School of Arts and Sciences




 Course Number

POL 104-B

Course Title

  American Government

 Fall Semester


 Spring Semester


Summer Semester

Credit Hours


Name of Instructor

 William Miller

Meeting Day, Time, and Room Number
 Wednesday, 9:30 to 12:15pm, Gailhac 2011

Final Exam Day, Time, and Room Number

 Wednesday, December 13th, 9:00am, Gailhac 2011

Office Hours, Location, Phone                                Always email ahead of time!

 Tuesdays and Fridays, 12:00 to 2:00pm; Wednesdays, after class; Ireton G107; 703-284-1687

 E-mail and Web Site Email is always the best way to reach me!     All announcements and assignments are posted on this web site, not on Canvas.

Course Description

An introductory survey and analysis of the political processes that describe the operations of the federal, state, and local branches of government. Intergovernmental relations are examined. Liberal Arts Core/University Requirements Designation: SS-1. (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 confidentially. 


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 course instructor (e.g., Canvas) for information on course work during periods in which the University is closed.



An introductory survey and analysis of the political processes that describe the operations of the federal, state, and local branches of government. Intergovernmental relations are examined.

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

 ·       General Learning Outcomes:

 ·       Skills - Critical Reason and Problem Solving

         1. Students will practice critical reasoning and problem solving through study of the structure and principles of American Government.

         2. Students will apply knowledge of political analysis of the American system of government.

         (Outcome will be measured by performance on papers and exams on topics such as presidential-congressional relations, the role of public opinion in governance, and/or the budget process.)

 ·       Attitudes – Civic Responsibility

1.     Students will understand that a system of self-government requires the exercise of civic responsibility to survive and succeed.

2.     Students will learn that civic responsibility is exercised by acting according to informed and principled choices.

(Outcome will be measured by demonstrating an understanding of these principles through in-class presentations and discussions)

 ·       Discipline-Specific Outcomes:

1.     Students will have an understanding of principles of American government; i.e. natural rights theory, guarantee of civil rights as contained in founding documents; i.e. Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. 

2.     Students will know the structure and functions of American institutions of government.

3.     Students will understand citizen responsibility as it exists and is exercised in a system of self- government.

(Outcome will be measured by identification, short answer, and objective questions on exams.)

 Introductory social science (SS1) objectives. After completing this course, students will be able to:

 1.        Critically engage competing explanations for change in the political systems in preparation for upper-division coursework.


 ·       Course Specific Outcomes  The design of this class is based on four parts: foundations, institutions, politics, and governance.    The course will begin by examining the rules, values, and principles behind our system of government.  The “politics” component of the course encompasses the entities outside of the formal government, including media, political parties, and interest groups. We will then turn our focus to government institutions: the Presidency, Congress, the Courts, and the bureaucracy.  We also examine the structure and function of state and local governments.  We will conclude the course by concentrating on public policy as a vehicle for governance.




Extensive class discussion of the readings and current affairs, and lectures by the instructor.



          Friday, September 29, 2017, is the last day to withdraw from a class without academic record.

          Friday, November 3, 2017, is the last day to withdraw from a class with a grade of W.

The final grade will consist of three components—your two best exam grades and the quiz-paper grade.

There will be two seventy-five minute mid-term examinations and one similar final examination. Each exam will be given only on the scheduled day during the semester. If you cannot take the mid-term at the scheduled time for reasons of sickness, legal, or job responsibilities, and if you provide me with satisfactory written documentation, you may take the exam immediately after the final exam, at present tentatively scheduled for December 13th. Note: December 13th is not merely an alternate day for a mid-term. You must present me with documentation of a legitimate excuse—an official note from a medical professional, from a court or government officer, from a job supervisor. Otherwise, missing the mid-term results in a zero for the exam. If you cannot take the final on December 13th, talk to me now, on the first day of class! 

