American Government
”If men were angels, government would not be necessary.”
                                                                -James Madison

Fall 2012
American National Government/Marquette
Tentative Course Syllabus
Professor: Amanda Cook Fesperman
Office: D307
Phone: 224-0203
Web Page:
Office Hours: M 1:15-2:15, T: 9:00-12:30, Th: 1:45-2:15 or by appointment.

ReaCH FaR:
The bold letters in this statement represent the Core Values of IVCC.  They stand for – Responsibility, Caring, Honesty, Fairness and Respect.  It is expected that the students and the professor will know and carry out these values in all aspects of this course.
Caring-- one of IVCC's core values - has been chosen as this year's campus-wide theme. Caring influences each of us daily -- at school, in our homes, at work, and in our fields of study. Keep the theme in mind as you complete course activities and interact with others on campus and in the community this semester.

Syllabus Changes:
I reserve the right to change the syllabus at any time during the semester.  Students will be notified through blackboard/email of any changes.

Required Texts and Materials:
Geer, Schiller, and Segal, Gateways to Democracy, Cengage Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9189-0695-6, can be purchased in the IVCC bookstore in person or online at (Note: This book is available for rental through the IVCC Bookstore for a significant discounted price.  Contact the IVCC bookstore for further inquiries.)  Information on the textbook rental program can be found at

Blackboard Access
I will be using Blackboard for the purposes of group email and for grading.  You will be enrolled as a Blackboard user by me.
Blackboard, can be linked to at  You can find information about logging into and using blackboard by visiting the following link:

Supplementary Reading Materials:
Newsweek, Newsmax, Time, and/or U.S. News and World Report and Chicago Tribune, New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today (latest copies are available in the library's periodical section and on-line).  Online Newspapers –,,,,

Course Objectives:
To prepare the student to become a functioning citizen by becoming more aware of the United States system of government, its strengths and its limitations.
To illustrate the inequalities that exist in society, analyze how the United States system of government may perpetuate these inequalities, and look for solutions to the problems of inequalities in society.
To give the student an understanding of the nature and scope of political science both theoretically and historically.
To make the student aware of her/his social and cultural biases in order to learn critical analysis skills.
To assist students in demonstrating a competent understanding of United States government in the following ways:
*Ability to describe the philosophies underlying United States governmental systems.
*Ability to explain factors associated with political socialization and contemporary political activities.
*Ability to describe and analyze the social and political issues besetting United States’ democracy in the 20th Century.
*Ability to describe and analyze contemporary United States governmental institutions at Federal, State, and local levels.

Class Participation – 20%
Class attendance is required and students should come to class prepared to discuss the materials assigned for that week and to discuss any news items on the United States government they come across that should be raised for discussion.  I hope that students will come to class with insightful questions and/or comments about the assigned readings and news stories, and I will also be calling on students at random to answer some questions of my own.  Answers to my questions should show that the student has read and understands the class materials and that she/he has the ability to apply critical thinking skills to those materials.  The quality of your contributions is more important than the quantity, but both are expected.

Below are some guidelines that may help you to understand my expectations and how you will be graded on this portion of your grade.

Excellent contributor (A): The student attends class on a regular basis and comes prepared with insightful comments and questions about the course materials.  The student also shows a high level of critical thinking in evaluating course materials.  The class as a whole benefits highly from this student’s contributions.

Good contributor (B): The student attends class on a regular basis and often comes prepared with insightful comments and questions about the course material.  The student also shows some critical thinking in evaluating course materials.  The class as a whole generally benefits from this student’s contributions.

Fair contributor (C): The student attends class more often than not and sometimes comes to class with questions or comments that reflect some insight into the course materials.  The student shows some critical thinking in evaluating course materials but often struggles to see beyond personal biases.  The class sometimes benefits from this student’s contributions.

Unsatisfactory contributor (D): The student comes to class but is unprepared.  Comments are not insightful, are extremely bias or do not benefit the class. 

Non-contributor (F): The student either does not maintain regular attendance or attends but does not contribute to class discussions. 

Study Terms – 15%
On my webpage are study questions for each chapter.  Doing the study questions is very important as they serve as a partial study guide for exam preparation.  You should look to the text for the answers.  If you are unable to find the answer to a question, ask me in class or email me.  All homework must be typewritten and numbered.  These questions, along with class notes, discussions and reading assignments, will be the basis for exams. 

