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Cuyamaca College
Course Syllabus

Political Science 121

Fall 2001 (08/20/2001-12/17/2001)
Section 1620 - Room D113, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 10:00a.m. - 10:50a.m.
Section 1626 -
Room D114, Tuesdays and Thursdays 09:30a.m. - 10:45 a.m. 

Instructor: David Fontilla or
(619) 225-0739

Catalog Description

    Introduction to U.S. Government and Politics. 3 Units.  3 hours lecture.  Introduction to the basic structure and functions of the U.S. political system.  The question of "who governs?" will be studied from various theoretical perspectives.  Examined will be the basis of the U.S. political system, including the Constitution, federalism, capitalism, and democracy. The policy-making role of traditional political institutions such as the media, the bureaucracy and special interests will be explored.  All topics will be illustrated through reference to actual political events occurring as the course progresses. (Cuyamaca College Catalog 2001-2002, p. 185.)

Related Catalog Information

    No prerequisite, corequisite or recommended preparation is indicated.  Catalog notations indicate that Political Science 121 is a transferable, lower division, preparation course commonly taught on California college and university campuses, is transferable to the University of California campuses, meets Associate Degree general educational requirements, meets general educational requirements for and transfers to the California State University system for at least elective credit,  and meets Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum requirements.  Students are advised, however, in any individual case to consult with the Counseling Center to verify such matters of degree requirement satisfaction and transferability.

Course Objectives

    Upon completion of the course students will be expected to be able to:

  1. evaluate the goals, processes and problems of government and politics;

  2. appraise various methods and theories for analyzing democracy in the United States;

  3. examine the philosophical origins and continuing evolution of the U.S. Constitution, especially with regard to citizens' rights and responsibilities;

  4. analyze the structure and functions of American government and learn how government transforms citizen opinion, interest group pressure and economic imperatives into social and political policy;

  5. explain federal-state relations, with a focus on California;

  6. explore the role of major ethnic and social groups in American politics; and 

  7. gain the knowledge of American government and politics which will enable them to make critical and informed decisions about the American political system and their participatory role.

Texts Utilized

1.  Lowi, Theodore and Benjamin Ginsberg, 2000, American Government: Freedom and Power (Brief Sixth Edition)  
2.  Bianco, William T., 2001, American Politics: Strategy and Choices
3.  Theodoulou, Stella Z. and Rory O'Brien, 1999, Methods for Political Inquiry: The Discipline, Philosophy and Analysis of Politics

            Readings not contained in the foregoing texts will from time to time be provided and/or assigned.  Students are additionally expected to develop habits of regular monitoring of political events and developments through TV and radio news programs, daily newspapers and weekly newsmagazines.  Suggested print publications include The San Diego Union-Tribune, The San Diego Daily Transcript, La Prensa San Diego, The Los Angeles Times, Time, Newsweek and U. S. News and World Report.  Links to these and additional news sources available in electronic format will be provided on the instructor's website ( 

 Student Responsibilities

Regular, punctual attendance and active class participation can be expected to have a significant impact on the grade a student will earn in the class.  A student who misses class or arrives late remains responsible for information and assignments provided in his or her absence. 

A student's excessive absences will result in that student being dropped from the class; specifically, a drop notice can be expected to be submitted on a particular student once that student is noted to have been absent from regularly scheduled class meetings for a total of twelve (12) hours.  Those  who anticipate absences or attendance problems are encouraged to contact the instructor to discuss individual situations that might justify relaxation of that policy.

A student who elects to drop the class must ensure that necessary forms are completed.  Neglect could result in retention on the class roster and ultimate recordation of a failing grade.

