Department of Politics
Web Syllabus: Hypertext seems the ideal medium for course syllabi. With a click, you can be at a site to which a paper syllabus could only refer. Short of a power failure, you can't lose it. You can use it all on line and print whatever you want. Portions of this syllabus or its attachments make use of the portable document format (PDF). To read PDF files on your personal computer you need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader, which you can download. This software is already loaded on most college-owned computers. Please report broken or malfunctioning links to me.
Feedback: In addition to the standardized end-of-course evaluation, I am interested in your comments and suggestions for improving the course, the readings, the assignments and this course description. Feel free to send comments as you think of them. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Instructor: Craig W. Allin,
Room 307, South Hall.
Office Hours: If I'm not in class with you, you can probably find me in my office. Feel free to make an appointment or just show up. You can also schedule time with me through Ms. Cheryl Dake, Administrative Assistant to the Politics Department, at extension 4283. To help you find me, the most current version of my schedule is available for your electronic inspection over the campus network if you are using Microsoft Outlook [not Outlook Express or Outlook Web Access].
Classroom: South 302.
Schedule: You should reserve the hours from 9-11 and 1-3, Monday through Friday, for class meetings. Class meets every morning and many afternoons. See Course Calendar & Assignments. On days when something is scheduled for the afternoon, you can be sure we will meet. On other afternoons we might meet depending on need.
Books: The following are available for purchase in the bookstore. You'll need both immediately.
Articles: In addition to the books above, you will have occasional assigned reading in the form of articles. I will send them to you by e-mail, so be sure to check your Cornell e-mail regularly this term.
Internet Resources: The Politics Department Web Site contains a wealth of valuable information including programs and requirements of the Department of Politics; information about Politics Courses including course syllabi like this one; information about graduate schools and careers, and research links for politics, government, and law.
Synopsis: This course offers a survey of the theory and practice of contemporary government and politics in the United States. It is one of several relatively specialized introductory courses offered within the Department of Politics. The others are: Politics, Foundations of the First Amendment, Ethics & Public Policy, Comparative Politics, International Politics, and Public Policy. This course is a prerequisite for most advanced courses in American Politics including: Campaigns & Elections; Congress & the Presidency; Environmental Politics; Wilderness Politics; Urban Politics; Race, Sex & the Constitution; Current Cases before the Supreme Court and Constitutional Law.
This course emphasizes the practical consequences of established institutions and procedures for policy outcomes. Who wins, and who loses? To whom is the American government responsive? Its objective is to provide each student with a reasonably sophisticated understanding of why the system produces the kinds of policies that it does without getting bogged down in minutia.
A variety of materials will be used to achieve this general objective.
Each of these information sources should provide a foundation for discussion and debate. Reading materials will be supplemented by occasional videos. Taken together, these materials will provide a variety of ways to learn as well as competing viewpoints regarding what should be learned in an introductory American politics course.
How This Course Is Related to Politics 282: Public Policy: This course emphasizes the role of law, political culture, political organizations and governmental institutions in national governance. The focus of POL 282 is more interdisciplinary and possibly a bit more quantitative, emphasizing the interrelationship of politics and economics, the processes by which public policy is made, and the methods by which it can be evaluated. It gives relatively greater emphasis to exploring specific areas of substantive policy. There is limited overlap, and students may profitably take both courses. Like this course, POL 282 fulfills the prerequisite for many advanced courses in American Politics and Public Policy.
What Former Students Liked -- And What They Didn't: Based on course evaluations, students generally like the reading. They find me knowledgeable and accessible. They say that I provide frightening amounts of feedback on their papers and that they learn a lot. They complain that I go off on tangents and that classroom discussions don't recapitulate the readings. They complain that classroom discussions often lag behind the readings.
I plead guilty on all counts.
See Course Calendar & Assignments for daily topics.
Extra Credit Opportunity #1: Of course,
this is a class devoted to politics, but it is
also a class devoted to critical reading, cogent
writing, and analytical thinking -- invaluable
skills for living and for working in every field
of endeavor. One way to improve your writing as
you read is to become more conscious of the writing
of others. With that in mind, I will provide you
the opportunity to earn extra credit in my continuing
contest for students enrolled in POL 262:
Extra Credit Opportunity #2: To encourage thoughtful participation in the polity, 25 extra-credit points will be awarded for each "letter to the editor" written by you about a question of public policy and "published" this term in an off-campus newspaper or magazine. For the purposes of this extra credit opportunity, "published" means appearing in the print edition; an on-line response to an article or blog post does not qualify. Submit appropriate evidence.
The maximum number of extra-credit points that may be applied to your course grade is 50. The deadline for submission of applications for extra credit is noon on the penultimate day of the course. All submissions must be in writing.
OBJECTIVES: This assignment is designed to encourage close reading and serious thinking about what constitutes a good argument. Desirable side effects might be more thoughtful contributions to classroom discussion and increased capacity to think clearly and write cogently.
ASSIGNMENT: A part of your assigned reading comes from Points of View, an anthology edited by DiClerico and Hammock (D&H on the course calendar) and designed to examine important topics in American politics from competing perspectives. You have nine (9) short, informal writing assignments related to these readings. For the purposes of this assignment, short means not less than 200 nor more than 300 words. Informal means paste your text into an e-mail. You will need a title so that I know what you are writing about, but you will not need citations, bibliography, etc. For the purposes of grading, I will treat these nine, one-page essays the same way that I treat class participation. I will keep a running tally of the quality and quantity of your submissions resulting in a single grade at the end of the course. Hopefully there will be some cross fertilization between this writing about reading and your classroom participation. More careful reading may encourage you to contribute to classroom conversations. Indeed, if you write something particularly intriguing about one of the day’s essays, I might very well ask you about it in class.
