the benefits and problems associated with our federal system of government.

4. Explain how political attitudes, values and behaviors are learned, organized and expressed.

5. Discuss the benefits and problems associated with the political party system in the U.S.         

6. Describe the operation of a political campaign, types of elections, and the factors that effect election outcomes.

7. Discuss the benefits and problems associated with the role of the media in U.S. government and politics.

8. Discuss various types of interest groups, including their goals and strategies.

9. Describe the structure, functions and operations of Congress.

10. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses associated with the presidency, including formal and informal powers and limits on those powers.

11. Discuss the role of the bureaucracy in policymaking, including its regulatory and implementation functions.

12. Describe the structure, functions and operations of the federal judiciary        .

13. Discuss the ways civil liberties and civil rights protect both the individual and categories of people.

14. Describe the policymaking process and the implications of various foreign and domestic policies on government and society.



 Instructional Methodology


This course is designed to introduce you to the study of U.S. government and politics. We will look at the structure and function of major institutions, the causes of conflict within the American political system and the role of values and ideas in politics and political conflict. Various facts, current events and theories will be integrated into our examination of American government to help you to understand politics and its significance and impact on your own life.


Effective preparation and meaningful participation are very important in determining the quality of this course. I believe that you learn by doing. Therefore, numerous individual and group activities are planned throughout the semester. These activities allow for much better understanding of the topics and make the class more enjoyable.


This course will also make use of the internet. All of the course materials are located on ACC's Blackboard system accessible through ACC's home page. You will need to log on to take the chapter quizzes and to post respsonses to the questions on the Discussion Board. The learning outcome assignments require you to research material online and send your completed assignment in a single email attachment.


There is no single, correct way to view American politics. During the course of this semester, I urge you to be open-minded, to engage in critical thinking and to question text and lecture materials, as well as other supplemental sources of information. My view of education includes the notion that the classroom is a community of scholarship. This requires an open-minded approach to the topics and consideration of other opinions. In order to get answers you must ask questions and the best questions follow from reading, thoughtful analysis of the material and listening to others.



Grading and Course Requirements


Your grade will be whatever you want it to be. I do not grade on a curve; consequently, everyone can earn an “A”. The course is divided into five units. For each unit you will have a quiz grade, a discussion board grade, and a learning outcome grade. I will drop the lowest grade for each of these assignments, meaning your final grade will consist of your four highest unit quiz grades, your four highest discussion board grades, and your four highest learning outcome grades. The possible points are distributed in this manner:


4 Online Quiz Grades worth 100 points each =              400              

4 Discussion Board Grades worth 50 points each =       200                           

4 Learning Outcome Grades worth 100 points each =   400                                                                                         

TOTAL  =  1000 points                                                                                                       


Letter grades will be assigned based on the total number of points accumulated.


900-1000 points =         90-100% =      A

800-899 points =         80-89% =        B

700-799 points =         70-79% =        C

600-699 points =         60-69% =        D

0-599 points =             0-59% =          F



Online Quizzes



Each chapter has an online quiz located under the "Course Documents" tab on the course Blackboard site. You will be able to take each quiz a second time if you are present during the class before the final deadline. The system will record the highest of your two scores. The combined chapter quiz grades for each unit total a possible 100 points. Your combined score for each unit will determine the four highest unit quiz grades that will be counted toward your final grade.



Discussion Board Forums


There is a discussion board forum for each unit located on the course Blackboard site. You will be asked to respond to questions about U.S. policy issues by researching the debate online. Each discussion board forum is worth 50 points for a total of 200 points. Only the top four out of five discussion board grades will count toward your final grade.



Learning Outcome Assignments



There is a learning outcome assignment for each unit under the "Learning Outcomes" tab on the course Blackboard site. The learning outcome assignments include options for writing essays or speeches or creating slide shows to demonstrate your understanding of the material.. You will also be able to substitute your own assignment for one of unit learning outcomes. You may choose to address the major issues covered in that unit in any format you choose. These include, but are not limited to, poems, songs, drawings, paintings, blogs, sculptures, plays, and essays. Each learning outcome assignment is worth 100 points for a totaol of 400 points. Only the top four out of five learning outcome grades will count toward your final grade.



Attendance and Participation


Just do it! Take advantage of a great opportunity many people don't have. Make the commitment to attend every class prepared to discuss the assigned topics. Arrive a few minutes early. Do not arrive late. If you cannot make it to class on time, do not come.


What's in it for you? Besides the opportunity to learn about yourself and the world you live in and develop critical thinking skills that will benefit you throughout your life, I will give fifty extra credit points to any student that attends every class prepared to engage in the learning process. I will give between ten and forty points to all students that miss less than four classes and contribute to the learning environment in the class room..


