Roanoke College – Public Affairs Department poli–101E: introduction to political science spring, 2015

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Roanoke College – Public Affairs Department


Spring, 2015

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

  • James Madison1

Instructor: Roy H. Kirby III

Email: (most reliable method of communication)

Classroom: WEST Hall, Room 210

Course Time: Monday & Wednesday from 5:45-7:15PM (Block E1)

Office Location: WEST Hall, Room 223

Office hours: MONDAY 9:00-10:00PM, WEDNESDAY 9:00-10:00PM

Office phone: 378-5148 (please leave a message for me with Judi Pinckney)


This course is a direct response to the quote from James Madison, seen above. The great American experiment in self-government requires an informed and knowledgeable citizenry. Without knowledge of how government works and a grasp of current events, it is quite difficult - if not impossible - for citizens to hold government officials accountable for their actions. Hence, we cannot govern ourselves effectively without heeding the words of James Madison, one of our preeminent founding fathers.

Self-governing requires an understanding of politics. This course is designed to provide students with a comprehensive overview of political science. To this end, the course will 1) introduce principles of the scientific study of politics; (2) describe a set of core concepts in the study of politics; and (3) provide an overview of the various subfields of Political Science. The material covered in this course will provide a solid foundation for any of the majors within the Public Affairs Department.


Students that receive a passing grade in this course should:

  • Value the role the United States Constitution continues to play in American society.

  • Hone oral and written communication skills, which are essential to a successful career.

  • Develop the ability to think critically about government, question the underlying logic of political decisions, and explore the role of government in society.

  • Exhibit a better understanding of what government is, what it does, and how it has evolved.

  • Scrutinize their responsibilities as citizens.

  • Evaluate how institutions and ideologies influence political behavior.


The following books and materials are required for this course:

Magstadt, Thomas M. 2013. Understanding Politics: Ideas, institutions, and issues. 10th ed. Boston: Wadsworth.

READ A DAILY NEWSPAPER OF YOUR CHOOSING. It can be a national newspaper (e.g. The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc.) or a local newspaper (e.g. The Roanoke Times, etc.).

The following books and materials are strongly recommended for this course; particularly if you plan on earning a major, minor, or concentration within the Public Affairs Department:

Scott, Gregory M., and Stephen M. Garrison. 2012. The political science writer’s manual. 7th ed. New York: Pearson.


The student’s grade for this course is determined by the following factors:

  1. Three Tests2

    1. Tests will consist of a mixture of true/false and multiple-choice questions. Additionally, there will be a written essay component designed to evaluate student critical thinking skills. The essays should be approximately one page or more in length.

  2. Final Examination

    1. The final exam will be comprehensive and shall have a format identical to the first three tests.

  3. In-Class Presentation3

    1. During the semester, each student will give a 10-minute presentation about his or her Congresspersons. Particular focus should be applied to the student’s representative in the House.

    2. Research papers (page length and content requirements to be determined by the instructor) will be assigned to make up in-class presentations, but only if the presentation was missed due to a medical or family emergency (further verification - such as a doctor’s note, etc. - may be required).

  4. Ten (10) Randomly Assigned Quizzes

    1. Quizzes measure student comprehension of the assigned readings, current events, class discussion, and instructor elucidations.

  5. Class Participation and Attendance

    1. Points are awarded for thoughtful, respectful participation. This applies to class discussion contributions, paying attention when others are speaking, and attending each class session on time.

Grading Scale:

97-100 A

93-96 A

90-92 A-

87-89 B+

83-86 B

80-82 B-

77-79 C+

73-76 C

70-72 C-

67-69 D+

63-66 D

60-62 D-

Below 60 F

The student’s final course grade will be determined as follows:

  • Test #1 10%

  • Test #2 10%

  • Test #3 10%

  • Quizzes (1% each) 10%

  • In-Class Presentation 25%

  • Final Exam 25%

  • Participation/Attendance4 10%


  1. Students are expected to attend each class session and be on time. I respect student time by ending classes promptly, please respect the instructor’s time by being punctual. Any instance of student tardiness will count as ½ of an absence. If any student is more than five (5) minutes late, that student must talk to the instructor immediately after class5 to explain why the lengthy tardiness occurred. The instructor reserves the right to change a tardy to an absence based on evidence presented during the post-class discussion. Students are permitted an equivalent of up to four (4) excused absences.6 Students whose tardiness and/or absences seem to be contributing to unsatisfactory performance may receive a formal written warning concerning this problem; continued tardiness and/or absences after such warning will cause the instructor, in conformance with College policies, to drop the student from the course with a failing grade (“DF”).

  2. Make-up Policy: It is the student’s responsibility to make up missed work. If a class session is missed, please consult a classmate to obtain notes from that day’s discussion. If an assignment is missed, please see the following guidelines. QUIZZES: An important purpose of the quizzes is to encourage class attendance. Hence, makeup quizzes will only be granted under extenuating circumstances that are approved by the instructor (further verification - such as a doctor’s note, etc. - may be required). It is the student’s responsibility to see the instructor if a quiz is missed, to determine make up eligibility. TESTS: A research paper (page length and content requirements to be determined by the instructor) will be assigned to make up any missed examinations, but only if the examination was missed due to a medical or family emergency (further verification - such as a doctor’s note, etc. - may be required). FINAL EXAM: The final examination cannot be made up after the examination date, except under extreme life-altering circumstances,7 due to strict grade submission deadlines.

  3. Late Submission Policy: Being unprepared for the in-class presentation will result in a 15 point deduction per class session for up to two (2) class sessions until the presentation is completed. No presentation will be accepted after the second late class session and shall receive a grade of 0 “F.”

      1. Illnesses, family situations, and other unforeseen incidents do occasionally occur. If such incidents arise that may hinder assignment completion by the required due date, please consult your instructor immediately (email is the most reliable method of communication).

  1. I encourage the RESPONSIBLE use of laptops in class. ALL OTHER ELECTRONIC DEVICES (which includes - but is not limited to - cell phones) MUST BE TURNED OFF AND PLACED FACE DOWN ON THE DESK.8 It is a simple matter of respect for others. Additionally, internet access is prohibited for all students while class is in session. The instructor reserves the right to perform a visual inspection of any electronic device at any time based on probable cause of irresponsible use. Negative consequences are in order for inappropriate use of electronic devices (e.g. using the internet to browse websites, post on Facebook, view boards on Pinterest, text, etc.). A first violation shall result in a formal written warning and a grade of 0 “F” for the participation points segment of the final course grade. This will negatively affect the student’s final course grade. A second violation will result in being dropped from the course with a failing grade (“DF”). This will negatively affect the student’s cumulative GPA. Inappropriate use of electronic devices during examinations will be considered a breach of academic integrity!

  2. This course relies on student participation in discussing and analyzing course terms. Active participation will facilitate the learning process and benefits all parties involved. Each person shapes his or her own learning environment. Every class you take is as interesting or boring as you make it … so let’s make this class fun! (Even instructors disdain boring classes!)

  3. If you are on record with the Roanoke College Office of Special Services as having special academic or physical needs requiring accommodations, please discuss this with your instructor immediately. Accommodations must be discussed before they can be implemented. Also, please note that the student is responsible for scheduling extended times on exams and testing in a semiprivate setting; such preparations must be made at least one week ahead of time. If you believe you are eligible for accommodations but have not yet formally contacted the Office of Special Services, please contact the Center for Learning & Teaching (x2247).

  4. Students may not use audio and/or video recording devices in class (this includes features and/or apps on phones).

  5. You are a member of a learning community, which enjoys intellectual freedom; but with such freedom comes academic responsibility. Doing your own work and properly acknowledging the work of others is the foundation that academia is built upon. When you arrived at Roanoke College you pledged to uphold these values and abide by the practices and policies described in the brochure “Academic Integrity at Roanoke College.” It is your responsibility to read this brochure carefully and understand it well.

In a course such as this one, which involves independent scholarship and writing, it is especially important to cite and discuss your sources as a part of our intellectual exchange. As a matter of honesty, it is imperative that you understand what plagiarism is and avoid even unintended violations because any Academic Integrity violations will be dealt with swiftly and severely! For this reason, if you ever have any questions concerning Roanoke College’s Academic Integrity policy, please consult your instructor immediately. That is what I am here for!  Please follow the hyperlink to obtain more information on Academic Integrity at Roanoke College.


Week 1 & 2 (Jan. 12, 14 & 19, 21) – Politics and Ideology in the United States

Week 1 Readings (Jan. 12 & 14):

  • An overview of the syllabus and course expectations.

  • Read Chapter 1.

Week 2 Readings (Jan. 19 & 21):

  • Read Chapter 2.

Week 3 (Jan. 26 & 28) – Political Science Research Methods

  • Read pp. 5-6 of “Salsa Dancing? In the Social Sciences?” (Chapter 1). Official citation below:

Luker, Kristin. 2008. Salsa dancing into the social sciences: Research in an age of info-glut. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • Read pp. 41-44, & 51-52 of “Paradigms, Theory, and Social Research” (Chapter 2). Official citation below:

Babbie, Earl. 2001. The practice of social research. 9th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

  • Read pp. 7-13 of “The Definition and Measurement of Concepts” (Chapter 1). Official citation below:

Pollock, Philip H. 2009. The essentials of political analysis. 3rd ed. Washington D.C.: CQ Press.

  • Read pp. 237-249, & 258-261 of “Survey Research” (Chapter 9). Official citation below:

Babbie, Earl. 2001. The practice of social research. 9th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Week 4 (Feb. 2 & 4) State and Local Government

  • Read “The Setting of State and Local Government” (Chapter 1). Official citation below:

Saffell, David C., and Harry Basehart. 2009. State and local government: Politics and public policies. 9th ed. Boston: McGraw Hill.

Week 5 (Feb. 9 & 11) – Political Theory: Models of Representation that Influenced the Founding Fathers

  • Read Chapter 4.

  • TEST #1 on MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9th (All material from weeks 1-4 will be covered.)

Weeks 6 & 7 (Feb. 16, 18 & 23, 25) – An Experiment in Self-Governing: The United States Constitution

Week 6 Readings (Feb. 16 & 18):

  • Read the Declaration of Independence in its entirety (found at the link below).

  • Read “The Constitution” (Chapter 2). Official citation below:

O’Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, & Alixandra B. Yanus. 2011. American government: Roots and reform (2011 ed.). Boston: Longman.

Week 7 Readings (Feb. 23 & 25):

  • Read the U.S. Constitution in its entirety (found at the link below).

    • One cannot comprehend how government functions without first understanding the U.S. Constitution. Hence, it is important to read the U.S. Constitution thoroughly and critically.

  • TEST #2 on WEDNESDAY, FEB. 25th (All material from weeks 5-7 will be covered.)

Week 8 - Civil Liberties (March 9 & 11)

  • Read “Civil Liberties” (Chapter 5). Official citation below:

O’Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, & Alixandra B. Yanus. 2011. American government: Roots and reform (2011 ed.). Boston: Longman.

Weeks 9 & 10 (March 16, 18 & 23, 25)American Political Institutions

Week 9 (March 16 & 18):

  • Read “Congress” (Chapter 7). Official citation below:

  • O’Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, & Alixandra B. Yanus. 2011. American government: Roots and reform (2011 ed.). Boston: Longman.

Week 10 (March 23 & 25):

  • Read “The Presidency” (Chapter 8). Official citation below:

O’Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, & Alixandra B. Yanus. 2011. American government: Roots and reform (2011 ed.). Boston: Longman.

Weeks 11 & 12 (March 30, April 1 & 6, 8) – Political Socialization and Public Participation

  • TEST #3 on MONDAY, MARCH 30th (All material from weeks 8-10 will be covered.)

Week 11 (March 30 & April 1):

  • Read Chapters 10.

Week 12 (April 6, & 8):

  • Read Chapter 11.

  • Read “Getting Involved Personally: If Not Me, Then Who?” (Chapter 1). Official citation below:

Brand, Cabell. 2010. If not me, then who? How you can help with poverty, economic opportunity, education, healthcare, environment, racial justice, and peace issues in America. 2nd ed. New York: iUniverse.

Week 13 (April 13 & 15) – Public Policy

  • Read “Introducing the Policy Process” (Chapter 1). Official citation below:

Birkland, Thomas A. 2010. An introduction to the policy process: Theories, concepts, and models of public policy making. 3rd ed. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.

  • Read pp. 202-215 of “Policies and Policy Types” (Chapter 7). Official citation below:

Birkland, Thomas A. 2010. An introduction to the policy process: Theories, concepts, and models of public policy making. 3rd ed. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.
Week 14 (April 20) Comparative Political Systems: Politics and Administration in Great Britain

  • Read Chapter 7 (pp. 142-149).

  • Read pp. 26-34 of “The United Kingdom” (Chapter 2). Official citation below:

Rohr, John S. 2002. Civil servants and their constitutions. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.

Week 15 (Thursday, April 23 from 6:30-9:30PM) – COMPREHENSIVE FINAL EXAM

1 Gaillard Hunt, ed. The Writings of James Madison: Comprising His Public Papers and His Private Correspondence, Including Numerous Letters and Documents Now for the First Time Printed., vol. 9, years 1819-1836 (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1910), 103. The quote is excerpted from a letter written by James Madison to W. T. Barry on August 4, 1822.

2 All test and examination dates are highlighted in yellow throughout the syllabus.

3 Please see the separate handout entitled “POLI-101 In-class Presentation Procedures” for more information about the in-class presentation.

4 Class participation is worth 7% and attendance is worth 3% of the final course grade.

5 Meeting immediately after class is mandatory. If the student leaves class without meeting with the instructor, the tardy will be counted as an absence.

6 The four absences can result from a combination of being late for class and/or absences. A student that never misses a class session, but is late for class eight times has accumulated the equivalent of four absences.

7 The term “extreme life altering circumstances” means serious, life-threatening illness (e.g. cancer, a massive heart attack) of you or a very close relative; the death of a close relative would also apply under this term. Appropriate supporting documentation will be required.

8 In case of emergencies (anticipating news concerning an ill family member, birth of a family member, etc.), an exception to this rule may be made through prior consultation with your instructor.

9 The instructor reserves the right to add or subtract readings as necessary through handouts and/or Inquire postings. It is also important to know that the dates provided are GUIDELINES. There may be times in the semester where we lag a day or two behind due to a variety of reasons (e.g. inclement weather). When reading the course schedule, the important things to know are 1) the order of weekly topics will remain unchanged, and 2) students should have the readings done for a weekly topic prior to entering class. We cannot have a class discussion if the readings are not read ahead of time.

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