Professor: Dr. Marc D. Turetzky                                                                            Office Phone: 848-4704

Meeting Days: M, 6-910                                                                                          E-Mail: mturetzky@gavilan.edu

Classroom: SS210                                                                                                     Office Hours: TTH, 935-1135; or by appointment

Office: BU126  

Class Handouts       



“When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I'm beginning to believe it”

                                                      -Clarence Darrow


Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right”

                                                      -H.L. Mencken



This course is an introduction to American politics at the national level. As such, background in the subject is not necessary. The primary goal of this class is to enable you to evaluate the U.S. political system by examining its evolution, the participants, the major institutions, and some important public policy outcomes.  You will learn to carefully define political terms, think clearly about what you are saying, set out your thinking in building blocks and argue with data. As a result, you will expand your understanding of the world of American national politics as well as sharpen your ability to argue with empirical evidence and facts and NOT just with your emotions and/or opinions. This is obviously a class about American politics but, more than that, it is class that centers on learning to use facts, reason, and logic to analyze American national politics.


Primary Course Learning Objectives:

· Students will recognize political science as a "science" that systematically studies observable behavior and actions within the political arena

· Students will define basic political science terms, concepts and theories

· Students will describe, evaluate and assess what politics is and how “the game” of politics is played at the national level

· Students will describe, evaluate and assess how the US government “really” functions

· Students will describe, evaluate and assess how well/effectively the US government manages conflict

· Students will describe, evaluate and assess the challenges (domestic and international) currently facing the American political system

· Students will demonstrate academic integrity, appropriateness and discipline in class conduct and assignments


Major Content Topics

1) What is politics?                                                    5) Civil Liberties & Rights                                            9) Presidency

2) What is democracy?                                              6) Campaigns & Elections                                            10) Courts

3) Ideology                                                                 7) The Mass Media                                                       11) Public Policy

4) The Constitution/federalism                                   8) Congress                                                                  12) Foreign Policy


To maximize your grade in this class, make sure to:
· not miss class                                                              

· read ALL the assigned chapters in the course texts

· read ALL the online lectures                                   

· complete ALL assigned course work, especially the exams and research paper

· not procrastinate/wait until the last second to do your work (the surest path to doing very poorly in any demanding course)

· be self-disciplined (do what you’ve got to do whether you feel like it or not because it needs to be done)

· take responsibility for your own learning

· not expect instructor “mercy or grace” to make up for poor academic effort



We will be using the following textbooks available for purchase at the Gavilan College Bookstore:

· Dye and Sparrow, 2012. Politics in America 9th edition. New York: Longman.


Note1: This book can be purchased or rented online; Note2: Several copies of the Dye book have been placed on reserve at the Gavilan College Library circulation desk



Your overall course grade will be based on the following factors: (1) Five Politics in America quizzes worth 3% each, or 15% total; (2) one debate worth 15%; (3) Debate peer reviews worth 10%; (4) One presidential analysis paper worth 20% total; (5) One final exam worth 10%; (6) Ten online critical thinking assignments worth 2% or 20% total; and (7) Class Participation/In-Class Work worth 10% total.


**YOU MUST COMPLETE ALL OF THE ABOVE REQUIREMENTS IN ORDER TO PASS THE COURSE** These requirements are spelled out in more detail below:


Politics in America Quizzes (15%)

There will be 5 in-class, multiple choice/short answer chapter quizzes worth 3% each or 15% of your overall grade. The questions are multiple choice and T-F in nature. Each quiz covers roughly two chapters in the book. The questions are drawn from the Dye & Sparrow Politics in America book, as well as from my powerpoint and online lectures. If you read the chapters, Politics in America quizzes shouldn't be that hard. If you don't, I promise you that they will be difficult.


Debate (15%)

Beginning on M, 11-13, we start our formal debates. You will be organized into teams representing opposing sides for ten debates. I will make available the debate sign-up sheet and syllabus for this assignment AFTER you come up with and then narrow down debate topics.


Debate Peer Reviews (10%)

To ensure that you are engaged and involved in the last portion of the class—debates—you are required to submit a relatively short critique of nine of the ten debates (excluding your own debate). Peer reviews are due on the last day of class (M, 12/11). I will provide a set of guidelines and a Peer Review Form in the second week of the class.


Presidential Analysis Paper (20%)

The Presidential Analysis Paper is worth 20% of your total grade. Minimum paper length is 6 pages. It needs to be double spaced. Use MLA formatting for in text citations AND the bibliography. The bibliography is NOT annotated.


The paper calls for you to choose between 2 topics:


Presidential Analysis Papers are due, IN CLASS, on M, 10/30. A separate, more detailed description of guidelines will be handed out sesparately.


One final exam worth (10%)

I will hand out a take home final exam two weeks before the end of the semester. You will have two weeks to complete this test. It will be a few short essays and the questions will be broad and expansive. More on this when I hand out the final.


Online Critical Thinking Assignments (20%)

20% of your grade consists of the completion of 10 homework assignments designed to promote critical thinking. Assignments are found online in the Canvas Platform class website. Each is worth 2%, hence they are worth 20% of your total grade. Assignments are to be completed in Canvas. Homework assignments may NOT be made up, regardless of the excuse. All work is to be completed and submitted in the Canvas class site. Do NOT send answers to online assignments to my email address as you will not earn credit.