Each of these assignments begins with a particular day's reading in DiClerico and Hammock. Read first; write second. Paste your text into an e-mail and send it to me no later than 3 hours prior to the beginning of the class for which the related reading was assigned. (For these assignments, please do NOT use e-mail attachments.)
These short, informal writing assignments are designed to be conceptually simple during week one and to increase in complexity in subsequent weeks.
During the first week of the class, your assignment is to select any one of the day’s assigned readings (one essay, not one chapter) from DiClerico and Hammock and write a summary. You must complete this assignment on two separate days during the first week. In a summary, you are attempting to communicate the essential message of the text. To do so you will need to communicate clearly both the author's conclusions and the author’s premises/reasons for reaching those conclusions. You will want to do all of this in your own words. This assignment is all about reading carefully and understanding what you have read. It does not ask you to evaluate the author’s claims. You will do that in week two.
During the second week of the class, your assignment is to select any one of the day’s assigned readings (one essay, not one chapter) from DiClerico and Hammock and analyze the argument. You must complete this assignment on three separate days during the second week. This differs from the previous assignment because it requires you to exercise judgment. Briefly summarize the author's conclusions and premises/reasons. Then discuss the quality of the argument. In doing so, focus on what you believe is most important. What makes this argument persuasive or unpersuasive? [Note that an author's conclusion might be correct even if the argument is weak: "Chicago is the most populous city in Illinois because it has the tallest building." The conclusion is correct, but the reasoning is faulty. Whereas a good argument (true premises and logical organization) gives you strong reason to accept the conclusion, a weak argument does not refute the conclusion but merely leaves it unsupported.]
The questions that follow are designed to help you think about analyzing an argument. They are not meant to be used as a checklist of things that should be commented upon in every case.
I recognize that some of this terminology may be new to some of you, so allow me to define terms.
During the third and fourth weeks of the class, your assignment is comparative analysis. You must complete this assignment on two separate days during the third week and two separate days during the fourth week. You will be using summary and analysis skills that you have practiced during weeks one and two. Select any competing pair of assigned readings from the day’s reading in DiClerico and Hammock. Determine which of the two readings makes the more persuasive argument and explain your conclusion. Here I am asking you to make an argument. That is to say that I am asking you to state a conclusion--specifically, that one of the arguments is better than the other--and to give persuasive reasons for the conclusion you have reached.
OBJECTIVES: This assignment has three major objectives. The first is to increase your familiarity with an issue of public policy importance and the arguments that surround that issue. The second is to increase your familiarity with relevant sources of information like professional journals and government documents. The third is to help you improve an important intellectual skill: writing a clear and convincing argument supported by reliable evidence. This is a complex and difficult assignment, and I would like each of you to do it well. To that end, I have broken the assignment down into pieces and provided explicit instructions about how you can maximize your success. Please read all the information that follows, and do your best to master this task one step at a time. I have tried to answer the most obvious questions here in writing, but obviously I have not answered all the possible questions. Please feel free to ask me for help along the way.
ASSIGNMENT: Your job is to write a public policy paper of 1,500 to 2,000 words exclusive of title page, abstract, illustrations, notes, bibliography, appendices, etc. Your paper must deal with a matter of public policy within the Constitutional power of some officer, agency or institution of the United States (national) government. If in doubt, ask me.
PUBLIC POLICY & POLICY PAPERS: A "policy" is a clear course of action. (E.g., it is the policy of Cornell College to issue grades each term.) A "public policy" is a policy adopted by a government. (E.g., it is the policy of the United States to intervene militarily wherever America's national interests are threatened.) A "public policy paper" is a written document that (1) recommends a public policy and (2) argues for the adoption of that policy. Your public policy paper will be developed through four stages. Consult the Course Calendar & Assignments for deadlines associated with this project.
E-Mail Attachments: Unless directed otherwise, please deliver each component of this project by e-mail attachment. Please save your papers and other submissions in Word® (*.doc or *.docx). If you cannot save to Word®, please save to Rich Text (*.rtf) format. Make sure your file does not exceed the 10MB limit for the Cornell e-mail server. Attach your file to an e-mail addressed to email@example.com. For more detailed information about e-mail attachments, click here.
Stage I -- RESEARCH QUESTION & BIBLIOGRAPHY: Send an e-mail attachment [with a copy to Paul Waelchli, Consulting Librarian] stating your research question and providing a properly documented working bibliography for the investigation of that question.
Stage II -- POLICY RECOMMENDATION & CONTENTIONS: Prepare and print a document (2 copies) stating your policy recommendation and setting forth an outline of the contentions you intend to make for it. Bring it to your individual paper conference.
Stage III -- POLICY PAPER: Send an e-mail attachment presenting your recommendation and supporting arguments in a formal paper with appropriate manuscript format, proper citations, etc. [Note: All the components of a formal paper--cover, abstract, body, reference list, etc.--must be merged into one e-document in .doc, .docx, or .rtf format..] Remember, you are being asked to take a position and make a case for it. A good policy paper consists of a clear policy recommendation supported by strong arguments supported by unimpeachable evidence. A good policy paper will be:
Consult POLICY PAPERS: How to Succeed for more detailed instructions.
For an annotated example of an excellent policy paper written by a former student in this class, click on the PDF icon below.
Stage IV -- REWRITE: After receiving a written critique of your policy paper, you will rewrite and resubmit the paper as an e-mail attachment making as many improvements in substance and presentation as you can manage.