American Government and Politics


POSC 150


Fall 2008



Instructor: Braxton L. Apperson, III, Ph.D.


Telephone: (E) 392-6990       (D) 969-4246 Ext 12




Hours: By appointment


Course Description:  An introduction to American government and politics and how this country's public affairs are conducted.  The course surveys some of the theories, structures, and the operation of our national political system including the institutions of the national government, political parties, interest groups, public policy processes, and contemporary issues facing our society.


Course Objectives: Upon completion of the course, students will:


1.  Have an understanding of the formal structures, operations and interactions of the national institutions of U.S. government.


2.  Be able to understand and discuss important philosophical and ethical issues associated with American government and the practice of politics.


3.  Understand and be able to discuss elements of both continuity and change within the American political system.


4.  Demonstrate an awareness of the diversity of interests within American society.


5.  Have an understanding of the public policy process and important contemporary policy issues.


6.  Develop the tools necessary to function effectively in the American political system including the capacity for critical and analytical thought about political issues as well as the ability to communicate those thoughts effectively in writing.






Wilson, James Q.  2008.  American Government: Brief Version, 8th ed.  Belmot, CA: Cengage.


Shafritz, Jay M. and Lee S. Weinberg.  2006.  Classics in American Government, 3rd ed.  Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.


You are not required to subscribe to a newspaper; however, you should stay abreast of current events for purposes of in-class discussion (see below how this could impact your final grade) and the written assignments.  The bookstore carries the New York Times and the Richmond Times-Dispatch.  You might also follow CNN or MSNBC either online or on TV.  There may be other ways that you keep up with what is going on in the world; the important thing is that you be informed!


Course Requirements: 

                        Three papers;

                        Three unannounced quizzes on readings;

                        A mid-term exam;

                        A final exam.


Grading: Your semester grade will be based on completion of the course requirements, weight as follows: 15% for each of the two shorter papers and 20% for the longer paper, 15% for the three quizzes (5% each), 15% for the mid-term, and 20% for the final exam.


Class Discussion: Your instructor values class participation.  Students are encouraged to ask questions and to express their beliefs and knowledge about the material and issues dealt with in class.  Most class meetings a portion of the time will be spent discussing current events.  Students making consistent meaningful contributions in class, whose semester average is on the borderline between two grades, will receive the higher grade.


Papers: Details concerning particular assignments will be provided in class.  All written assignments should be double-spaced 12-point print prepared using the word processor on your computer.  A pledged hard copy should be submitted.  Use the reference style commonly used by your own major.  Be sure to allow adequate time to do a good job on each written assignment.


Taking Exams: The essay portions of exams should be legibly written in reasonably proper English.  All tests and exams must be taken on time.


Attendance: Your instructor will adhere to the attendance policy contained in the Longwood College Catalog.  Work missed due to unexcused absences will receive a zero.  Because this class is a seminar which meets once each week, more than two unexcused absences will result in the semester grade being lowered one level.  More than four unexcused absences will result in a failing semester grade for the course.


Honor Code:  Students are expected to adhere to the Longwood College Honor Code.  All work done for the class must be pledged.  Your instructor will not tolerate any form of cheating.


Class Schedule:


1. Aug 28         Introduction


2. Sept 4          Constitutional Framework:  Wilson ch. 1 & 2; Shafritz ch. 1


3.        11         Federalism: Wilson ch. 5; Shafritz ch. 2

                                    Discussion Issue 1


4.         18        Civil Liberties: Wilson ch. 3; Shafritz ch. 3

                                    Discussion Issue 2


5.         25        Civil Rights: Wilson ch. 4; Shafritz ch. 4

                                    Discussion Issue 3


6. Oct  2          Test 1


7.         9          Public Opinion/Mass Media: Wilson ch. 6; Shafritz ch. 5 & 9

                                    Discussion Issue 4


8.         16        Political Parties/Interest Groups: Wilson ch. 7; Shafritz ch. 6 & 8

                                    Discussion Issue 5                    Policy Issue Memo Due


9.         23        Elections and Voters: Wilson ch. 8; Shafritz ch. 7; read online 


                                    Discussion Issue 6


10.       30        Congress: Wilson ch. 9; Shafritz ch. 10

                                    Letter to Representative Due


11. Nov 6        Presidency and Bureaucracy: Wilson ch. 10 & 11; Shafritz 11

                                    Discussion Issue 7


12.       13        Supreme Court: Wilson ch. 12; Shafritz ch. 12

                                    Discussion Issue 8


13.       20        Public Policy/Foreign policy: Wilson ch. 13, 14; Shafritz ch. 13 & 14


14. Dec 4         Continuity and Change: Wilson ch. 15


15        11        Final Exam



Selected Bibliography


Any copy/translation of The Federalist Papers and Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.


Slaughter, Anne-Marie.  2007.  The Idea That Is America. New York: Basic Books.


Beer, Samuel H.  1993.  To Make a Nation: The Rediscovery of American Federalism.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press.


Nye, Jr., Joseph S., Philip D. Zelikow and David C. king.  1997.  Why People Don’t Trust Government.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press.


Shenkman, Rick. 2008.  Just How Stupid Are We?  Facing the Truth About the American Voter.  New York:  Basic Books.


The Congress:


Greenberg, Ellen. 1996.  The House and Senate Explained.  New York: W.W. Norton Co.


Mann, Thomas E. and Norman J. Ornstein. 2006.  The Broken Branch.  New York: Oxford U. Press.


The President:


Neustadt, Richard E. 1990.  Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents.  New York: The Free Press.


Gergen, David.  2000.  Eyewitness to Power.  New York: Simon & Schuster.


The Supreme Court:


Irons, Peter. 1999.  A People’s History of the Supreme Court.  New York: Penguin Books.


Toobin, Jeffrey. 2007.  The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court.  New York: Doubleday.


Trachtman, Michael G.  2006.  The Supremes’ Greatest Hits: The 34 Supreme Court Cases That Most Directly Affect Your Life.  New York: Sterling Publishing Co.


The Bureaucracy:


Wilson, James Q. 1989.  Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It.  New York: Basic Books.





American Political Science Review


Journal of Politics


Presidential Studies Quarterly


Public Administration Review


Public Policy


Publius:  The Journal of Federalism



Web Sites: