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

Meeting Days: MW, 810-935                                                                                  E-Mail: mturetzky@gavilan.edu

Classroom: SS210                                                                                                     Office Hours: T-TH, 935-1135

Office: BU 126

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 election 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, 11-6, 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 separately.  


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 ilearn class website. Each is worth 2%, hence they are worth 20% of your total grade. Assignments are to be completed in the class Moodle/Ilearn shell. Homework assignments may NOT be made up, regardless of the excuse. All work is to be completed and submitted in the Moodle/Ilearn 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


Week 1: Introduction                                                                                                                                        

M, 8/28: Roll/adds. Go over syllabi

Reading/work: None


W, 8/30: Debate Topics/Survey              

Reading/work: None                                                                                      


Week 2: The Basics-What is Politics?

M, 9-4: No Class-Labor Day Holiday!


W, 9-6: What is Politics? Lecture, video ("Do You Believe in Magic?" with John Stossel), and discussion          

Reading/work: PIA, Ch 1


Week 3: American Political Culture; Ideology                                                                                       

M, 9-11: American Political Culture. Lecture, video clips and discussion. Team Knowledge Competition                                                                

Reading/work: PIA, Ch 2 (all)


W, 9-13: Ideology: Or what the hell is a Liberal, Conservative, Libertarian, and a Socialist? Lecture, videos ("What is Ideology?"), and discussion

Reading/work: PIA, Ch 2 (all). Dye, Quiz 1 (PIA, Chs 1-2)


Week 4: The Constitution-Federalism; Civil Liberties/Rights

M, 9/18: The Constitution/Federalism. Video ("The Making of the U.S. Constitution") and discussion.             

Reading/work: PIA, Ch 3 and Ch 4 (skim)


W, 9/20: What are Civil Liberties/Rights? Brief overview of terms, video ("You Can't Say That" with John Stossel), and discussion

Reading/work: PIA, Chs 14-15.  Dye, Quiz 2 (PIA, Chs 2-3)


Week 5: Civil Liberties/Rights; Campaigns & Elections                                                                                      

M, 9/25: Guest Speaker- Gilroy Police Officer Joseph Deras.

Reading/work: PIA, Chs 14-15


W, 9/27: Campaigns & Elections. Lecture and discussion.  Dye, Take home Quiz 3 (PIA, Chs 14-15)

Reading/work: PIA, Ch 8


Week 6: Mass Media; Governing Institutions I (Congress)                                                                                                                      

M, 10/2: Mass Media. Video and discussion.

Reading/work: PIA, Ch 6


W, 10-4: Congress I. Lecture, video, discussion

Reading/work: PIA, Ch 10                                                                                                                                                                                                     


Week 7: Governing Institutions I (Congress) & II (The Presidency)                                                                                   

M, 10-9: Congress II—Video and discussion.

Reading/work: PIA, Ch 10


W, 10-11: Presidency I—Lecture, video (“Presidential Mandates”)

Reading/work: PIA, Ch 11


Week 8: Governing Institutions II (The Presidency) & III (The Court System)                                                              

M, 10-16: Presidency II—Lecture, video ("Inside the Obama White House" with Brian Williams).

Reading/work: PIA, Ch 11. Dye, Quiz 4 (PIA, Chs 10-11)


W, 10-18: The CourtsàGuest Speaker-"The American Court System" with Superior Court Judge, the Honorable Tom Breen

Reading/work: PIA, Ch 13


Week 9: Public Policy; Foreign Policy

M, 10-23: Public Policy—Deficits, the Budget, & the Welfare State-Lecture.

Reading/work: PIA, Chs 16-17


W, 10-25: Public Policy--the Welfare State ("John Stossel Goes to Washington") + discussion

Reading/work: PIA, Ch 16-17    Dye, Quiz 5 (PIA, Chs 16-17)                                                                                                                                                                            


Week 10: Foreign Policy

M, 10-30: Foreign Policy--American Foreign Policy in the post-9-11 Era. Lecture + Video (“The Road to 9/11”).



W, 11-1: Foreign Policy—Assessing the War on Terrorism + discussion.

Reading/work: PIA, Ch 18.    Dye, Quiz 6 (PIA, Ch 18)


Week 11: The Great Debates begin!!

M, 11-6: Debate 1   

Reading/work: None


W, 11-8: Debate 2

Reading/work: None


Week 12: The Great Debates Continue!!                                                                                

M, 11-13: Debate 3

Reading/work: None                


W, 11-15: Debate 4                                                                                                                                                                  

Reading/work: None                                                                                                                                               


Week 13: The Great Debates Continue; Thanksgiving Holiday!!

M, 11-20: Debate 5                                                                                                                                                                 

Reading/work: None


W, 11-22: No School-Thanksgiving Holiday

Reading/work: None


Week 14: The Great Debates Continue!!

M, 11-27: Debate 6

Reading/work: None


W, 11-29: Debate 7

Reading/work: None                                                                                                                                                             


Week 15: The Great Debates Continue!!

M, 12-4: Debate 8

Reading/work: None


W, 12-6: Debate 9

Reading/work: None


Week 16: Final's Week. The Great Debates End!!

M, 12-11: Debate 10. Debate Peer Reviews, Final Exam and extra credit assignments are due

Reading/work: None

Note: students are held responsible for any announcements or changes made during class time whether present, late, or absent