Research Paper - 25%
Students will be assigned to write a 4-5 page research paper on one of the following questions:
1) Do states still have enough power? (Sept. 26th); 
2) Are Americans losing their Civil Liberties ? (Oct. 8th);
3) Is marriage a fundamental right that should be afforded to every American citizen? (Oct. 17th);
4) Will term limits fix what’s wrong with Congress? (Oct. 24th);
5) Does the Office of the President have too much power? (Oct. 31st);
6) Should Federal justices be elected? (Nov. 14th);
7) Are Americans ready for a third party? (Nov. 26th);
8) Should elections laws be changed to make voting easier? (Dec. 5th); or
9) How has the Citizens United case affected elections (Dec. 10th)?  

Only 2-3 people may write a paper for each question and I will take volunteers the first day of class.  The paper should look at both sides of the debate surrounding the given question and present each side thoroughly and without bias.  This is not an opinion paper, so you should not write in the first person, nor should your personal opinion be present in the paper.  The goal is not to convince me that one side is right or wrong, rather it is to thoroughly investigate and report both or all sides of the debate. 

All of the following steps must be met in order for the paper to be accepted and graded:

1) It must be double-spaced typed in 12 pt font, Times New Roman, with 1 inch margins and numbered.
2) It must be turned at the beginning of class on the date is due.  Late papers will be accepted, but for a 10 point deduction EACH DAY they are late starting with the beginning of class for which they are due and including holidays and weekends.
3) It must be AT LEAST 4 pages long and no longer than 5.  At least 4 pages means that you start at the top of the page and go all the way to the bottom of each page.
4) It must have a cover page that has your name on it.
5) You must use AT LEAST 4 credible sources that are approved by me in advance during my office hours and they must be listed at the end in a bibliography.
6) You must properly cite the paper using APA format.
7) The paper should be written formally and be grammatically correct.

Please feel free to stop by my office for help.  Don’t wait to start the research.  This is only a 4-5 page paper, but it must be packed with good information from start to finish.

Exams - 40%

There will be four exams throughout the semester.  The dates and topic materials are listed in the syllabus.  I will provide blue books for the exams.  Exams will consist of short answer questions.  Students will be given a note card 1 week prior to the exam that they may use to write down any material they want to use on the exam.  Only that note card may be used, the note card must be prepared by you, in your handwriting, cannot be copied from someone else's note card/notes and must be turned in with your exam.   Please come prepared on exam day, meaning that you have a thorough understanding of the materials presented in the notes, readings, class discussions and study questions.  Make-up exams will only be granted to students who have a valid excuse that can be documented in writing and when I have approved the absence ahead of time.

Academic dishonesty:
Plagiarism or cheating in any form will not be tolerated.  All words or ideas that are not your own must be cited in all of the work that is submitted for this course.  Anyone caught cheating or plagiarizing may receive a failing grade for the entire course.  Additionally, a report of the transgression will be filed with the Vice President of Academic Affairs.  Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to the following examples:  1) Answering questions in your homework based on materials you obtained from another source without giving credit to that source.  Even if you paraphrase from another source, you must give credit.  When using the exact words of someone else, you must use quotations and cite.  However, you should very rarely do this since you will not learn as well if you don't put things in your own words. 2) Putting any material on an exam that is not in your own words.  Even if you put something in your homework that is not in your own words, on an exam it MUST BE IN YOUR OWN WORDS.  3) Using websites or other sources other than your notes or the text to take your exam.  4) Turning in any work that is not your own or having someone else do the work for you.  5) Using someone else's note card (a copy, a handwritten replica, or material not from your own notes), etc. 6) Having someone else take an exam for you. 7) Cheating off of someone else's test to obtain the answers.  8) Asking another student for an answer to a test. 9) Obtaining the exam ahead of time to know what will be on the exam.  10)  Using other materials other than the one note card given to you to take the exam. 

Final grades:
The grading scale for this course will be as follows:

I round grades up at .5 and down at .4 so every point counts in this class.  Also, please be aware that the final grade is not based on total points, rather on weighted grades.  The weighting is as follows: 20% for Class Attendance, 40% for exams, 15% for study questions, and 25% for research papers.  The final weighted grade in Blackboard is the correct grade.  Please note: I do not use total points.  The grades are weighted so you cannot calculate your grade by adding up the points you have a dividing by the total points.  The weighted grade in blackboard is your current semester grade.