There will also be a quiz at the beginning of each class. The quizzes will only be offered at the beginning of class; there will be no make-ups, so if your schedule does not permit you to get to class right at 9:30am on Wednesday morning, we must talk now. If you take the quiz and then leave class early without permission, or if you did not bring your textbook or other assigned reading to class with you, you will receive a zero on the quiz. The quizzes will focus on the assigned readings and are aimed primarily at determining whether you have read the material. You must keep up with the weekly reading assignments if you want to pass the course!!  Your total quiz grade, consisting of your best eight or nine quiz grades, will equal one exam grade in determining your final grade. If you do not understand something in the readings or lectures, ask questions.

If the schedule calls for both a mid-term exam and an introduction to a new topic in the second half of the class, you must attend the second half of the class or 10 points will be deducted from your exam grade.

 Each of the exam grades and the quiz grade amount to a possible 100 points. Your final grade is based on the percentage of total points that you earn out of a total of 300 possible points: 90 to 100% = A-/A, 80 to 89%=B-/B/B+, 70 to 79%=C-/C/C+, 60 to 69%=D-/D/D+, below 60%=F.

5.  CLASS SCHEDULE  (This schedule is approximate and may be adjusted throughout the session. I will try not to change the dates for the mid-terms and the final, however, unless absolutely necessary.)


CLASS ONE (August 30) Introduction to the course; basic political concepts, the United States Constitution, Federalism. (Turner text, Intro and ch. 1)

CLASS TWO (September 6—9:30 to 11:00am) United States Constitution, cont., (Turner text, Intro, ch. 1, pp. 13-35, and ch. 2, pp. 43-57)

CLASS THREE (September 13) Public opinion and Political Participation (ch. 4 & 5) 

CLASS FOUR (September 20) Political Parties and Interest Groups (ch. 7 and Federalist #10)

CLASS FIVE (September 27) Campaigns and Elections (ch. 8 and readings)


CLASS SIX (October 4) MID-TERM EXAM & Introduction to Congress and to the Doctrine of Separation of Powers


CLASS SEVEN (October 11) Congress (ch. 9 and Federalist #39)

CLASS EIGHT (October 18) Presidency (ch. 10 and readings)

CLASS NINE (October 25) Bureaucracy (ch. 11, ch. 2, pp. 58-67; and readings)

CLASS TEN (November 1) Economic Policy, and Separation of Powers (ch. 14 and Federalist #51) 


CLASS ELEVEN (November 8) MID-TERM EXAM & Introduction to the Federal Judiciary


CLASS TWELVE (November 15) Supreme Court and the Federal Judiciary (ch. 12; ch. 1, pp. 35-38)

CLASS THIRTEEN (November 29) Supreme Court and Civil Rights and Liberties (ch. 3 and readings)

CLASS FOURTEEN (December 6) Supreme Court Opinion; Politics and Media (ch.6 and readings)



FINAL EXAM The final exam is scheduled for Wednesday,  December 13th at 9:00 in Room 2011 of Gailhac, our usual classroom. It will only be giving at this time unless you have a bona fide conflict with another Marymount final exam. If so, you must bring it to my attention during the first week of the semester. Make your travel plans accordingly!


6.  REQUIRED TEXT       

Charles Turner, D. Grier Stephenson, et al. Introduction to American Government. 8th or 9th ed. Redding, CA: BVT Publishing, 2016, 2017. Please get the “Textbook Plus” edition.

 Daily Newspaper: online or paper version. I will also assign handouts and online articles for most classes.

A few additional rules for the class: 

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

1. At the beginning of class, turn your cell phones off and put them away.  If you are expecting an important call, inform me about it, 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 lap tops will be permitted in class without my prior permission. There have simply been too many problems associated with allowing access to the Internet during class time. You may use iPads, Nooks, Kindles, or other e-readers—any device on which the screen lies flat on the desktop—if you use the electronic version of the textbook.

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.

 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.