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Government, Politics, and Law

Instructor: Elika Dadsetan


Course Description: This course explores the structure and dynamics of American
national government, providing a broad-based introduction to the ideas and
institutions that shape politics in contemporary United States. We will focus our
analysis on four major areas: the Constitution and the debates of the founding era,
the institutions of modern American government, the political behavior of the
American mass public, and the street laws that affect our everyday lives. We will
study the strategies, roles, and limitations of both governmental elites and ordinary
citizens, with particular emphasis on how they communicate and interact within the
constitutional “rules of the game” to promote (or inhibit?) the achievement of public
goods. Our analysis will draw heavily both on documents from America’s formative
period and on insights from modern political science, allowing us to examine
important political phenomena from a variety of perspectives. Ultimately, the goal
of this course is to help each member of the class arrive at a deeper, more
comprehensive understanding of the forces that shape American government and
politics, so that he or she may be both a more discerning student and critic of the
system and a more informed and reflective participant in it.

Readings: In this course, we will use a collection of readingsmore frequently,

supplemented with additional materials.
Timely reading is critical both for achievement as an individual student in this
class, and for the success of the course as a whole. The reading load in this course
is reasonable – on average, assignments will run fewer than twenty pages per class
session. As a result, students are strongly expected to come to class having read
the material carefully, thought about it, and prepared to discuss it in class. Failure to
do so will result in lessened comprehension of class lectures/discussions, and lower
participation grade. Conversely, dutiful attention to the reading will greatly
enhance the intellectual experience of the course for the individual student, and
enable him or her to contribute meaningfully to the class as a whole.

Course Requirements and Grading: Grades for this course will be determined
by a combination of four factors: in-class examinations, project work, independent
essays, and class participation and preparedness.
Finally, class participationis a very valuable part of the learning experience in
this course. Questions are welcomed, and time will often be set aside for
discussion. Students are expected to come to class prepared to share their
questions, comments, criticisms, and insights with others. This course will be
greatly enriched if people with views across the political spectrum voice their
opinions on the important and often controversial issues that we will discuss.
Simply showing up for class, while necessary for a good participation grade, is not

Guidelines for Late Work: Late work turned in after the due date is not given full
credit, unless discussed with me before the due date (and no, minutes before does
not count). No late work will be accepted more than a week late. Again, I am open
to discussing situations that naturally arise in our day to day lives.

Guidelines for Behavior: Any student in my class agrees to the following

‘Essential Agreements’. These are the general guidelines that will be the foundation
upon which all learning can happen. Any time one of us has trouble respecting
these agreements, it will be addressed. It all comes down to “Don’t steal.” If you
disrupt class, you are “stealing” valuable time from the entire class. If you
disrespect myself or your classmates (or anyone), you are “stealing” their piece of
mind. You get the point. Therefore…
All students in this course agree:
1. To be considerate of myself and others.
2. To be respectful of the property of others.
3. To be in class on time and prepared to learn.
Additionally, please note that drinks other than water, cell phones, ipods/mp3
players, and hats are not allowed in my class. Having them in class will negatively
affect your daily in-class participation grade.

Citizenship Points: You will start out the semester with 100 citizenship points. If you
are late to class, you will lose 1 point. If you forget assignments/materials, you will
lose 1 point. If you are disruptive in class, you will lose 5 points. If you disrespect
me or your peers, you will lose 10 points. You always have the opportunity to
redeem these points.

Materials Needed: Students should always have paper, pen, red pen, and journal
(separate from their notes) with them in class.

Student Support: For extra support, students can speak to me during lunch or
after school. For additional support, Tiffani will have her DP updated with class
notes. Additionally, there will be a class notes binder in my classroom.

Honors: On the last Thursday of every month, Pam and I will hold our honors lunch.
Everyone is welcome, but attendance is mandatory for honors credit. In order to
receive honors credit in this class, students are responsible for submitting one legal
writing per month, and one of those need to be published in the digital newsletter.
More information will be given at a later date.


(first semester)
1. Write personal Declaration of Independence
a. Due September 2nd
2. Write class constitution
a. Study various other constitutions
b. September 9th/10th
3. Propaganda/Proposition Project
a. Combined with Pam’s English IV
4. Election project
a. Mock election (HTHI)
i. Create commercials? Music Videos?
1. Rock the vote
2. Smackdown the vote
b. Liberty Station Informational
i. October 30th
5. Media Studies/Political Speech
(second semester)
1. Law
a. Environmental Law
i. Costa Rica
b. How to bend the law without breaking them
2. International Relations
a. Darfur

1. School paper (legal/op-ed/etc.)
Government Politics and Law
Tentative Course Syllabus

Tentative Schedule for the Course

Section Topics Covered Timeline

Context and Overview: • Declaration of Independence Aug 25 – Aug 29
• Declaration of Sentiments
American Political Culture • King’s ‘I have a Dream’
• De Tocqueville’s Democracy
• Lipset’s American Exceptionalism
The Founding and the • Articles I – II, III – IV Aug 29 – Sept 5
Constitution: Origins & • Address of the Penn Minority
• Jefferson’s Letter to Madison
• Federalism: The Federalist 47, 48, Sept 4 – Field
51 Trip

Federalism Unit Exam:

Monday, Sept 8
Congress • Miller and Stokes’ ‘Constituency Sept 11 - 19
Influence in Congress’
• Mayhew’s Congress: The Electoral
• Hibbing and Smith’s ‘What America
Wants Congress to Be’
The Presidency • The Federalist 68, 70 Sept 23 - 26
The Bureaucracy Sept 29 – Oct 3
Political Parties • Hershey and Beck’s Party Politics in Oct 6 - 10
• Key’s ‘A Theory of Critical Elections’
• Key’s ‘Secular Realignment and the
Party System’
Interest Groups • The Federalist 10 Oct 13 - 16
• Schattschneider’s The
Semisovereign People
• Salisbury’s ‘An Exchange Theory of
Interest Groups’
The American Voter Oct 16 – Nov 4

Exhibition: Oct
The Judiciary • The Federalist 78 Nov 4-5
• Marbury v. Madison
Political Speech • Postman’s How to Watch TV News Nov 5 – Dec 5
Finals Week Finals Dec 8 - 12
POLs POLs Dec 15 - 19
* Tentative Schedule