College of the Canyons
Political Science 150
Dr. R. B. Shirinian
The primary purpose of this course is to assist students in improving
their ability to understand and critically evaluate American Politics.
It is hoped that students will become politically literate, developing
competencies and skills that will enable them to respond creatively and
effectively to local and national events. Various theoretical concepts
and analytical frameworks will be considered in the attempt to
understand national policies and domestic values.
Students who wish to learn and receive a good grade should attend
regularly. It is imperative that students be attentive and courteous.
At the end of the term borderline grades will be decided on the basis
of participation and effort (20 points plus).
1. Bardes, Shelley, and Schmidt, American Government
and Politics Today: The Essentials, 2006-2007 Edition
2. John L. Korey, California Government
Students are expected to complete the reading assignments prior to the
class for which they are scheduled. Lectures and class discussions will
supplement the reading. If students have questions about or problems
with the material I encourage them to come and talk to me.
Three examinations will be given during the session. The first two
exams will have fifty multiple-choice questions. The final exam will
contain a total of one hundred multiple-choice questions. Each exam
will be on a specific set of chapters. None of the exams will be
cumulative. Make-ups will only be allowed in those instances where
students can provide written proof supporting a valid reason for
missing a scheduled exam.
There will be two of these. The first is due the 7th week of the
Semester and will deal with major principles of democracy and the
Constitution. The second is due the 12th week and will deal with
particular policy issues.
Read the following topics carefully and make selections for your
First Paper Topics (Choose One)
1- The U.S. Constitution is based on a particular view of human nature
(i.e., self-interest). How did that view influence the structure of the
government? How were the weaknesses of human nature exploited to
safeguard against abuses of government power?
2- Why, if one is concerned with protecting human liberty, would one
want to make the legislative branch of government dominant (rather than
the executive or judicial)? Are there good reasons why someone
concerned with liberty would distrust a strong executive? A powerful
judiciary? Is liberty most often threatened by a) powerful political
elites who escape public control or b) a majority intent on imposing
its will on a minority? Which of these cases would lead one to favor a
strong legislative branch?
3- Society operates more efficiently if government power is
centralized. What reasons exist for continuing federalism in its
current form? In other words, defend a federal system of government.
4- Did the U.S. Constitution create a system of government that truly
respects liberty? What evidence exists that the U.S. Constitution cut
back on democracy and curtailed the power of the people to influence
decisions? In other words, argue that the U.S. Constitution was
designed to limit democracy and individual liberty.
Second Paper Topics (Choose One)
5- The legitimacy of the United States government has increased over
time. Identify and explain how the following increased legitimacy:
the Constitutional Convention
the Civil War
the New Deal
6- Compare and contrast the black civil rights movement with the
feminist movement. Consider social, political, and constitutional facts.
7- The federal courts have played a larger role in our government over
time. With respect to the following issues, explain how the court
enlarged the role of the federal government:
8. The Patriot Act and war on terrorism. What happens to liberty in
times of war? To what extent the Patriot Act is limiting our liberty?
Or, to what extent should we compromise our liberty for security?
The papers should be three to four pages, printed, and double-spaced.
You should demonstrate in depth knowledge of the topic illustrated with
specific examples. Ideas should be well organized and clearly
presented. Footnotes or endnotes are required. Also, have a title page.
The following is the basis and point value on which you will be graded:
The total number of points you can score is 300. The following scale
will be used to determine your letter grade:
270 - 300
240 - 269
210 - 239
180 - 209
179 and less...
- I do not grade on a curve
- Please shut off cell phones before you enter the
classroom. Do not leave the classroom to answer or receive phone calls
- Please be in class on time.
- If you arrive after I have called the role, it is
your responsibility to inform me that you are here. Failure to do so
will result in your being marked absent for the class, and ineligible
for the 20 points on attendance and participation.
The American System
Week 1 Introduction/Syllabus/Paper Topics
Chapter 1: The American Government and Politics
Chapter 2: The Constitution
Chapter 4: Civil Liberties
Chapter 5: Civil Rights
Chapter 3: Federalism
First Midterm Exam
(Chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5)
The Political System in Action
Chapter 6: Public Opinion
Chapter 8: Political Parties
1st Research Paper Due
Chapter 7: Interest Groups
Chapter 9: Elections and the Media
Second Midterm Exam (Chapters 6,
7, 8, and 9)
Government Institutions and Politics
Chapter 10: Congress
Chapter 11: Presidency
Chapter 13: Bureaucracy
Chapter 12: Judiciary
Chapters 12, 13: Bureaucracy, Judiciary
Final Exam (Chapters 10, 11, 12, 13)