Effective: Early Spring 8-Week 2018/2019

POSC 111: American National Government

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  Course Description

Survey of the American political system, with emphasis on the Constitution, governmental structure, the political process and the economic system.

Prerequisite: None

Proctored Exams: Midterm and Final



  • Sidlow, Edward and Henschen, Beth. (2017). GOVT 9 - With Access (9th ed.). Cengage Learning.  
    • [ISBN-978-1-337-09978-3]
    • Note: Digital access is included with this textbook, but is not required for the course.

MBS Information

Textbooks for the course may be ordered from MBS Direct. You can order

For additional information about the bookstore, visit http://www.mbsbooks.com.

  Course Overview

By the end of this course you will not only understand the institutions and processes of politics in America, you will also have learned how to access political information and ways that you can participate in the political system.

  Technology Requirements

Participation in this course will require the basic technology for all online classes at Columbia College:
  • A computer with reliable Internet access
  • A web browser
  • Acrobat Reader
  • Microsoft Office or another word processor such as Open Office

You can find more details about standard technical requirements for our courses on our site.

  Course Learning Outcomes

  1. Describe how the Constitution was developed and explain its primary provisions.
  2. Describe the development of American federalism and explain its current application.
  3. Describe the structure and evaluate the workings of the institutions of American government: Congress, Presidency, Bureaucracy and Supreme Court
  4. Explain the impact of civil society, including public opinion, media organizations, interest groups and political parties on American politics.
  5. Identify and explain civil liberties and civil rights protections and how these rights have been interpreted by the Supreme Court.
  6. Use secondary sources to analyze contemporary issues in American politics.6
  7. Demonstrate engagement in civic activity.


Grading Scale

Grade Points Percent
A 810-900 90-100%
B 720-809 80-89%
C 630-719 70-79%
D 540-629 60-69%
F 0-539 0-59%

Grade Weights

Assignment Category Points Percent
Discussion Questions (18) 180 20%
Current Events (4) 20 2%
Internet Activities (6) 150 17%
Paper Projects (2) 150 17%
Midterm (1) 200 22%
Final (1) 200 22%
Total 900 100%

  Schedule of Due Dates

Week 1

Assignment Points Due
Introduction 0 Monday/Sunday
Discussion Question 1 10 Wednesday/Sunday
Current Events 1 5 Friday/Sunday
Discussion Question 2 10 Sunday
Internet Activity 1 25

Week 2

Assignment Points Due
Discussion Question 3 10 Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion Question 4 10 Friday/Sunday
Discussion Question 5 10 Sunday
Internet Activity 2 25
Proctor Information N/A

Week 3

Assignment Points Due
Discussion Question 6 10 Wednesday/Sunday
Current Events 2 5 Friday/Sunday
Discussion Question 7 10 Sunday
Paper Project 1 50

Week 4

Assignment Points Due
Discussion Question 8 10 Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion Question 9 10 Sunday
Internet Activity 3 25
Midterm Exam 200

Week 5

Assignment Points Due
Discussion Question 10 10 Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion Question 11 10 Friday/Sunday
Discussion Question 12 10 Sunday
Internet Activity 4 25

Week 6

Assignment Points Due
Discussion Question 13 10 Wednesday/Sunday
Current Events 3 5 Friday/Sunday
Discussion Question 14 10 Sunday
Internet Activity 5 25

Week 7

Assignment Points Due
Discussion Question 15 10 Wednesday/Sunday
Current Events 4 5 Friday/Sunday
Discussion Question 16 10 Sunday
Paper Project 2 100

Week 8

Assignment Points Due
Discussion Question 17 10 Wednesday/Saturday
Discussion Question 18 10 Friday/Saturday
Internet Activity 6 25 Friday
Final Exam 200 Saturday
Total Points: 900

  Assignment Overview


Completing weekly Reading assignments (the exams are designed in large part to test student knowledge of the required reading materials).

Discussion Topics

Each week you will be asked to respond to multiple discussion topics. In weeks with three topics, the first topic is always due by Wednesday at midnight; the second, which will sometimes be a current events post, is always due Friday. The last topic is due on Sunday by midnight. Answers to questions include a complete response to each part of the question, examples from the assigned readings, as well as references to outside materials (use APA format for citations), and your personal experiences when appropriate. Most responses will require at least 4-5 full paragraphs to adequately respond to the question.

