School of Arts and Sciences




 Course Number

  POL 388-A

Course Title

  Politics of North America


 Fall Semester


 Spring Semester


Summer Semester

Credit Hours



Name of Instructor

 William Miller


Meeting Day, Time, and Room Number
 Tuesdays and Fridays at3:30-4:45pm, Rowley, Room G205


Final Exam Day, Time, and Room Number

 Tuesday, 3:00pm, May 9, Rowley G 127


Office Hours, Location, Phone

 Tuesdays and Fridays, 12:00-2:00pm. Ireton G107. (703) 284-1687 Always email ahead of time!


 E-mail and Web Site (Email is the best way to reach me!)  (All announcements and assignments are posted here, not on Canvas.)

Course Description

Examines the systems of government of Canada, the United States, and Mexico and their relations with each other. Prerequisite: a grade of C or better in POL 102, POL 103, or POL 104, a grade of C or better in POL 250 or any other WI course, or permission of instructor. Liberal Arts Core/ University Requirements Designation: GP, SS-2. (3)





By accepting this syllabus, you pledge to uphold the principles of Academic Integrity expressed by the Marymount University Community. You agree to observe these principles yourself and to defend them against abuse by others. Items submitted for this course may be submitted to for analysis.


For the benefit of current and future students, work in this course may be used for educational critique, demonstrations, samples, presentations, and verification.  Outside of these uses, work shall not be sold, copied, broadcast, or distributed for profit without student consent. 

Please address any special challenges or needs with the instructor at the beginning of the semester. Students seeking accommodations for a disability must complete the required steps for obtaining a Faculty Contact Sheet from the Office of Student Access Services (SAS). Students are then responsible for meeting with their instructors at the beginning of the semester to review and sign the Faculty Contact Sheet and develop a specific plan for providing the accommodations listed. Accommodations cannot be granted to students who fail to follow this process. Appointments with the SAS director can be scheduled through the Starfish "Success Network" tab in Canvas. For more information, check the SAS website, e-mail, or call 703-284-1538 to reach the SAS director or an academic support coordinator.


When students are absent due to a crisis situation or unexpected, serious illness and unable to contact their individual instructors directly, the Division of Student Affairs can send out an Emergency Notification. To initiate an Emergency Notification, students should contact the Division of Student Affairs 703-284-1615 or Emergency Notifications are NOT appropriate for non-emergency situations (e.g. car problems, planned absences, minor illnesses, or a past absence); are NOT a request or mandate to excuse an absence, which is at the sole discretion of the instructor; and are NOT a requirement for student absences. If a student contacts instructors about an emergency situation directly, it is not necessary to involve the Division of Student Affairs as arrangements are made to resolve the absence.

For non-emergency absences, students should inform their instructors directly. 


Copies of your work in this course, including copies of any submitted papers and your portfolios, may be kept on file for institutional research, assessment, and accreditation purposes. All work used for these purposes will be submitted anonymously. 


Weather and Emergency closings are announced on Marymount’s web site:, through MUAlerts, area radio stations, and TV stations. You may also call the Weather and Emergency Hotline at (703) 526-6888 for current status. Unless otherwise advised by local media or by official bulletins listed above, students are expected to report for class as near normal time as possible on days when weather conditions are adverse. Decisions as to inclement closing or delayed opening are not generally made before 6:00 AM and by 3:00 PM for evening classes of the working day. Emergency closing could occur at any time making MUAlerts the most timely announcement mechanism. Students are expected to attend class if the University is not officially closed. If the University is closed, course content and assignments will still be covered as directed by the course instructor. Please look for communication from the course instructor (e.g., Canvas) for information on course work during periods in which the University is closed.



The course examines the systems of government of Canada, the United States, and Mexico and their relations with each other.

2.  COURSE OBJECTIVES:  Upon successful completion of this course students will be expected to:


    Liberal Arts Core Outcomes (general and discipline-specific)


General Learning Outcomes – Skills – Analysis, Critical Reasoning and Problem-Solving 

Students will practice analytical discourse, critical reasoning and problem-solving through examination of the structure and function of the governments of Canada and Mexico as they pertain to the resolution of conflict and/or process of policy development available to these nations.

The outcome will be measured by performance on short and long answers on tests and the research paper.


General Learning Outcomes – Attitudes – Civic Responsibility

Students will apply their appreciation of the relation among individual choices, social issues, and global concern through analysis of the past and present practices of the governments of our two neighboring national states.

The outcome will be measured by class participation demonstrating knowledge of the reading and performance on tests.


Course-Specific Outcomes


Upon successful completion of this course students will be expected

(1) to demonstrate familiarity with theories of political representation as they relate to comparative government studies; 

(2) to demonstrate familiarity with the political history and present forms of government of Canada and Mexico;

(3) to demonstrate familiarity with the electoral politics of Canada and Mexico;

(4) to demonstrate familiarity with several of the significant issues presently facing the governments of Canada and Mexico; and

(5) to be able to analyze the structure of discursive writings about Congressional issues and to write and defend a short thesis on a topic relating to one or both countries of study.


These outcomes will be measured by class participation and in written papers and exams.




Lectures, discussion, and student presentations.



Friday, February 17, is the last day to drop a class without academic record

Friday, March 24, is the last day to withdraw from a class with a grade of a "W"


The final grade will be determined by grades on the examinations, on two class presentations, and on quizzes, assignments, and constructive class participation.


Quizzes. The usual scale of 90-100%=A, 80-89%=B, 70-79%=C, 60-69%=D, and 59% and below=F will be used for all graded work.


25% = Canada mid-term exam

25% = Mexico mid-term exam

10% = Class participation and quizzes.

20% = Seminar Papers/Presentations (I anticipate three or four presentations by each student this semester)

20% = Research Paper




Attendance: Beginning with the second week of the semester, students are allowed three unexcused absences and a total of nine absences, excused and/or unexcused. Students who miss ten or more classes for any reason whatever will receive an “F” in the course. Note: Occasionally coming to class late—even real late once or twice—is not considered an absence. Coming to class without hard copies of the text for the day or leaving class without the prior permission of the instructor, however, is considered an absence.


Each unexcused absence beyond three—up to the absolute limit of 9—will result in a lowering of the final grade by two percentage points. To be excused, an absence must be explained to and approved by me, preferably before it occurs. Excused absences are typically those that are documented, such as medical-, legal-, or job-related excuses. Merely informing me ahead of time that you will be absent from class does not mean I excuse the absence, though I appreciate your courtesy. You all get three unexcused absences to use as you see fit, and it is your decision to use it to stay home when you don't feel well or want to attend some other event or need to prepare for another class instead of going to my class. Use them for good reasons: that's what they are for.


The limit of nine total absences recognizes that excessive excused absences may also be a problem. You should discuss such situations with me well before the last week of the semester. This is not a distance learning class. Any absence prevents you from participating in the class, but if your job or an illness keeps you away from class, it will significantly affect the class participation component of your grade and may be a good reason to drop the course and take it another time. All of us find ourselves in these situations from time to time and have to deal with them appropriately. You also have an obligation to report this to a University office (see the section titled “Attendance” in the University Catalogue).


When in doubt about any of these policies, please come and talk to me. They have been formulated with our substantial commuter and working student population in mind and are intended to be fair to everyone. You should also review the University's policies on absenteeism in the section titled “Attendance” in the University Catalogue.


Make-up Exams: The same basic rules about excused absences apply to taking the mid-term. My policy of giving makeup exams does NOT mean that you may choose to take the mid-term exam on a day other than the regularly scheduled day: it is not an alternative test date. To be eligible for a makeup, you must qualify for an excused absence, and this you should do a reasonable time before the day of the mid-term, if that is at all possible. You may be excused from taking a mid-term if you are certifiably sick or your job prevents you from attending class or you have a serious family or personal or employment emergency on the day of the test. If one of these applies and I am informed in a reasonable time before the exam and you have written documentation to support your request, you may take the exam at an alternative time. If none of these reasons apply, you may not take the exam at another time, and you will get a zero for the exam. If you are late for the exam because of events outside of your control, let me know immediately or as soon as possible that day, and I will let you take the exam later that same day if possible. Again, because of commuting and work, I will be flexible in scheduling exams for you. 


5.  CLASS SCHEDULE  The following topics and dates of discussion are approximate and are subject to change due to cancelled classes, guest speakers, and so on. I shall try to maintain the due dates for papers and exams as they are listed below.


WEEK 1 (1/17-20) Introduction to the course; introduction to theories of political representation; introduction to parliamentary and presidential forms of government; introduction to direct and proportional systems of representation.

WEEK 2 (1/24-27) Voegelin handout; Canadian history (chapters from history text).

WEEK 3 (1/31-2/3) Canadian history (chapters from history text).

WEEK 4 (2/7-10 Canadian history (history text) and government (chapters from Malcolmson and Myers).   

WEEK 5 (2/14-17) Canadian government (chapters from Malcolmson and Myers).

Friday, February 17, is the last day to withdraw from a class without academic record.

WEEK 6 (2/21-24) Canadian government (chapters from Malcolmson and Myers)

WEEK 7 (2/28-3/3) Canadian government (chapters from Malcolmson and Myers) MID-TERM EXAM: MAKE YOUR TRAVEL PLANS ACCORDINGLY!!


Spring Break!


WEEK 8 (3/14-17) Mexican history (chapters from Edmonds-Poli and Shirk, Beezley and Myers)

WEEK 9 (3/21-24) Mexican history (chapters from Edmonds-Poli and Shirk, Beezley and Meyer)


Friday, March 24, is the last day to withdraw from a class with a grade of “W”.


WEEK 10 (3/28-31) Mexican history and government (Edmonds-Poli and Shirk)

WEEK 11 (4/4-7) Mexican government (chapters from Edmonds-Poli and Shirk)

WEEK 12 (4/11) Mexican government (chapters from Edmonds-Poli and Shirk)


WEEK 14 (4/25-28) NAFTA; North American political and economic issues.

WEEK 15 (5/2-5) NAFTA; North American political and economic issues (presentations)


The mid-terms will be given only at the regularly scheduled times. The final exam date is Tuesday, May 9th, at 3:00pm and is reserved for short presentations of your research paper. YOU MUST BE THERE OR FAIL —RECEIVE A ZERO—ON YOUR RESEARCH PAPER.

Please make your travel plans accordingly.




Edmonds-Poli, Emily,  and David A. Shirk. Contemporary Mexican Politics. 3d ed. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2012.


Malcolmson, Patrick, et al. The Canadian Regime: An Introduction to Parliamentary Government in Canada. 6thed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012.


Roger Riendeau, A Brief History of Canada. Markham, ON: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2000; Facts on File, 2007.




Many relevant historical and political sites for both Canada and Mexico are on the assignment page.


Additional Canadian history texts:


           Bothwell, Robert. The Penguin History of Canada. Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2006.


            Morton, Desmond. A Short History of Canada. 6th ed. McClelland and Stewart, 2006.


            Roger Riendeau, A Brief History of Canada. Markham, ON: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2000; Facts on File, 2007.


            C.E.S. Franks. The Parliament of Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987.



Mexican history:


            Beezley, William H., and Michael Meyer, edsThe Oxford History of Mexico. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.


           Camp, Roderic A. Politics in Mexico. 6th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.


            Emily Edmonds-Poli and David A. Shirk. Contemporary Mexican Politics. 3d ed. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016.


            Krauze, Enrique. Mexico: Biography of Power. Trans. Hank Heifetz. New York: HarperCollins, 1997. A History of Modern Mexico, 1810-1996.




For the benefit of the class and your classmates, the following rules regarding electronic devices also apply to this course:


1.   Turn your cell phone ringer off during the class. If you are expecting an important call, put your phone on “Vibrate,” sit near the door, and, when the call comes, answer it outside the classroom.

2.   It follows from the foregoing rule, but it must be separately stated: no talking and no texting on cell phones during class. If you do not follow this rule, I will publicly ask you to leave the room for the remainder of the class and will do my best to have you removed from the course for the rest of the semester.

3.   No open lap-top or other computers are allowed in class without my prior permission. Devices such as smart phones, tablets, Ipads, Kindles, Kobos, and Nooks that lie flat on the desk and on to which the readings can be loaded are permitted if approved by me, but hard copies of the readings are better. You can mark them up and take notes on them in class.

4.   Be sure to check your Marymount email address regularly! This is Marymount’s and my principal way of contacting you with important information. Perhaps you rely mostly on Yahoo, gmail, or some other provider, but check your mail daily to make sure you do not miss school information.

5.   Save copies of all of your papers and written assignments until at least a week after the end of the semester.


These rules are necessary to foster a suitable learning environment in the classroom during class. There are enough distractions with lawnmowers, air conditioners, and other outside forces to combat during lectures and discussions without these controllable distractions within the room.