Departmental policy requires that a final examination be administered in a course and the College requires that such administration be at specified times on specified dates.   The one and only final examination for each section of this course will be administered in the room in which that section's class is routinely conducted at the time and the date dictated in the Fall 2001 Class Schedule (page 42): section 1620 as a class that meets MWF at 10:00 a.m. will have its final exam on December 14 from10:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon; section 1626 as a class that meets TTh at 9:30 a.m. will have its final exam on December 13 from 09:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m.  The complicated procedures and requirements relating to modification of those details for the benefit of any student or group of students suggest that rescheduling is impracticable.

Mutual respect and cooperation will be expected wherever a student ultimately takes skills he or she develops in this course.  Lack of mutual respect and cooperation will accordingly be as intolerable in this class as it will be in such subsequent situations.  Students should acknowledge a responsibility for working together in a mutually supportive environment conducive to an enjoyable educational experience.  Students are invited to discuss with the instructor any circumstances that suggest that one or more classmates may have forgotten or chosen to ignore such matters.  The instructor is prepared to exercise appropriate authority to remedy unacceptable situations; on the other hand, the instructor genuinely anticipates that no such circumstance or occurrence will require such a discussion with a student, any such remedial action or any such exercise of authority.

Class Sessions

            Instructional techniques will include lectures and audiovisual material.  Significant emphasis, however, will be placed on critical reading by students, student writings allowing for practice in analyzing and articulating concepts relating to those readings and material presented in class, and exchanges of student ideas in the form of in-class discussions and "on-line" written exchanges.

            Performance in such tasks will obviously demand that students engage all material in a timely manner.  Schedules and dates relating to topics to be addressed in class and in on-line written exchanges, as well as details of all assignments that will be required, will be promulgated separately and updated from time to time in accordance with peculiarities and exigencies relating to individual sections.  Students should be aware, on the other hand, that the readings anticipated to be assigned and dealt with in this course in both sections will encompass substantially all of the material in the Lowi and Bianco texts, most of that in the Theodoulou text, and other readings not contained in those texts that may from time to time be assigned.

            Moreover, students should also be aware that some of the written material that they are scheduled to encounter in this course will be of a character and content more challenging than that which they may have previously encountered in any other course.  Finally, the closing weeks of the session will likely involve a student's individualized reading and writing.  Accordingly, it is an unavoidable reality that the reading tasks involved in this course suggest that the student who gets behind in reading will have a difficult time earning a passing grade.  Students should be prepared to commit to attending to readings assigned as early as possible.  Effective time management can be expected to be an important academic tool to be utilized or skill to be developed in this course.

            Students with documented disabilities and personal challenges for whom expected rigors of academic tasks anticipated might present problems are invited to consult with the instructor as soon as possible.  Cuyamaca College provides a broad array of services to students and the instructor is committed to working with individual student needs to the maximum extent consistent with attention to and maintenance of the high academic standards critical to the goals and mission of our College,  its students, its faculty and its staff.

Grading Policies

            At the completion of the course, letter grades will be assigned to the performance of each student, in accordance with a grading calculation scheme that will assign relative weight to various student performance criteria.  A letter grade of "C" will be given to students who satisfactorily accomplish the work assigned during the semester and exhibit general mastery of basic concepts and skills addressed in the course.  Lower course grades will almost invariably relate to inability or unwillingness of a student to accomplish work assigned; unacceptable performance will result in a failing grade.  Higher grades will be reserved for students who have demonstrated work above and beyond what is normally required; “A” grades will be reserved for students who exhibit truly excellent mastery of concepts and skills.  

Such letter grades will be computed on the basis of multiple factors, including student performance in traditional academic testing tasks of the kind they may expect to encounter throughout their academic careers.   The preferred method of academic testing will be the timed examination requiring production of an essay on a topic relating to materials assigned or matters discussed in class; other testing formats that might be expected to be encountered in subsequent academic endeavors are also expected to be utilized to supplement that timed essay format.  

Current planning includes administration of one examination during a class session in the eighth week of instruction.  A more detailed schedule of expectations regarding such a "mid-term" and any other testing in addition to the scheduled final examination for each section will be promulgated in conjunction with information for each section relating to assignments and class topics.  For each section, however, roughly one-third of a given student's final grade can be expected to relate to such testing, including any "mid-term" or other tests and the scheduled final.