Extra Credit:
There may be extra credit opportunities throughout the semester that I will announce in class and/or through blackboard.  Extra credit usually involves attending events on-campus or in the community that I think are relevant to the course or will enhance your overall experiences as a student.  Extra credit is added to the exam portion of your grade.  The first extra credit assignment is as follows:

Extra Credit Assignment 1.  Point Value - 10.
Submit an entry to me for the 2012 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Writing Contest.  The entry can be about any aspect of the civil rights, historic or modern, and does not have to be about Dr. King himself.  The entry can be in any writing style (essay, poem, short story, etc.), but must be a serious attempt (no Haikus) and must be your own original work.  Entries must be typed, include your name and phone number, and must be submitted no later than Monday, December 10th.

Special Needs:
If you are a student with a documented cognitive (learning disabilities), physical, or psychiatric disability (anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, AD/HD, post-traumatic stress, and others) you may be eligible for academic support services such as extended test time, texts on disc, note taking services, etc...  If you are interested in learning if you can receive these academic support services, please contact either Tina Hardy (, or 224-0284) or Judy Mika or 224-0350), or stop by the Disability Services Office in B-204. 

My hope is to create an equitable learning environment for all students.  If you want to discuss your learning experience, please talk to me as early in the term as possible.  If you know you have, or suspect you have a disability (learning disability, physical disability, or psychiatric disability such as anxiety, depression, AD/HD, post-traumatic stress, or others)  for which you may need accommodations, please contact the Disability Services Office in B-204.  Tina Hardy, 224-0284) or Judy Mika or 224-0350) work in that office and can help determine if you are eligible for support. 

Course Withdrawal:
The final date to withdraw from this course is Thursday, Nov. 8th.
Effective Summer 2011, students are now able to withdraw themselves through WebAdvisor. They can access it through "My Class Schedule" and through the "Register and Drop" page on the Student Menu. Students can also come to the Admissions & Records Office to request a withdrawal. He/she will need to show a photo id and complete the withdrawal form. The faculty member will receive the yellow copy of the withdrawal form.

Please Note: Before withdrawing yourself from a course it is HIGHLY recommended that you speak to your instructor and the financial aid office (if you are receiving financial aid) first. Students often believe they are doing worse in a course than they are, or, if special circumstances exist, a faculty member may be able to work out an alternative to a withdrawal like an incomplete. Faculty members still reserve the right to withdraw students for violations of class polices, or to issue them a failing grade. Students cannot withdraw from a class in order to avoid receiving a punitive grade. Those who do will be reinstated.

 A Note About Respect:
IVCC is an academic institution where all sincere viewpoints are welcomed, however, this does not give you license to verbally attack or intentionally offend your fellow classmates or professor.  If you disagree with a person’s point of view, please do so respectfully and by using critical thinking, not by issuing personal attacks, sarcasm, or insults.    Any student who violates these class policies will be removed from class at the discretion of the instructor and will receive a failing grade for the semester.  Egregious violations of this policy will be referred to the college for disciplinary action.

Mandatory Attendance Policy:
This is college and some instructors may not care if you attend class or not.  However, it is my policy that students need to attend class, turn in assignments and take exams on a regular basis.  A student may be automatically withdrawn by me for any of the following reasons: 1) Failure to attend classes for two weeks in a row; 2) Missing class more than 5 times during the semester; or 4) Missing more than one exam.  If the failure to comply is beyond the withdrawal deadline, a failing grade may be issued instead.

A Few Rules:
1.       Please turn off all cell phones/tablets before coming to class.

2.       Do not text in class.
3.       Please leave all electronic devices at home or turned off in your backpacks.
4.       Do not sleep in the classroom.  
5.       Do not talk while I am or others in the class are talking.
6.       Do not pack up your things or rustle papers until I have dismissed you from class.

7.       If you have an electronic device that you will using for taking notes, you may only use
          it for that purpose and not to surf the internet, chat, check email, etc.
8.       Do not come to class late.  If you are late on occasion, please come into class
          quietly and do not disrupt the classroom.