Classroom Etiquette


Expected classroom etiquette includes arriving to class on time, remaining in class until you are dismissed, and controlling whatever urges you feel to get up or disrupt class in other ways. Tardies and other disturbances will not be tolerated. Please inform me about any medical or other condition that might prevent you from meeting these basic requirements. It is also expected that you will show respect and consideration to me and your fellow students at all times. This includes paying attention and not engaging in other activities not related to what is happening in the class. If this is seen to be a regular problem, a mandatory conference will be scheduled to determine if you will remain in the class.


Incomplete Policy


In the event that a student successfully completes 2/3s of the coursework, but fails to attend sufficient classes to adequately fulfill the remaining requirements and has acceptable documentation explaining the reasons (hospitalization, incarceration, military duty) for their inability to do so,  I will give an Incomplete final grade. You are then responsible for making arrangements with me to fulfill the remaining course requirements by the end of the next semester. At that time, the Incomplete will be changed to the appropriate letter grade in your files.



Withdrawal Policy


Another alternative in the case of failure to attend class or meet the course requirements, is to officially withdraw from the class. It is your responsibility to officially withdraw from class if necessary.Withdrawal forms are available from the Admissions Office.



Evaluation and Feedback


There will be continuous evaluation of your performance and my performance throughout the semester. I will give you regular feedback through evaluation of your performance on quizzes and unit tests and through conversations with you about your participation in group activities and discussions. In return, I will be asking for periodic feedback from you concerning this course and my performance as your instructor. All of this is designed to allow everyone to perform to the best of their ability and improve the overall content and dynamics of the course.



Instructor Conferences


My office is located in Room 212 in the Attache building at 1209 Rio Grande. I am available for consultation during my posted office hours. If you need to meet with me at a different time, you can talk to me during class, email me or call my office at 223-3394 and make an appointment.



Scholastic Dishonesty


As described in the ACC Student Handbook, scholastic dishonesty constitutes a violation of college rules and regulations and is punishable according to the procedures outlined in the Handbook. Scholastic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating on an exam (either providing answers to or stealing answers from another student), plagiarism and collusion. Plagiarism includes use of another author’s words or arguments without attribution. Collusion is defined as the unauthorized collaboration with another person in preparing written work for fulfillment of any course requirement.


In the event of scholastic dishonesty, I will meet with the student to discuss the alleged offense. If evidence supports the charge, I will inform the student and the Assistant Provost in writing. The Assistant Provost shall asses a penalty appropriate to the charges and shall inform the student of such in writing. The student may appeal the decision of the Assistant Provost.



Disability Services


If you have a documented disability and wish to request accommodations, you should contact the Office of Students with Disabilities at 223-3142. The office is located in Room A155. The office director will meet with you and recommend appropriate accommodations and services after you have submitted the required documentation. Individuals eligible for services include, but are not limited to, those with chronic problems related to health, mobility, orthopedic, hearing, vision, speech, traumatic head injury, attention deficit, learning or psychiatric disabilities.



Academic Freedom


Each student is strongly encouraged to participate in class discussions. In any classroom situation that includes discussion and critical thinking, particularly about political ideas, there are bound to be many differing viewpoints. Students may not only disagree with each other at times, but the students and instructor may also find that they have disparate views on sensitive and volatile topics. It is my hope that these differences will enhance class discussion and create an atmosphere where students and instructor alike will be encouraged to think and learn. Therefore, be assured that your grades will not be adversely affected by any beliefs or ideas expressed in class or in assignments. Rather, we will all respect the views of others when expressed in classroom discussions.



My Pledge to You


         I will do my best to instruct this class and to increase your understanding of American national government.

         I will be kind and respectful to you as long as you treat me with the same kindness and respect.

         I will be fair in grading and expectations.

         I will do everything I can to make class interesting and applicable to your life.

         I am interested in who you are and what you do.

        I will be available to meet with you. If you need to meet with me and cannot make it to my office hours we will work out another time to meet.



My Expectations of You


         You will arrive to class on time and remain until class is dismissed.

         You will read the assigned chapters before coming to class and be prepared to discuss the issues covered in those chapters.

         You will complete all assignments and turn them in on time.

         You will conduct yourself in a mature manner appropriate for a college student and not disrupt class by talking when I am presenting information to the class.

         You will show respect for me and your fellow classmates.

         You will let me know when you do not understand the material or have difficulty with homework assignments or tests.





This course guide represents the course as it was planned prior to the beginning of class. I will make every effort to adhere to all the policies and procedures outlined above. In the event any changes are necessary, I will let you know.