Matters relating to regular student participation in  on-line written exchanges and in-class discussions will similarly contribute approximately one-third to a student's overall course grade.  Each class session is expected to be a forum for student exchange of perceptions informed by readings assigned and materials presented.  Class participation by engaged, prepared students is a course requirement and will be reflected in grades awarded

Additionally, such exchanges, readings and materials will provide a basis for regular student involvement in computer-based "on-line" written discussion activities.  Students will be expected to be involved in both in-class and out-of-class "on-line" activities.  Out-of-class on-line activities will occur on a Cuyamaca College-based WebCT site, matters of access to and use of which will be addressed in initial class meetings.  Specific requirements of student participation in such on-line activities, which will be an important factor in honing of student writing skills that will be the focus of academic testing, will be separately promulgated for each section, but students should be aware of expectations that requirements will be substantial and will involve student composition and posting of on-line writing on an average of once every other week during the session.  (Those students with little prior involvement with computers or computer-based exchanges will be assisted in developing basic skills and arranging access to computers to enable their on-going participation in this important facet of modern education.  Cuyamaca College is a leader in such education and provides an excellent learning environment for acquisition or advancement of computer-related education skills.)

The remaining one-third factor of the course grade will be based on a student's research and writing of an analytical research paper on a topic, concept,  text and/or other materials to be selected by the student and approved by the instructor, and a class presentation based on that research and writing.  The analytical research paper will be 5-8 double-spaced pages in length, will discuss all materials reviewed in research of the topic, will properly footnote references to all sources, and will conclude with reasoned analysis the student writer deems appropriate.  

The mechanics of deciding on a topic for and producing that analytical research paper will be addressed early during various class meetings.  It should be noted at the outset, however, that the primary factor in selection of a topic by each individual student will be the particularized and personalized interests of that student.  The analytical research paper will provide training in effective research in matters an individual student concludes, on the basis of readings and materials he or she otherwise encounters, deserves further study and research. 

A prospectus identifying the topic, concepts, texts or material a student proposes to treat will be submitted to the instructor no later than November 16.  Shortly thereafter the instructor will approve topics, texts and other material to be utilized in each individual student's analytical research paper and, allowing for some student choice as to dates, assign to each student a date subsequent to the Thanksgiving recess and before finals week on which that student is to be prepared to orally present to the class the substance of his or her work and to answer related questions from class colleagues.  On the basis of such exchange a student may thereafter revise his or her paper, but all such work must be in final form and submitted to the instructor no later than the final class meeting.

The tasks outlined above would seem more than ample to keep serious students busy.  However, students who wish to engage in extra credit work are invited to discuss such matters with the instructor.  On the other hand, no extra credit work will be allowed for students who have failed to meet basic course requirements, unless such failure is related to extremely unusual circumstances beyond student control.

One willing to do the work can reasonably expect success, whether measured by a grade or worthier considerations such as personal intellectual development. One not so willing can expect to receive little benefit and a poor or failing grade.  Success in this course will likely correlate primarily with effort; it may ultimately have far less to do with “native intelligence” or success or lack thereof in other courses.

Important Fall 2001 Dates 

August 31            Last day to add a class or to drop a class without a "W"; last day for refund
September 3        No class meeting (Labor Day holiday)
September 22      Last day to apply for CR/NC
October 13          Last day to apply for Fall 2001 degree / certificate
November 9         Last day to drop class
November 12       No class meeting (Veterans Day holiday)
November 16       Prospectus for analytical research paper due
November 22-23  No class meetings (Thanksgiving holiday)
December 7          Deadline for submission of analytical research paper
December 10-12   No class meetings (Finals Week)
December 13-14   Final Exams per Fall 2001 Class Schedule




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