Political Science (PSCI) 1201 - 001
American Government
CRN # 40940
Fall Semester, 2001
Turlock Campus

Course goals and objectives

This course is intended to provide an introduction to the American system of government at the national, state, and local levels. At the state and local levels, emphasis will be given to California--its form of government and its institutions.

Among the areas covered will be the principles upon which the United States was founded, the design and structure of its institutions, the various practices through which democratic governance is currently realized, and the differing values that influence both these institutions and practices as well as their policy outcomes. Because we often perceive a gap between the ideals we hold for democracy and the ways in which we see it practiced, considerable attention will be given to the reasons behind these differences. Moreover, because we do not all share the same expectations of our government or want the same outcomes from democracy, attention will be given to the different perspectives that Americans hold. Understanding the reasoning behind these differences will be an essential component of the course.

The course meets U.S. Consitution and California state and local government general education requirements.

Course organization

The course will meet every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:10 to 11:08 in Room 167 of the Professional Building. Students will be expected to attend class, keep up with assigned readings, and to participate in class exercises. Students are encouraged to raise questions either in class or by e-mail.

Assignments and Grading
Group Presentation Addendum--21 September 2001 (pdf format)

Course grades will be based on four tests, each worth 15% of the student’s grade, or a total of 60%; a comprehensive final examination worth 20% of the student's grade; and participation in a group project worth 20%.

In each of the four tests, students will be given 30-40 multiple choice or true-false questions and possibly one or two short essay questions. All tests will be held in class and examine only those materials covered since the previous test. The final exam will be comprehensive and consist of approximately 150 multiple choice or true-false questions only.

Each student will be required to participate in one group analysis of the water issue in California. Each group will consider a different aspect of the problem, with some focusing on interests groups, for example, while others focus on legislative debates or executive agency actions. A complete list of topics appears below. Students will be asked to indicate their group preference, and these preferences will be honored to the exten possible, given that all topics should be adequately covered. Each group will be expected both to prepare a written paper about the area and make a presentation to the class.

There will be 12 separate groups. The size of each group will vary depending upon total course enrollment and student interest in the area, but overall they should range between 8 and 15 students. Students are encouraged to divide the workload among themselves, but they are free to decide as a group how they wish to make this division. For example, some may prefer to divide the work by function--research, writing, and presentation. Others may divide their topic into smaller issue areas and do all of the research, writing, and presenting for that narrow area. However, a record of individual contributions should accompany the paper. All students in a given group will receive the same grade unless the group recommends otherwise. Students must decide which issue they wish to analyze by September 21. The options are:

1. Defining the Issue: What is the basic problem? (emphasis on water facts, defintion of terms)
2. California's constitution and basic water legislation
3. The Federal role in California's water policy
4. Attitudes of "the people" toward water

5. Role of the media in defining the water problem
6. Interest groups involved and their role in policy making
7. California's political parties and water
8. Role of the California Legislature
9. Role of the Governor
10. The California bureaucracy and water
11. The California courts and water
12. Whose rights to water?

The papers and presentations will be graded based on at least the following criteria:
the clarity of the arguments presented,
the insightfulness of the analysis, and
the persuasiveness of the conclusions.

Student papers may be placed on the class web site for others to read.


4 Tests @ 15% each or 60% total
Final exam 20%
Group project 20%

The exam grades as well as the final average will be based on 100% with the following grading scale:

A = 93 points and above

A- = 90-92
B+ = 87-89
B = 83-86
B- = 80-82
C+ = 77-79
C = 73-76
C- = 70-72
D+ = 67-69
D = 63-66
D- = 60-62
F = 59 and below

Class Attendance

Students are expected to attend class, although class rolls will not be taken on a regular basis. However, spur-of-the-moment, spot attendance checks will be taken. Students in attendance for every spot check will be given extra credit.

Exam protocol

Students are expected to take all exams at the scheduled time and to do their own work. Cheating of any kind will be punished by failure in the course. Cheating includes the use of someone else’s answer and representing it as your own, the use of crib sheets during an exam, plagiarism in writing assignments, misuse of computer accounts, or falsifying attendance records.


Intellectual honesty is central to all academic endeavors. Students are therefore encouraged to identify sources of information and ideas early in their careers and to avoid use of other people's work unless clear attribution is given.