Pol 11 (Spring 2012) – Syllabus

POL 11: Introduction to Political Science

College Now – Bronx Community College – Spring 2012
Tuesday & Thursday – 4:15 to 6:15

Professor: Roy R. Rogers

What makes a good leader? How does American politics work? How are laws made? Do elections matter? Who should I vote for? These are important, and difficult, questions all Americans face, especially in a busy election year like 2012. This course, by introducing you to the academic discipline of political science, will help you begin to provide answers to those critical questions. By studying the history and ideas behind American politics, the structure of American government, and how public policy (laws) are made in the United States, this course will provide students with the tools to navigate the tricky waters of this very contested election year. As part of the College Now program this course will also provide students with an introduction to the college experience and college course work by promoting students’ critical thinking, writing and reading skills.


Learning Goals
By the end of this course every student should:

  • Have a basic understanding the methodology and insights of political science.
  • Have a basic understanding of American government and how public policy is made.
  • Have improved their critical reading, writing, and thinking skills.
  • Have a basic understanding of the college experience (academic and personal) and the expectations of college coursework.


The following next is REQUIRED:

  • Walter E. Volkomer, American Government, 12th Edition (New York, NY, Pearson, 2008)

All textbooks are property of the College Now program and must be returned at the end of the course.


Assignments & Grading
Your final grade will be calculated from the following breakdown:

  • 25% – Midterm Examination
  • 25% – Final Examination
  • 20% – Position Paper
  • 20% – Short Papers
  • 10% – Class Participation

In-Class Requirements
For reach class meeting students will be expected to have read or watched all assigned material (sections of the textbook, primary source readings, etc.) be fully prepared for discussion. Such class discussion makes up an important part of students’ class participation grade.

In addition, students are expected to have completed – before class – any short writing assignments or homework assigned for the class meeting. Such assignments are due at the very beginning of class.

Position Paper
Students will select – from a list provided by the instructor – a controversial modern political issue and produce a seven to ten page “position paper” on their issue. The position paper will consist of three elements – a three to four page description of the issue and its history, along with the current federal, state, and local public policies towards it; a two to three page description of the students position on the issue and any recommendations for new policies towards it; and a two to three page counterargument against their position on the issue in question.

A more detailed prompt for this assignment will be provided in the second week of the semester.

Attendance is required for every class meeting. Attendance will be taken during each class meeting to ensure this. If a student needs to miss class, the instructor must be notified in advance (in case of emergencies, before the following class meeting). To encourage attendance, students who miss no more than three (or fewer) classes will receive an additional five points on their final grade.

There will be midterm and a final examination. The midterm will cover material from the first half of the semester. The final will cover material from the second half of the semester. One week before each examination, a brief study guide will be handed out in class and made available on the course website.

Extra Credit
Extra credit assignments will be given for the mid-term and the final examination. These assignments will provide up to two additional points on the exams. Details of the assignments will be handed out one to two weeks before the exam.

Occasionally (and at the instructor’s discretion) other assignments for extra credit will be made available. This will usually consist of attendance at, and brief reports on, lectures and other cultural events relating to American history.


Classroom Policies

In order to ensure that this class is a successful space for learning and critical dialogue, the following polices are in affect.

  • Plagiarism and academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Any assignment (even in part) found to be plagiarized will be marked as a failure (zero points). A second instance of plagiarism will result in automatic failure of the course. If students have ANY questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please come see (or e-mail) the instructor.
  • All work must be turned in to the instructor via hardcopy by the beginning of the class period on the date in which it is due (see schedule, below). Assignments will NOT be accepted via e-mail, except in cases of emergency – in which students cannot make it class. Any late work will lose 5 points for every calendar day in which it is late.
  • Cell phone usage and texting is forbidden in the classroom. If a student must use their cell phone because of an emergency situation, please let the instructor know before the beginning of class.
  • Laptop use is welcome, though only for class purposes or pursuits. Sadly, Facebooking is not a class pursuit.
  • There is no such thing as a stupid question. If a student is confused or unclear about any topic under discussion, please raise your hand and ask a question or come see the instructor after class.
  • Sexist, racist, or homophobic comments will not be tolerated in the classroom.
  • If you are registered with the Office of Student Disability, please have them contact the instructor so that arrangements can be made to accommodate your needs.
  • Students with family, work, legal, or financial issues that may affect their attendance or class performance should come speak to the instructor as soon as possible, to see if arrangements can be made.
  • Drinking beverages is welcome in class, but please no eating.

Class Schedule

JANUARY 31: Introduction
FEBRUARY 2: The Social Contract

FEBRUARY 7: The Nature of Liberty
FEBRUARY 9: Liberalism

FEBRUARY 14: Liberalism & its Enemies (Position Paper Topic Due!)
FEBRUARY 17: NO CLASS (Work on Your Position Paper)

FEBRUARY 21: NO CLASS (Enjoy President’s Day!)
FEBRUARY 23: The American Experience – The Revolution

FEBRUARY 28: The American Experience – The Constitution
MARCH 1: The American Experience – American Democracy?

MARCH 6: The American Experience – The Religion Question
MARCH 9: NO CLASS (Work on Your Position Paper)

MARCH 13: An Interlude – Research Methodology

MARCH 20: American Government – Congress
MARCH 22: American Government – The Presidency

MARCH 27: American Government – The Judiciary
MARCH 29:  American Government – State & Local Government & Federalism (Draft of First Half of Position Paper Due!)

APRIL 3: Elections – Political Parties & Interest Groups
APRIL 5: Elections – Public Opinion & The Media

APRIL 10: NO CLASS (Enjoy Spring Break!)
APRIL 12: NO CLASS (Enjoy Spring Break!)

APRIL 17: Elections – Decision 2012
APRIL 19: Foreign Policy – “Realism”

APRIL 23: Foreign Policy – “Liberalism”
APRIL 26: Foreign Policy – Globalization

MAY 1: Foreign Policy – Terrorism & the War in Afghanistan (Draft of Second Half of Position Paper Due!)
MAY 3: Review Day

MAY 8: Position Paper Presentations
MAY 10: Position Paper Presentations (Final Version of Position Paper Due!)



Author: Roy Rogers

I am currently a PhD candidate in American History at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York (CUNY). My undergraduate education was at Shepherd University (Political Science & History) and I received an MA in History from George Mason University. As a historian, my research interests include early American history, the early American republic (1780 to 1830), political history, religious history, and gender history. I live in Brooklyn with my girlfriend and our cat.

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