School of Design, Arts, and Humanities



COURSE SYLLABUS (as revised for online segment of semester)


 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
 Tuesday-Friday, 2:00-3:15pm, St. Joseph G102


Final Exam Day, Time, and Room Number

 Tuesday, May 5th, 3:00-5:30pm, St. Joseph, 103


Office Hours, Location, Phone

 Tuesdays and Fridays, 12:45-1:45pm. Rowley G1018. (703) 284-1687 Always email ahead of time!


 E-mail and Web Site Email is always the best way to reach me!

 Website: All announcements and assignments are posted on this website, never on Canvas. 

Course Description


Examines the systems of government of Canada, the United States, and Mexico and their relations with each other. Prerequisite: EN 102 and either POL 102, POL 103, or POL 104. Liberal Arts Core/University Requirements Designation: GP, SS-2. (3)





Examines the politics and the systems of government of Canada, the United States, and Mexico and their relations with each other. We shall also compare the recently negotiated USMCA Trade Agreement with its NAFTA predecessor.

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.




        Tuesday, January 21, 2020, is the last day to withdraw from a class without academic record

        Friday, May 1, 2020, is the last day to withdraw from a class with a grade of W (NOTE CHANGE!!!)




The final grade will be based upon two exams, several presentations, a research paper, and your participation in class discussions. 


25% = Canada exam

25% = Mexico exam

10% = Class participation

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

20% = Research Paper


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.


The exams and the written assignments are all based on the primary readings of the course: not on the class lectures, which are intended to help you understand the readings and not to substitute for the readings. No grade of "I" or "Incomplete" will be given. If possible, assignments and exams will be graded and returned within two weeks. Assignments handed in late will receive an F.  



Attendance: This is not a distance learning class. Beginning with the second week of classes, students are allowed 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.   

Each unexcused absence beyond three—up to the absolute limit of nine—will result in a lowering of the final grade by two percentage points. To be excused, an absence must be documented, unless I indicate otherwise. Excused absences are typically medical-, legal-, or job-related excuses. Acceptable documentation typically consists of a statement or form on official stationery (1) signed by a third party (doctor, police, judge, supervisor—not a parent or family member!) that (2) refers specifically to the day of absence from class and (3) the reason for the absence. If there is an on-going medical, legal, or employment condition that may affect your attendance, let me know at the beginning of the semester, not after the fact.


A lot of students are commuters. Occasionally coming to class late—even really late once or twice—is not considered an absence. Coming to class without hard copies of the text for the day, leaving the classroom for most of the class-time, or leaving class early without the permission of the instructor, however, is always considered an unexcused absence.


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. I will not excuse your absence because you are simply not feeling well or because you choose to do something worthwhile other than come to class even if you inform me ahead of time. If you are coughing and sneezing and coming down with a cold or the flu, and you don't want to spread your virus to your classmates, your fellow students and I salute you! Staying home may be the right thing to do, but it is not an excused absence. You all get three unexcused absences to use as you see fit, and it is your decision to use them 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 month of the semester. 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 mid-terms. My policy of giving makeup exams on the same day as the final does NOT mean that you may choose to take the mid-term exam on that day rather than on 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 legal 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 on the same day as the final exam. If none of these reasons apply, you may not take the exam at another time, and you will get a zero for the exam. Travel plans will never excuse an absence. Parental or family notes do not constitute proper documentation. 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 that same day if possible.




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. 




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, though they are tentative dates.


WEEK 1 (1/14-17) 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 (1/21-24) Canadian history (chapters from Bothwell history text).


 Tuesday, January 21, 2020, is the last day to withdraw from a class without academic record (FYI—

        It is also the last day to add a class.)


WEEK 3 (1/28-1/31) Canadian history (Bothwell).

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

WEEK 5 (2/11-14) Canadian government (Malcolmson and Myers).

WEEK 6 (2/18-21) Canadian government (Malcolmson and Myers); Research Papers on Canada due

WEEK 7 (2/25-2/28) Canadian government (Malcolmson and Myers); Mid-Term

WEEK 8 (3/3-6) Mexican history (chapters from Edmonds-Poli and Shirk)


          Spring Break!


WEEK 9 (3/17-20) Mexican history (chapters from Edmonds-Poli and Shirk)




WEEK 10 (3/27) Mexican history and government (Edmonds-Poli and Shirk)

WEEK 11 (3/31) Mexican government (chapters from Edmonds-Poli and Shirk)

WEEK 12 (4/7) Mexican political history: the emergence and consolidation of PRI hegemony

WEEK 13 (4/17) Mexican political history: the breakdown of PRI Hegemony

WEEK 14 (4/21) Current Government Institutions; (3/24) Term Papers Due

WEEK 15 (4/28) Contemporary Mexican Issues


Friday, May 1, is the last day to withdraw from a class with a grade of “W.”


The final exam will consist of one essay on Mexico and several shorter definitions/identifications from the vocabulary list.





Bothwell, Robert. The Penguin History of Canada. Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2007. ISBN 978-0143050322


Edmonds-Poli, Emily, and David A. Shirk. Contemporary Mexican Politics. 3d ed. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015. ISBN 978-1442220263


Malcolmson, Patrick, et al. The Canadian Regime: An Introduction to Parliamentary Government in Canada. 6thed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016. ISBN 978-1442635968




Students not officially enrolled in a course offered by the university may not attend class according to university policy. Faculty are responsible for upholding this policy and may not add students to a class roster in Canvas.


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. 

If you are seeking accommodations (class/course adjustments) for a disability, here are the steps to take:

1)      Register as a student with a disability with Student Access Services (SAS) in the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL).  This process takes time, so engage with SAS as early as possible.

2)      Once registered with SAS, you may be approved for accommodations by SAS.  Approved accommodations will be listed on a “Faculty Contact Sheet” (FCS), and you will receive a copy of this FCS from SAS.

3)      Meet with each of your instructors as soon as possible to review your accommodations as per the FCS, and have them sign the FCS. This document will help you and your instructors develop a plan for providing the approved accommodations.

4)      Let SAS know if you have any concerns about how your accommodations are being implemented in the classroom.


Please remember that:

1)      The steps above are required in order to be granted reasonable accommodations for disabling conditions.

2)      Accommodations cannot be implemented retroactively.  That is, accommodations can only be applied to a course after they have been approved by SAS, and after you have discussed your accommodations with your instructor and the instructor has signed the FCS.

3)      Appointments with SAS staff are scheduled through the Starfish "Success Network" tab (you can access Starfish through Canvas).  For more information, check the SAS website, e-mail, or call 703-284-1538.

Temporary Challenges

Temporary challenges due to accident, illness, etc. that may result in missing class or navigating general campus access do not necessarily fall under the purview of SAS. If you experience something of this nature, please start by alerting your instructors.  The Dean of Student Success may be involved in alerting instructors in extreme cases.


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.