9.       Chewing Tobacco is not permitted in the classroom.

Failure to obey these rules may result in a student being asked to leave the class.
Habitual offenders may be asked to leave the class for the entire semester and will receive a failing grade at the discretion of the professor.

Class Assignment Schedule

August 20th
Welcome!  Class procedures and policies. 
Reading Assignment  – Critical Thinking and Cognitive Dissonance and Jared Diamond’s Soft Sciences are Often Harder than Hard Sciences

August 22nd
Discussion: Critical Thinking, Cognitive Dissonance, and Diamond's article
Reading Assignment: Geer, et al, Chapter 1
Assignment 1: Study Questions (Due in Class Sept. 5th)

August 27th
Discussion: Democracy

August 29th
Discussion: Democracy continued
Reading Assignment: Geer, et al, Chapter 2  and The United States Constitution and Amendments (Geer pg. 608).
Assignment 2: Study Questions (Due in Class Sept. 17th)

Sept. 3rd
No Class – Labor Day

Sept. 5th
Discussion: The Constitution

Sept. 10th
Discussion: The Constitution continued
Reading Assignment:  Geer, et al, Chapter 3 and lecture notes and Federalist Papers 10 and 51 (Geer pg. 624)
Assignment 3: Study Questions (Due in Class Sept. 24th)

Sept. 12th
Discussion: Federalist Papers
Reading Assignment:  Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, Katzenbach v. McClung and Wickard v. Filburn.

Sept. 17th
Discussion: Federalism

Sept. 19th
Exam I – All Materials to Date (Remember your blue book, note card and blue or black pen)
Reading Assignment: Geer, et al, Chapter 4 and lecture notes.
Assignment 4: Study Questions (Due in Class Oct. 8th)

Sept. 24th
Discussion Civil Liberties

Sept. 26th
Discussion: Civil Liberties continued
Paper #1 Due in Class

Oct. 1st
Discussion: Civil Liberties Continued

Oct. 3rd
Discussion: Civil Liberties Continued
Reading Assignment: Ginsberg, Chapter 5 and Civil Rights lecture notes online.
Also read “
I Have A Dream” online.
Assignment 5: Study Questions
(Due in class Oct. 15th).

Oct. 8th
Discussion: Civil Rights
Paper #2 Due in Class

Oct. 10th
Discussion: Civil Rights cont

Oct. 29th
Exam II - All materials post Exam I (Remember your note card, and blue or black pen)
Reading Assignment: Geer, et al, Chapter 12 and lecture notes.
Assignment 6: Study Questions

Nov. 5th
Discussion: Congress
Paper #5 Due in Class

Reading Assignment: Geer, et al, Chapter 13 and lecture notes.
Assignment 7: Study Questions

Nov. 7th 
Discussion: The Presidency
Reading Assignment: Geer, et al, Chapter 15 and lecture notes.
Assignment 8: Study Questions

Nov. 12th
No Class – Veterans Day

Nov. 14th

: The Federal Courts
Paper #6 Due in Class

Nov. 19th 
Discussion: The Federal Courts

Nov. 21st
Thanksgiving - No Class

Nov. 26th
Exam III – All materials post-Exam II (Remember your note card, and blue or black pen)
(Study questions for Chapters 12, 13, and 15  must be turned in during class no later than today)
Paper #7 Due in Class
Reading Assignment: Geer, et al, Chapter 9 and lecture notes.
Assignment 9: Study Questions

Nov. 28th  
Discussion: Political Parties
Reading Assignment: Geer, et al, Chapter 10 and lecture notes.
Assignment 10: Study Questions

Dec. 3rd
Elections and Campaigns
Reading Assignment: Geer, et al, Chapter 11 and lecture notes.

Assignment 11: Study Questions

Dec. 5th  
Discussion: Voting
Reading Assignment: Geer, et al, Chapter 6 and lecture notes.
Assignment 12: Study Questions
Paper #8 Due in Class

Dec. 10th
Discussion: Public Opinion
Paper #9 Due in Class

December 12th
Discussion: Public Opinion Continued

Dec. 17th
Exam IV -  All Materials Post Exam III (Remember your note card, and blue or black pen)
Study Questions for Chapters 10, 11 and 6 must be turned in during class no later than today.