In selected weeks we will tackle a current events topic in American politics. You will visit politics related websites or news sources and post a summary and reaction to information that you find. Good sources for political news include the New York Times, Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor and Politico.com.  Current events posts are always due by Friday at midnight each week.

In addition to submitting your original post in each discussion topic, you are expected to respond to two other students by midnight Sunday each week. Responses to other students should be substantive. Don’t just simply agree or disagree with what someone else has posted. Share your own ideas about their post or bring in additional information. The responses may be in one topic or multiple topics. Failure to respond to others will result in a loss of 2 points for each missing response. I strongly encourage you to read your classmates’ responses. We can learn a lot from each other!

I will read and evaluate each and every discussion posting. I will respond to selected students’ posts with comments or follow-up questions; you should respond to my comments or questions I post during the discussion.

Internet Activities

Complete 6 Internet Activity Assignments. These assignments require students to visit selected websites and respond to questions about their content. Specific instructions are available in the Course Schedule section of this syllabus. Be sure to provide proper source information for the stories you decide to discuss. Provide a citation for any source on which you rely in APA format.

Paper Projects

Complete two paper projects, 3-4 pages in length. Specific instructions are available in the Content area of the course.  Provide a citation for any source on which you rely in APA format.


Complete a Midterm and a Final. Both exams must be proctored.

  Course Outline

Click on each week to view details about the activities scheduled for that week.

·Chapters 1-2
CQ Researcher on Re-examining the Constitution
Please introduce yourself in the correct discussions topic on the first day of class (midnight Monday). Please give us more than your name. Include your major, profession, hobbies, areas of political interest, and any other information that can help us get to know you.
Discussion Question 1
Every day we see the terms ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ used to describe politicians, parties and policies, so it is important to understand what these terms mean. What ideas or policies are associated with liberals? Which are associated with conservatives? Choose two policies or ideas that you mentioned and research how each side would justify its stance and critique the other side. Which arguments on these issues do you find most persuasive? Please submit your initial answer by midnight Wednesday.
Current Events 1
Politics are not found only in your textbook, the things that we will learn about are being acted out each day in the world around us. As we go through the course, I'd like you to be aware of current issues in contemporary American politics. Major newspapers, such as the New York Times, Washington Post or the Christian Science Monitor provide the most in-depth coverage. Websites, such as Politico and ProPublica are good, too. In this thread, I would like us to discuss what's going on politically in the U.S. during selected weeks of the course.    Always make sure to provide proper source information for the news item you decide to discuss!  This week, I’d like you to begin by familiarizing yourself with website devoted to fact-checking claims by politicians: FactCheck.org  http://www.factcheck.org/ sponsored by the Annenberg Foundation for Public Policy and Politifact: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/ sponsored by the St. Petersberg Times. Visit these websites and explain one article or report from each. Share your reaction. Had you heard about any of the claims being fact-checked? If so, were you surprised by the result? Please submit your initial answer by midnight Friday.
Discussion Question 2
Looking back 200 years, how would you evaluate the work of the Founders in designing our form of government? Does the Constitution need any improvements or changes? A number of efforts have been made in recent years to add new amendments to the Constitution. Some have made it further than others, but none has been successful. Proposed amendments include: the Equal Rights Amendment, an amendment allowing school prayer, a constitutional ban on flag burning, a balanced budget amendment, an amendment to enact term limits for members of Congress and more. This week’s CQ Researcher article contains a number of ideas for improvements to the Constitution. See, especially, the special features at the end of the article that contain several suggestions from both experts and citizens. How do you feel about any of these or other efforts? Please submit your initial answer by midnight Sunday.
Internet Activity 1
The Constitution:Instructions for this assignment can be found in the course content area under Week 1. Complete your assignment using MS Word and submit to the Dropbox by midnight Sunday.
· Chapters 3-4
CQ Researcher article on Religion and Law
CQ Researcher article on Government Surveillance and privacy
Discussion Question 3
What level of government should decide? Consider at least 2 of the following issues: legalization of drugs, setting educational standards, welfare, environmental regulation and enforcement, same sex marriage and abortion. Are decisions on these issues better placed in the hands of the states or of the federal government? Why? Provide evidence of additional research on your issues. Please submit your initial answer by midnight Wednesday.
Discussion Question 4
What is the proper boundary between church and state? Should the first amendment be interpreted strictly so that no one’s rights are infringed by government sponsorship of religion – or should it be interpreted loosely to recognize that the U.S. is a very religious country? On the matter of religious freedom, what are the appropriate boundaries? Under what circumstances, if any, should religious freedom take precedence over the law? Illustrate your answer with specific examples. Review the CQ Researcher article on Religion and the Law and check out the videos on the Lemon Test and animal sacrifice in the content area before you answer. Please submit your initial answer by midnight Friday.
Discussion Question 5
Describe government surveillance programs that have developed since 9/11. Do you think these programs violate citizens’ constitutional rights or are they necessary measures to track terrorists? Justify and explain your answer. The CQ Researcher reading and the course resources for this week provide important information on this issue.  Please submit your initial answer by midnight Sunday.
Internet Activity 2
Civil Liberties: Complete instructions can be found in the course Content area under Week 2. Complete your assignment using MS Word and submit to the Dropbox by midnight Sunday.
Proctor Information
Submit your proctor form to the appropriate Dropbox folder by the end of the week. Remember to “Save” the form before placing it in Dropbox. See the Content area for more information.
·Chapters 5 and 8
CQ Researcher on Voting Controversies
Discussion Question 6
Explain the purpose of the Voting Rights Act. How has it been weakened in recent years? Is some form of the Voting Rights Act still needed? Why or why not? Are Voter ID laws a necessary measure to protect against fraud or do they hinder people’s voting rights? Explain. Read Chapter 5 and the CQ Researcher article before responding to this question. Please submit your initial answer by midnight Wednesday.
Current Events 2
This week students should post on a current event relating to the topic of civil liberties or civil rights in America. Please submit your initial answer by midnight Friday.
Discussion Question 7
Explain the arguments for and against Affirmative Action. Are programs like Affirmative Action still needed? Is promoting diversity a legitimate argument in favor of Affirmative Action? Is the Texas plan to admit the top students from each high school a better alternative? Why or why not? Check out the resources on Affirmative Action in the content area. Please submit your initial answer by midnight Sunday.
Paper Project 1
Political Socialization: Please submit your completed paper to the correct Dropbox folder by midnight Sunday.
·Chapters 6 and 7
Discussion Question 8
One type of interest group are those associated with gun-control. This is an issue over which intense lobbying takes place by interest groups, most notably the NRA (National Rifle Association) and Handgun Control, Inc.  Read about gun-control in your text and then check out their websites: NRA.org and BradyCampaign.org. How does each group try to appeal to potential supporters? How do they try to attract and involve members? Consider the arguments raised on both sides and respond to the question: Are tougher gun control laws necessary? Please submit your initial answer by midnight Wednesday.
Discussion Question 9
Why have third parties never really taken off in America? Would you like to see a third party alternative to the Democrats and Republicans? If yes, what would you look for in such a party? Do you think the Democrats and Republicans will ever face a viable third party challenge? Please submit your initial answer by midnight Sunday.
Internet Activity 3
Visit the websites of some small American political parties and answer some questions about them. Complete instructions can be found in the course Content area under Week 4. Complete your assignment using MS Word and submit to the Dropbox by midnight Sunday.
Midterm Exam
Complete the Midterm Exam by midnight Sunday. The exam will open in the Quizzes area of the course on Tuesday. The exam is proctored and closed book.
·Chapters 9 and 10
CQ Researcher on Non-profit Groups and Partisan Politics
CQ Researcher on Media Bias
Discussion Question 10
Briefly explain how the Electoral College works. What do you think of the Electoral College? Does it serve any useful function? Does it need to be scrapped? Check out some Electoral College websites and explain what supporters and detractors have to say. If you think we need an alternative, what would you recommend? Please submit your initial answer by midnight Wednesday.
Discussion Question 11
Read your text and the article in the Content area from CQ Researcher concerning non-profit groups and campaign finance. To what extent, if any, should the financing of campaigns be regulated? Why or why not? Consider issues such as limits on individual campaign contributions, limits on donating to one’s own campaign, limits on donations to political parties (soft money), the ability of unions and corporations to donate to campaigns (Citizens United decision) and whether or not donors to political campaigns and causes should be made public (dark money). Please submit your initial answer by midnight Friday.
Discussion Question 12
Discuss the role of media in society. How important is the news media in shaping attitudes and public policy? How do you assess the media’s coverage of news and politics? Discuss evidence from the readings and your personal observations. Submit your initial answer by midnight Sunday.
Internet Activity 4
Media Bias: See details in the Content area. Complete your assignment using MS Word and submit to the Dropbox by midnight Sunday.
·Chapters 11 and 12
CQ Researcher on Presidential Power
Discussion Question 13
One of the way in which Congress observes the principle of ‘majority rule with respect for minority rights’ is the Senate filibuster. Over the years the filibuster has become an increasingly used tool by the minority party. Do some of your own research on the filibuster. Describe how lawmakers use the filibuster. Do the rules for the use of the filibuster need to be changed? Why or why not? Should the filibuster be seen as an important protection for the minority or a significant obstacle to getting things done? Please submit your initial answer by midnight Wednesday.
Current Events 3
This week students should post about a current event related to Congress, the President or the relationship between the two institutions. Please submit your initial answer by midnight Friday.
Discussion Question 14
How is authority balanced between the President and Congress when it comes to the use of force? Under what conditions do you think the President should get permission from Congress before using force? Consider some recent situations, such as Libya 2011, Syria and action against ISIS. Please submit your initial answer by midnight Sunday.
Internet Activity 5
Members of Congress: See instructions in the Content area.  Complete your assignment using MS Word and submit to the Dropbox by midnight Sunday.
Course Evaluation
Please evaluate the course. You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link sent to your CougarMail will allow you to access the evaluation. Please note that these evaluations are provided so that I can improve the course, find out what students perceive to be its strengths and weaknesses, and in general assess the success of the course. Please do take the time to fill this out.
·Chapters 13 and 14
Discussion Question 15
In what ways is your life affected by government regulation? Do some research concerning a government regulatory agency, such as the EPA, FDA, OSHA, or the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Give some examples of specific regulations or issues that the agency is dealing with. Do you feel that this agency is doing too much or too little when it comes to regulation? Explain your answer.  Please submit your initial answer by midnight Wednesday.
Current Events 4
Post this week’s current event. This week please post about current events related to the Supreme Court or the federal judiciary. Please submit your initial answer by midnight Friday.
Discussion Question 16

Do the Courts have too much power to make policy from the bench? Consider issues such as abortion, equal access to education, the use of religious symbols in public schools, etc. Should decisions on controversial issues like these be made by Courts or by Legislators? Why? Illustrate your answer with examples drawn from the text and your own research. Please submit your initial answer by midnight Sunday.

Paper Project 2
Issue Paper: See instructions in the Content area. . Complete your assignment using MS Word and submit to the Dropbox by midnight Sunday.
·Chapters 15 and 16
CQ Researcher on Government Spending
CQ Researcher on Health Care
Discussion Question 17
What are some of the problems with U.S. health care policy? How was the Affordable Care Act (ACAA) designed to address these problems? Why have many conservatives been opposed to the ACA? How would you assess the impact of the ACA so far? Please submit your initial answer by midnight Wednesday.
Discussion Question 18
After reading Chapter 16 and the notes on Foreign Policy answer the following questions: What should be the role of the United States in world affairs? In your opinion, what are the two most important foreign policy challenges facing the United States in the 21st Century? How would you recommend that the US address those challenges? Please submit your initial answer by midnight Friday.
Internet Activity 6
Government Spending: See instructions in the Content area. Complete your assignment using MS Word and submit to the Dropbox by midnight Friday.
Final Exam
Complete the Final Exam by midnight Saturday. The exam will open in the Quizzes area of the course on Tuesday. The exam is proctored and close book.

  Course Policies

Student Conduct

All Columbia College students, whether enrolled in a land-based or online course, are responsible for behaving in a manner consistent with Columbia College's Student Conduct Code and Acceptable Use Policy. Students violating these policies will be referred to the office of Student Affairs and/or the office of Academic Affairs for possible disciplinary action. The Student Code of Conduct and the Computer Use Policy for students can be found in the Columbia College Student Handbook. The Handbook is available online; you can also obtain a copy by calling the Student Affairs office (Campus Life) at 573-875-7400. The teacher maintains the right to manage a positive learning environment, and all students must adhere to the conventions of online etiquette.


Your grade will be based in large part on the originality of your ideas and your written presentation of these ideas. Presenting the words, ideas, or expression of another in any form as your own is plagiarism. Students who fail to properly give credit for information contained in their written work (papers, journals, exams, etc.) are violating the intellectual property rights of the original author. For proper citation of the original authors, you should reference the appropriate publication manual for your degree program or course (APA, MLA, etc.). Violations are taken seriously in higher education and may result in a failing grade on the assignment, a grade of "F" for the course, or dismissal from the College.

Collaboration conducted between students without prior permission from the instructor is considered plagiarism and will be treated as such. Spouses and roommates taking the same course should be particularly careful.

All required papers may be submitted for textual similarity review to Turnitin.com for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers may be included in the Turnitin.com reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. This service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Use posted on the Turnitin.com site.


There will be no discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, ideology, political affiliation, veteran status, age, physical handicap, or marital status.

Student Accessibility Resources

Students with documented disabilities who may need academic services for this course are required to register with the office of Student Accessibility Resources. Until the student has been cleared through this office, accommodations do not have to be granted. If you are a student who has a documented disability, it is important for you to read the entire syllabus as soon as possible. The structure or the content of the course may make an accommodation not feasible. Student Accessibility Resources is located in Student Affairs in AHSC 215 and can be reached by phone at (573) 875-7626 or email at sar@ccis.edu.

Online Participation

You are expected to read the assigned texts and participate in the discussions and other course activities each week. Assignments should be posted by the due dates stated on the grading schedule in your syllabus. If an emergency arises that prevents you from participating in class, please let your instructor know as soon as possible.

Attendance Policy

Attendance for a week will be counted as having submitted any assigned activity for which points are earned. Attendance for the week is based upon the date work is submitted. A class week is defined as the period of time between Monday and Sunday (except for week 8, when the work and the course will end on Saturday at midnight.) The course and system deadlines are based on the Central Time Zone.

Cougar Email

All students are provided a CougarMail account when they enroll in classes at Columbia College. You are responsible for monitoring email from that account for important messages from the College and from your instructor. You may forward your Cougar email account to another account; however, the College cannot be held responsible for breaches in security or service interruptions with other email providers.

Students should use email for private messages to the instructor and other students. The class discussions are for public messages so the class members can each see what others have to say about any given topic and respond.

Late Assignment Policy

An online class requires regular participation and a commitment to your instructor and your classmates to regularly engage in the reading, discussion and writing assignments. Although most of the online communication for this course is asynchronous, you must be able to commit to the schedule of work for the class for the next eight weeks. You must keep up with the schedule of reading and writing to successfully complete the class.

Discussion: No late discussions will be accepted.

Papers: Late submission of papers will result in the deduction of credit from those assignments. All assignments must be submitted using the course “Dropbox.” Using email or other methods of delivery for your assignments is not allowed. It is the student’s responsibility to get their work in on time.

Exams: Exams must be taken by the deadline posted above. No exams submitted late will be accepted! No make-up tests will be given unless the instructor gives prior permission! If the instructor authorizes an alternate exam period, the student and instructor will coordinate for a make-up examination to be taken as soon as possible. It is the student’s responsibility to make alternate arrangements with their approved proctor. Emergencies should be communicated and documented to the instructor as soon as possible

Course Evaluation

You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link will be sent to your CougarMail that will allow you to access the evaluation. Be assured that the evaluations are anonymous and that your instructor will not be able to see them until after final grades are submitted.

Proctor Policy

Students taking courses that require proctored exams must submit their completed proctor request forms to their instructors by the end of the second week of the session. Proctors located at Columbia College campuses are automatically approved. The use of ProctorU services is also automatically approved. The instructor of each course will consider any other choice of proctor for approval or denial. Additional proctor choices the instructor will consider include: public librarians, high school or college instructors, high school or college counseling services, commanding officers, education service officers, and other proctoring services. Personal friends, family members, athletic coaches and direct supervisors are not acceptable.

  Additional Resources

Orientation for New Students

This course is offered online, using course management software provided by Desire2Learn and Columbia College. The course user guide provides details about taking an online course at Columbia College. You may also want to visit the course demonstration to view a sample course before this one opens.

Technical Support

If you have problems accessing the course or posting your assignments, contact your instructor, the Columbia College Helpdesk, or the D2L Helpdesk for assistance. Contact information is also available within the online course environment.

Online Tutoring

Smarthinking is a free online tutoring service available to all Columbia College students. Smarthinking provides real-time online tutoring and homework help for Math, English, and Writing. Smarthinking also provides access to live tutorials in writing and math, as well as a full range of study resources, including writing manuals, sample problems, and study skills manuals. You can access the service from wherever you have a connection to the Internet. I encourage you to take advantage of this free service provided by the college.

Access Smarthinking through CougarTrack under Students -> Academics -> Academic Resources.