Class Participation and Attendance (10%)

The final portion of your course grade consists of class participation (which centers on several video observations, class discussions, as well as regular attendance). In total, in-class participation/work and attendance is worth 10% of your course grade. Be on time for class and stay the full time. In the second week, I will begin to take attendance by calling roll right as class starts at 810am. Students are allowed two absences per Gavilan College policy. My advice therefore is to save your two absences for when you really need them. If you come to class after roll call, be sure to see me at the end of class so that I don’t mark you absent. Note: Students with perfect attendance (never absent, never leave early or exit class during class time—no exceptions) will receive a half grade boost to their final grade


COURSE RULES: Below, I lay out the basic rules of conduct I will enforce this semester:


The schedule, policies, objectives, topics, and assignments in this course are subject to change in the event of extenuating circumstances. Any scheduling adjustments will be announced in class. PIA refers to Politics in America


DATES & TOPICS                                                                                                                                WEEKLY TOPICS/ASSIGNMENTS

WEEK 1:  INTRODUCTION                                                                                                               Work Due this Week

M, 8-28: Introduction/Syllabi/Survey/Debate Topics                                                                     No work this week


WEEK 2: Labor Day Holiday                                                                                                              Work Due this Week                               

M, 9-4: No class-Labor Day Holiday                                                                                                  No work this week



M, 9-11: What is Politics? Political Opinion.  Lec.-Discussion                                                    Work Due this Week

What is a Liberal, Conservative, Libertarian, or Socialist?                                                          PIA, Chs 1-2

Lec.-Discussion. Chapter Quiz 1: PIA, Chs 1-2                                                                              



M, 9-18: The Constitution/Federalism  Lec.-Video ("Making of the Constitution")                PIA, Chs 3-4 (skim); 14-15                        

What are Civil Liberties/Rights? Video ("You can’t say that—                                                   

Politically correct free speech”).  Chapter Quiz 2: PIA, Chs 3-4                                               


WEEK 5: CAMPAIGNS & ELECTIONS                                                                                            Work Due this Week

M, 9-25: Campaigns & Elections Discussion. Guest speaker panel (TBD)                                PIA, Ch 8


WEEK 6: THE U.S. CONGRESS                                                                                                          Work Due this Week

M, 10-2: Congress I. Lec-Discussion-60 Minute Video Exposes                                                    PIA, Ch 10

Congress II. Lec-Discussion-Video: “Day in Life of Congress with Brian Williams”              


WEEK 7: THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY                                                                                        Work Due this Week

M, 10-9: The Presidency I. Lec.-Video-Discussion                                                                            PIA, Ch 11

The Presidency II. Video. “Presidential Mandates”                                                           

The Presidency III. “Day in the Life of President Trump”                                                                                                 


WEEK 8: THE NATIONAL COURT SYSTEM                                                                                  Work Due this Week

M, 10-16: The CourtsàSuperior Court Judge, the Honorable Tom Breen                                  PIA, Ch 13

Guest Speaker 2: GPD PO Joseph Deras on Law Enforcement & Civil Liberties

Chapter Quiz 3: PIA, Chs 10-11


WEEK 9: PUBLIC POLICY                                                                                                                  Work Due this Week                               

M, 10-23: Deficits, the Budget & the Welfare State. Video-Discussion: “John Stossel            PIA, Chs 16-17

Goes to Washington”; Video: "$11T and Counting"

Chapter Quiz 4: PIA, Chs 16-17


WEEK 10: FOREIGN POLICY & TERRORISM                                                                               Work Due this Week

M, 10-30: Foreign Policy. Lec./Disc./Videos (Friedman’s “Searching for the Roots                PIA, Ch 18   

of 9-11”; & "The Road to 9/11")

**Research Papers are due IN CLASS (I don’t accept late papers so get them to me before class)**                                                                                                                                                         


WEEK 11: ASSESSING THE WAR ON TERRORISM                                                                   Work Due this Week

M, 11-6: Foreign Policy. Lec./Disc./Videos (“Top Secret America”) + discussion                   PIA, Ch 18

about the current terror  threat here and abroad. Chapter Quiz 5: PIA, Ch 18                                        


WEEK 12: THE GREAT DEBATES BEGIN!                                                                                       Work Due this Week

M, 11-13: Debate 1                                                                                                                                  Debate Preparation                                                                                                                                                                                                               

WEEK 13: THE GREAT DEBATES BEGIN!                                                                                       Work Due this Week

M, 11-20: Debate 2                                                                                                                                  Debate Preparation


WEEK 14: THE GREAT DEBATES CONTINUE!                                                                              Work Due this Week

M, 11-27: Debate 3                                                                                                                                 Debate Preparation


WEEK 15: THE GREAT DEBATES CONTINUE!                                                                              Work Due this Week

M, 12-4: Debates 4-5                                                                                                                              Debate Preparation


WEEK 16: FINALS WEEK/ THE GREAT DEBATES CONCLUDE                                               Work Due this Week

Finals Week: M, 12-11: *Submit Debate Peer Reviews, any extra credit, and Take Home Final          Finish Debate Peers and Final Exam